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Bombing in Lahore no surprise

A large bomb went off near a busy crossing in Pakistan's second largest city, Lahore, today. The bombing left at least 23 people dead and several hundred injured according to local media reports. Here's more on the story from Washington Post.

This hasn't come as a complete surprise. It's been a pattern for a few years now: the army turns up the heat on militants in the north and northwest of the country, and these guerrilla groups respond by carrying out suicide bombings in major cities all over the country. The bombings usually tend to push public opinion against the government's security policies.

But there hadn't yet been a major suicide bombing in Pakistan since the army launched its most recent offensive in the north of the country almost a month ago, which has been backed by all shades of political parties and public sentiment.

Lahore, a city of 10 million, has historically been relatively immune to violence, but in the past year or so that's changed and it's become a hot and high profile target for terrorists. Here's a list of terrorist attacks in the city since January 2008.

The bombing in the capital of the Punjab province comes a day after the supreme court cleared Nawaz Sharif to re-enter the political arena after nearly a decade of sitting out. The political heavyweight from the Punjab province is the most popular political leader in the country according to polls.

Sharif's party had long called for more dialogue with the militant groups but had backed the most recent military offensive which appeared to be a silky smooth process before today's attacks.