December 18, 2009 12:04:21 pm
Political turmoil deepened in Pakistan as the country’s anti-corruption agency barred Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar from leaving the country and has also banned 250 other officials from going abroad following the Supreme Court striking down the graft amnesty.
Mukhtar,who was leaving for China on an official visit said the immigration officers barred him from boarding a PIA flight late last night along with the Navy Chief. He said he planned to take delivery of a new warship.
The Minister said his name was on an “exit list” restricting travel and that federal investigation authorities said he cannot leave.
He was one of thousands of people affected by Wednesday’s court decision annulling as “unconstitutional” a 2007 amnesty that had protected Zardari and ministers from corruption charges.
The anti-corruption agency also revived graft cases against politicians,including Interior Minister Rehman Malik and barred their travel abroad.
The ruling has shaken the PPP-led government in Pakistan,with the opposition demanding the resignation of Zardari and his entire cabinet.
The anti-corruption agency,National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said that scores of officials were now under investigation following the Supreme Court verdict,which means that upto 8000 graft and other cases dating back to the early 90s have or will soon be reopened.
President Asif Ali Zardari and several of his key ministers are among those who benefitted from the amnesty. Zardari claims that he is protected by constitutional immunity from any criminal prosecution,but the opposition PML-N has challenged his eligibility to continue to hold office.
While Mukhtar returned home,the naval chief left for China on an official visit.
NAB also asked the interior ministry to place the names of all beneficiaries of NRO on the “Exit Control List”,a move that will bar them from travelling out of Pakistan.
A NAB spokesman said 248 people had been included in the Exit List so far.
Corruption cases against Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Defence Minister Mukhtar were dropped under NRO.
Both of them have said the charges against them were politically motivated. Mukhtar said he would challenge the corruption charges “against him”.
Apparently unfazed by Pakistan Supreme Court removing his indemnity from legal scrutiny in corruption cases,President Asif Ali Zardari said he was ready to face “all challenges.”
Zardari,chief of ruling Pakistan People’s Party,said he is ready to “face all the challenges” created by the apex court’s verdict in the same way as PPP founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir,slain former premier,had tackled crises.
The beleaguered President told a delegation of journalists from the Hyderabad Press Club during a meeting in the presidency yesterday that he wants to avoid any political confrontation as it could be harmful for Pakistan.
He said he wants to save Pakistan “from turning into another Afghanistan.”
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