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Pakistan blast death toll hits 35

world Updated: Sep 07, 2008 11:51 IST
AP
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The death toll in a massive suicide blast in Pakistan's militant-plagued northwest reached 35 as more bodies were pulled from the rubble of damaged buildings, police said Sunday.

The attack Saturday demonstrated the severe militant threat facing the Muslim nation, whose lawmakers the same day overwhelmingly elected Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as president.

Zardari has vowed to be tough on militancy, a stance that plays well in Washington, where US officials worried about rising violence in neighboring Afghanistan have pushed Pakistan to clamp down on extremist havens in its borders.

Nonetheless, Zardari has a fine line to walk. Coming down too hard on insurgent activity risks inflaming Pakistani public opinion and even a tribal uprising.

Dozens were wounded in Saturday's attack, in which an explosives-packed pickup truck blew up at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province. Police said a huge amount of explosives was used in the blast, signaling the attacker might have been aiming for a more important target.

Television footage showed a blast crater 3 feet (1 meter) deep, destroyed vehicles and pieces of debris scattered across a large area.

Some buildings in a nearby market collapsed, leading civilians to dig frantically with their hands to find survivors. A teacher and school guard were among the five dead newly recovered from the rubble, police official Rashid Khan said. On Sunday, the Election Commission said Zardari's win had been certified.

Newspaper editorials marking Zardari's ascent noted that a recent US-led ground assault in a Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border signaled American impatience with Pakistan's progress in battling insurgents.

Far from being confident, however, the opinion pieces warned that Zardari is yet unproven and still tainted by a history of corruption allegations.

"What Mr Zardari needs to do is to dispel the impression that he is a political wheeler-dealer who is adept at making backroom deals but unable to rise to the requirements of statesmanship," said an editorial in Dawn, a leading Pakistani English-language paper.

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