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Blast rocks police station in Pakistan

  • Story Highlights
  • Explosion happened in Mardan, a city in the North West Frontier Province
  • Man blamed for killing opposition leader Benazir Bhutto declares a cease-fire
  • Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, makes peace agreement
  • He was accused of assassinating Bhutto by President Pervez Musharraf
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- An explosion has rocked a police station in a region of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, police said Friday.

Ruling coalition partners Nawaz Sharif, left, and Asif Ali Zardari have been seeking to restore peace in Pakistan.

The explosion happened in Mardan, a city in the North West Frontier Province, an area rife with Islamic extremists.

Authorities had no information on casualties, according to a police official in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province.

In other developments in Pakistan, the man blamed for the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has declared a cease-fire now that the former Pakistan prime minister's party is in power, a government official said.

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, was accused by President Pervez Musharraf of masterminding Bhutto's assassination last year -- a conclusion also made by the United States.

Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has rejected that assertion, saying it believes Musharraf's government may have orchestrated the attack.

Mehsud's cease-fire declaration came ahead of a peace agreement with Pakistan's new government -- led by the PPP.

Mehsud, who has ties to al Qaeda, called for the cease-fire following the release of a Taliban supporter and the negotiation of peace deals in the Federally Administered Tribal Area.

The government is nearing an agreement with the Mehsud tribes of South Waziristan that involves exchanging prisoners and withdrawing Pakistani forces.

"It's a very good omen," said Sardar Hussein Babik, information minister for the North West Frontier Province and a leader in the Awami National Party.

"These people have understood that dialogue is better. We're on the road that is taking us to peace and anyone can go on that road."

The deal is being negotiated by the Awami National Party -- part of the ruling coalition -- whose power base is in the North West Frontier Province, where South Waziristan is located.

The White House on Wednesday expressed concern about such deals.

"What we encourage them to do is to continue to fight against the terrorists and to not disrupt any secure military operations that are ongoing in order to prevent a safe haven for terrorists there," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

On Monday, Pakistani authorities released Sufi Mohammed, a pro-Taliban leader who recruited thousands of fighters to battle U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Awami National Party leader Zahid Khan said Mohammed's release from a Peshawar prison was the first step toward a broader peace agreement.

He added that provincial authorities are willing speak to anyone in the tribal regions who is willing to lay down their arms and negotiate peacefully.

"Our goal is dialogue for peace," Khan said. "If these steps end militancy in the tribal areas, then why should anyone be worried?"

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the government was also negotiating peace deals with other tribes in South and North Waziristan.

Mohammed was captured in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in 2002, months after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban rulers there.

Under the terms of his release, Mohammed's banned hardline group, Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM) is expected to lay down its arms and forgo violence, according to Sardar Hussain Babek, the information minister for North West Frontier Province.

But Mohammed's son-in-law Fazlullah, who took over TNSM during his jail stint, announced in a radio broadcast Tuesday that he would continue his fight to impose fundamentalist Islamic law in northwest Pakistan, according to local reports.

Musharraf struck peace deals with pro-Taliban tribal leaders in North and South Waziristan in 2006, but they were later rescinded.

Those deals were blamed for an increase in attacks on U.S. troops across the border in Afghanistan as Taliban fighters were able to prepare, train, and reconstitute weapons supplies without interference from the Pakistani government.

A report by the International Crisis Group said Musharraf's 2006 North Waziristan agreement was directly responsible for creating a safe haven for al Qaeda's leadership inside Pakistan.

But Khan said Musharraf negotiated with militants, not the local tribal leaders as the current government is doing.

"Now it is the people negotiating with the people, brothers with brothers," he said.

Khan sought to allay the concerns of the United States -- which funnels billions of dollars to Pakistan to fight terrorists along the Afghan border.

He said the United States and NATO should not be skeptical about what he called a potentially positive solution to the militancy in Pakistan border region with Afghanistan.

"People will leave militancy when they see dialogue can work," he said.

But a Pakistani analyst said the new government's pursuit of a peace deal might be giving the militants time to prepare fresh attacks.


"(The militants) do not believe in the considerations of Pakistan, they do not believe in the current system in the country, they do not believe in the democratic values," said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.

"So how can we suppose they will stop overnight? That now the People's Party government is there so we should stop everything? I don't think that this is the case." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Zein Basravi contributed to this report.

All About PakistanPervez MusharrafBenazir BhuttoAl Qaeda

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