At least 20 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in a powerful suicide car attack near the house of a prominent politician of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in the Punjab town of Dera Ghazi Khan on Tuesday.

The explosives-packed car was driven into and detonated at a crowded market place near the home of Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, a senior adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Mr. Khosa was not at home at the time. His house was severely damaged in the blast, which also destroyed much of the market. It is not clear if the bombers were targeting the house. Most of the people killed were shoppers.

Dera Ghazi Khan is in southern Punjab.

Earlier in the day, a government lawyer who told the Supreme Court on Monday that there was a danger to democracy from the CIA and the Pakistan Army, furiously pedalled back from his statements.

The lawyer, Kamal Azfar, had already said on Monday his statement represented his “personal views”.

On Tuesday, he told the full court of 17 judges hearing the NRO case that the main threat to Pakistan was from the Taliban, and that he had mentioned the CIA and the GHQ only to provide “historical context” as foreign intelligence agencies and ambitious generals had been responsible in the past for derailing democracy.

“The present general,” Mr. Azfar said, “is an officer and a gentleman,” who had been supportive of Pakistan’s nascent democracy.

The backtracking came on the heels of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani disowning the lawyer’s statement.

“Why should the GHQ do any such thing?” Mian Jehangir, a spokesman for the Prime Minister, was quoted as saying in The News. He told the newspaper that the Prime Minister’s secretariat was “absolutely clear about the positive role of the Paksitan Army and its chief”.

But as the full court once again interrogated officials about the details of President Asif Ali Zardari’s Swiss bank accounts, and how the corruption cases against him in the Swiss courts were terminated, the lawyer repeated his plea that the court restrict itself to the petitions at hand.

The petitions demand that the court strike down the National Reconciliation Ordinance as unconstitutional. The NRO enabled the termination of the cases against Mr. Zardari as well as thousands of others.

Mr. Azfar said as the federal government was not contesting the petitions themselves, the court should accept the petitioners’ plea without delay. His implication seemed to be that by going over the minute details of the Zardari cases, the full court was bringing into the purview of the present case, issues that were not covered by the petition.

But the mood of the court appears to somewhat different. One of the judges asked Mr. Azfar who the federal government wanted to protect by this plea, and why it was so keen to go to the rescue of “dacoits and robbers of the national exchequer”.

While the cases against Mr. Zardari were terminated under the NRO, which was then a current law, the court nevertheless observed that the official who terminated the cases must pay back to the country the billions of rupees that were spent by the government when it was a party to the Swiss case, in retaining lawyers and in the travel of officials to Switzelrand for the case.

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