Many Dead in Pakistan Suicide Bombings

Suicide bombings kill and wound several people in the Pakistani city of Lahore Tuesday. It was the latest in a wave of attacks that authorities have blamed on Islamic militants. Steve Inskeep talks to reporter Graham Usher in Islamabad.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're going next to Pakistan, where suicide bombs today killed and wounded scores of people.

Reporter Graham Usher is covering these latest attacks that are blamed on Islamic militants.

And Mr. Usher, what's happened where?

GRAHAM USHER: Well, basically, there were two near simultaneous car suicide bombings in Lahore this morning, Pakistani time. One was at the federal police headquarters - that was, by far, the most severe blast. We're hearing over two dozen people were killed there and over a hundred were injured. And the other was a blast at an advertising agency in a residential part of town. It's wholly unclear why is that agency was targeted, but there's speculation that it may have been a case of mistaken identity because nearby the agency, there is the headquarters of the Pakistan Peoples Party in Lahore, which is the party that emerged as the largest winner in last month's election.

INSKEEP: What does it mean to have these attacks in a city that people regard as perhaps Pakistan's most beautiful city or even the heart of Pakistan?

USHER: I think it basically means that the militants, whoever they're - pro-Taliban militants or whether they're jihadi groups are now extending their reach and signaling, basically, that there is nowhere safe in Pakistan. As you say, Lahore is seen as the cultural capital of Pakistan. It's the intellectual center. It has been relatively immune from the violence that we've seen in the northwest frontier province and in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. This is very much the cultural capital. But it has now been hit three times this year, and I think it is a signal that no place in Pakistan is immune from the violence has rocked this country for the last 12 months.

INSKEEP: And you did mention the elections in which opponents of President Pervez Musharraf won a lot of seats in parliament. Has this wave of attacks affected the effort to form a government at all?

USHER: I don't think it affected efforts to form the government, but it has highlighted the differences between the incoming government and the policy of President Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf's policy was pretty much in key with the American policy in Afghanistan, and that is that force must be used against Taliban and must be used against jihadist groups allied with al-Qaida.

A policy advocated particularly by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose stronghold is Lahore, is that that military policy hasn't worked. It is the cause of the violence that is erupting across Pakistan, and therefore, there must be dialogue with the Taliban and dialogue with the radical Islamic groups. He has urged very strongly that Pakistan must decouple its policy against Islamic militancy from the American policies being pursued in Afghanistan. So I think it highlights the differences between the emerging government and the existing policies of President Pervez Musharraf.

INSKEEP: Of course, Sharif is one of the members of the coalition that won that victory in the elections.

Graham Usher in Islamabad, Pakistan. Thanks very much.

USHER: Thank you.

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