Pak Minister Barred from Leaving Country

After the Supreme Court striking down the graft amnesty, Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency has barred Defence Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar along with 250 other officials from leaving the country.

Mukhtar, who was leaving for China on an official visit, was barred from boarding a PIA flight late last night along with the Navy Chief by the immigration officers. He said that he planned to take delivery of a new warship.

Mukhtar, whose name was on an ‘exist list’ restricting travel, said that federal investigation authorities said he cannot leave.

He is one of thousands of people who have been affected by Wednesday’s court decision annulling as ‘unconstitutional’ a 2007 amnesty which protected Zardari and ministers from corruption charges.

In addition, graft cases against politicians, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, have been revived by the anti-corruption agency and they have been barred from going overseas.

The court ruling shook the PPP-led government in Pakistan, with opposition insisting on 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 that 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 that he would challenge the corruption charges ‘against him’.

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