ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A bomb killed 25 people in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, while in the capital opposition politicians walked out of parliament, forcing the chamber to postpone a debate on weekend violence in Karachi.
No one claimed responsibility for the suspected suicide blast in the lobby of a hotel popular with Afghans in Peshawar, capital of North West Frontier Province, where militants opposed to government support for the United States have launched attacks.
There was no indication the blast was linked to weekend violence between pro-government and opposition activists in the southern city of Karachi which killed nearly 40 people.
A Reuters photographer in Peshawar saw lifeless bodies strewn in pools of blood on the floor of the Marhaba Hotel, near a main city mosque.
“Two legs have been found at the scene of the blast along with nuts and bolts that suicide bombers normally use,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema.
It was too early to say if the attack might be linked to the killing in Afghanistan at the weekend of Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, he said.
The blast is bound to add to a sense of crisis in Pakistan, where the worst political street violence in years erupted in Karachi on Saturday when the country’s suspended top judge attempted to meet supporters in the city.
Government attempts to remove Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry over unspecified accusations of misconduct, leveled on March 9, have outraged the judiciary and the opposition and snowballed into a campaign against President Pervez Musharraf.
It is the most serious challenge yet to the authority of Musharraf, who is also army chief and an important U.S. ally, since he seized power in 1999.
The opposition blames Musharraf and the pro-government Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which runs Karachi, for the violence there when rivals with automatic weapons battled for hours on the city’s streets.
Musharraf blamed Chaudhry for the clashes between pro-government activists opposed to Chaudhry and opposition supporters backing him in his confrontation with the government, saying the judge had ignored appeals not to visit the volatile city.
On Monday, an opposition strike against the violence virtually shut down Karachi and other major cities. Karachi is Pakistan’s business hub and has a history of bloody feuding between ethnic-based factions.
Opposition politicians walked out of parliament chanting “Go Musharraf Go”, forcing the house to postpone a debate on the Karachi violence.
A Supreme Court hearing into a petition by Chaudhry against an inquiry into the misconduct accusations he faces began in Islamabad with Chaudhry’s lawyers presenting their case.
Musharraf has called for the courts to be allowed to settle the case and has criticized lawyers for politicizing it. He has also ruled out calling a state of emergency and said elections due late in the year would go ahead.
At the hearing, one of Chaudhry’s lawyers said a Supreme Court official shot dead in Islamabad on Monday had earlier been approached by intelligence officials seeking information.
Chaudry’s lawyers said the official, Syed Hammad Raza, had been an important witness in their case. Police said they did not know why gunmen had barged into his house and killed him.
In Karachi, life got back to normal. Pakistani stocks rose on confidence after the market held its own on Monday despite the turmoil, although it eased back after the Peshawar blast.
Additional reporting by Faisal Aziz and Sahar Ahmed in KARACHI and Augustine Anthony in ISLAMABAD