Blast kills 22 near lawmaker’s home in Pakistan


ISLAMABAD (AP) — A car bomb exploded outside the home of a politician in Pakistan’s most populous province Tuesday, killing 22 people and wounding 70 others.

The lawmaker was not at home. Most of the dead and injured were people shopping in a market outside the house.

The blast in the Punjabi town of Dera Ghazi Khan was the latest in a series of attacks that have killed more than 500 people in Pakistan since October. The bloodshed has been blamed on Taliban militants avenging an army offensive against the Taliban in the northwest.

The bomber apparently targeted Zulfiqar Khosa, a senior member of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, which is in charge of the Punjab government but is in the opposition in the federal government.

The attack badly damaged the lawmaker’s home and several other nearby shops and buildings. Many people were trapped under the rubble, officials said. TV footage showed rescue workers scrambling around a smoke-filled pile of debris and metal.

“The whole market has collapsed,” Raza Khan, a local resident, told The Associated Press by phone. “There is smoke and people running here and there.”

Rescue official Natiq Hayat said 22 people were killed and 70 wounded.

Police and politicians in Punjab are under pressure to crack down on militant networks that have long recruited in its poor villages and Islamic boarding schools.

The militants have staged several attacks in Punjab to illustrate their reach across the country, far beyond the northwest tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Dera Ghazi Khan district is in Punjab but borders the country’s other three provinces.

Zulfiqar Khosa’s son, Dost Mohammad Khosa, said two of his cousins were among the wounded.

“It was a direct attack on us,” Dost Mohammad Khosa alleged, declining to speculate who was behind the blast.

The militants have mostly targeted security forces in recent months, but lawmakers and court buildings also have been attacked. There have also been at least three bombs in crowded markets, apparently aimed at causing civilian casualties and undercutting public support for the army offensive.