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World News

Factbox - Lahore, Pakistan's political nerve centre

(Reuters) - Two suicide bombers targeting the Pakistani military killed 45 people and wounded about 100 in the city of Lahore on Friday, officials said, in the biggest militant attack in the country this year.

Following are some facts about the city of Lahore.

WHY IS LAHORE IMPORTANT?

* Lahore is capital of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province, and has a population of more than 5 million.

* Lahore is also regarded as the heart of the country’s powerful ruling establishment because traditionally it is home to the country’s top bureaucrats and military top brass.

* The country’s second-biggest city, with Mughal-era ruins and elegant, British colonial-era architecture, Lahore is also known as Pakistan’s cultural centre.

* Punjab is Pakistan’s main agricultural province and home to much of its industry.

HISTORY OF VIOLENCE IN LAHORE

* Lahore had been generally free of militant violence over the years after 2001, when Pakistan joined the U.S.-led campaign against militancy and violence began increasing.

* However, over the past couple of years, violence has been increasing in the city.

* Gunmen attacked a bus carrying Sri Lanka’s national cricket team outside a Lahore stadium in March 2009, killing seven Pakistanis and wounding six Sri Lankan cricketers and a British coach.

* That same month, militants stormed a police training centre in the city killing eight recruits, wounding scores and holding off police and troops for eight hours.

* Twenty-four people were killed in car-bomb attack at police headquarters in the city in May last year.

* Forty-nine people were killed in an attack in a crowded market in the city in December.

* Thirteen people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on a police intelligence building in Lahore on Monday.

* Lahore is also home to the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a major militant group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region. While the LeT has not launched attacks in Pakistan, India accused it of being behind the November 2008 attack in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people.

POLITICS OF LAHORE

* Punjab province returns 183 members of the 342-seat National Assembly and, as such, the provincial capital is considered the country’s political nerve-centre although the seat of government is Islamabad, 260 km (160 miles) to the northwest.

* Lahore is the home city and a stronghold of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The party of President Asif Ali Zardari also has considerable support in the city.

* The two parties are in an uneasy coalition in the Punjab provincial government, although they oppose each other at the federal level and will go head-to-head in the next general election, due in 2013.

Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Tait

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