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Dozens killed in hotel blast after Zardari speech

Article published on the 2008-09-20 Latest update 2008-09-20 16:00 TU

Zardari speaks to parliament(Photo: Reuters)

Zardari speaks to parliament
(Photo: Reuters)

Pakistani police say that at least 40 people have been killed by a bomb which exploded when a lorry drove into Islamabad's Marriott Hotel, just hours after President Asif Ali Zardari gave his first speech to Pakistan's parliament. The 258-room hotel, which is popular with foreigners, is situated on a major road near government buildings and the Supreme Court.

"We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads," Zardari told parliament, although he also warned Washington not to conduct unauthorised military action on Pakistani soil.

"I ask of the government that it should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of its soil for carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country," Zardari said.

But he added, "We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism."

Islamabad journalist Rana Jawad says this is a "straight message to Washington".

"It was a result of last night’s meeting between Mr Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani," he told RFI. 

The country's big three agreed that “violation of Pakistani territory, ground or air violation, is putting the government under a lot of stress, causing disillusionment in the public and a general sense of insecurity”, he added.

Interview: Correspondent Rana Jawad in Islamabad

20/09/2008 by Judith Prescott

Zardari also asked parliament to take away some of his powers.

"Never before in the history of this country has a president given away his powers," he declared.

After accusing his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, of "dictatorship", Zardari asked the National Assembly to set up a committee to scrap the president's power to dismiss the government and dissolve parliament.

"Another responsibility rests on your shoulders: this is the removal of the distortions in the constitution made by successive dictators to prolong their rules," he told MPs.

Zardari's People's Party has fallen out with Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League over its apparent reluctance to reinstate judges sacked by Musharraf.

"We believe in the independence of the judiciary and all matters concerning the judiciary which shall be resolved in accordance with the constitution and the law," Zardari said.