20 Killed, Over 50 Injured in Punjab Suicide Blast

by Jason Ditz, October 06, 2008

A suicide bomber attacked a gathering at the home of Pakistani opposition MP Rasheed Akbar Khan Nawani in the town of Bhakkar in Punjab Province, killing 20 and leaving over 50 injured. The MP reportedly escaped the blast with only minor bruises.

It is so far unclear what the motivations were behind the attack, but police speculated that it could have been sectarian in nature. MP Nawani is a Shi’ite and Bhakkar has reportedly had some simmering sectarian tensions. No group has claimed credit for the attack as of yet, but police reportedly recovered the bomber’s head, and some Afghan currency from the blast site.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani both condemned the attack. Zardari vowed that the attacks would not deter his government from continuing its offensives in the border provinces. Gilani announced each person injured in the incident would receive Rs 100,000 (about $1250) and the heirs of everyone killed would receive Rs 300,000 (about $3800) in compensation.

MP Nawani is a member of the PML-N, a large party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The PML-N was a member of the coalition government until August when the ruling PPP reneged on a promise to restore judges ousted by former President Pervez Musharraf. Since then the PML-N has been part of the opposition in the national government, though they control the Punjabi Provincial parliament.

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