Pakistan observed a day of mourning for the dozens of people killed and injured during a series of terror attacks targeting political rallies as the country gears up for the July 25 national elections.
Officials on July 15 said that more than 160 people were killed, including political candidates, and at least 230 wounded in three separate election-related bombings over the past week in and around the cities of Peshawar, Mastung, and Bannu.
The attacks only served to ratchet up political tensions in the country ahead of the upcoming vote. Adding to the strains was the arrest of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned from London to face corruption charges.
Officials said the deadliest of three attacks came on July 13, when at least 140 were killed by a suicide bomber at a political rally in the Mastung district of Balochistan Province.
Among the dead was Siraj Raisani, a candidate planning to run in the general election.
Hours earlier, five people were killed in the northwest city of Bannu when a bomb exploded at a political rally.
The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group and a faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Earlier in the week, on July 10, at least 20 people were killed at a political rally in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Haroon Ahmed Bilour, a candidate for a seat in the provincial legislature.
'Conspiracy To Sabotage'
Former cricket star Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf party is gaining ground in opinion polls ahead of the elections, condemned the attack.
"There seems to be a conspiracy to sabotage the 25 July elections but the people of Pakistan will not allow any design intended to target these historic elections to succeed," Khan wrote on Twitter on July 13.
Former Prime Minister Sharif and his daughter, Maryam, returned to Pakistan from London to face prison sentences for corruption convictions.
They were taken into custody immediately upon their return and are expected to appeal their convictions and prison sentences in court on July 16..
Sharif released an audio message from his prison cell on July 15, assailing his arrest and urging supporters to rally voters to his Pakistan Muslim League party ahead the July 25 election.
Sharif's brother, Shahbaz, has taken over the leadership of the party ahead of the vote.
Sharif's son-in-law is serving his one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in Britain that the court said were bought with illegally acquired money.