December 22, 2012
Suicide Blast in Pakistan Kills Provincial Minister
Pakistani officials say a suicide blast has killed nine people, including a top provincial minister, at a political rally held by a party that opposes the Taliban.
The bomber struck Saturday at a meeting of the Awami National Party in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Among those killed was Bashir Ahmed Bilour, number two to the chief minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and a senior police officer. About 20 people were wounded.
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, has been known to target members of the Awami National Party.
In other news, Pakistan's defense minister said his country's political and military ties with the United States are improving after nearly two years of setbacks.
Naveed Qamar told VOA that bilateral understanding has also gotten better on how to counter terrorism in Pakistani border regions and promote reconciliation in Afghanistan.
In the latest sign of improved ties, the Obama administration notified Congress earlier this month it will reimburse Pakistan nearly $700 million for the cost of anti-terrorism operations near the Afghan border.
Qamar told VOA Pakistan hopes the U.S. will soon unfreeze other promised aid.
U.S. payments to Pakistan were held up because of diplomatic tensions related to the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the cross-border NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Both incidents took place last year.
The U.S. has been critical of Pakistan's refusal to mobilize troops against members of the Haqqani network in Pakistan's North Waziristan border region, from where militants have conducted cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.