85 killed in attack on Pakistan election rally

Explosion in Pakistan leaves at least 36 dead, wounded

Hours after the bombing, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was arrested after making a high-profile return to the country.

The Balochistan government announced two days of mourning and ordered that the national flag fly at half-staff.

Mr Sharif has encouraged people to continue supporting the party and said he is not afraid of prison.

Sharif and Maryam were earlier this month sentenced to 10 years and seven years in prison, respectively, over the purchase of upscale London flats.

"What would they think of me holding rallies and chanting slogans?" said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated during a 2007 political rally.

His party appealed to supporters to head to Lahore and gather at the city's Allama Iqbal Airport to receive Sharif. Authorities reportedly took several hundred party activists into custody late Thursday.

Lahore resident Shahzad Anwar told AFP on Saturday that such an attack was the result of the "failure of security institutions".

"The bomb was planted in a motorcycle", regional police officer Kareem Khan said.

"We have yet to reach the destination of peace", said the army chief. "I am out for Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and my future". He later visited the injured in a hospital in Bannu and said that his vehicle was damaged in the attack.

Following the attacks, analysts called for the country's armed forces to focus on security challenges rather than politics, in the wake of myriad allegations that the military was meddling in the country's upcoming polls.

The attack was by far the deadliest of a series of blasts at various campaign events this week that have killed at least 154 people, including two local politicians, and underscored ongoing security challenges following years of optimism over improvements.

The statement urged Punjab's caretaker leader, Hasan Askari Rizvi, a noted political commentator, to end the restrictions or step down. There is a strong need for the elections to be free and fair. "There seems to be a conspiracy to sabotage the 25 July elections but the people of Pakistan will not allow any design meant to target these historic elections to succeed", he continued.

The blast - which was claimed by Daesh terrorist group - ripped through the crowd in the town of Mastung near the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta.

The group gave no reason for the bombing that killed Siraj Raisani, who was running for the election on the Baluchistan Awami Party ticket.

Akram Khan Durrani, former chief minister of the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was the target of the roadside bomb in Bannu; his political group has been a target of the Pakistani Taliban in the past.

The Islamic State group has a muted presence in Pakistan but has carried out brutal attacks there in the past, including the blast at a Sufi shrine in February a year ago which killed almost 90 people.

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