Nanjing Night Net

Pakistani elite barred from leaving country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency has barred the Defence Minister and about 250 other top officials from leaving the country, as political turmoil deepens following a Supreme Court ruling that scrubbed an amnesty shielding senior Government figures from prosecution.The anti-corruption agency said the officials were under investigation following this week’s court verdict, which meant that up to 8000 graft and other cases dating back to the 1990s have, or will soon be, reopened. The agency also said it was reviving arrest warrants in some cases and freezing assets, including bank accounts and property.The decision has outraged the country’s political elite just as the US is looking for a solid partner to help it fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban along the Afghan border.Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, and several of his key aides are among those who benefited from the amnesty deal. As president, Mr Zardari is protected by constitutional immunity from any criminal prosecution, but opponents say they plan to challenge his eligibility for office.Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency said 247 people who had cases withdrawn under the amnesty had been blocked from travel because cases against them were now under investigation. It did not say who was on the list, but Pakistani news channels reported that the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik – a key aide of Mr Zardari – was included, as well as the Defence Minister, Ahmed Mukhtar.Mr Mukhtar told a television station that immigration officials at the airport had barred him from boarding a Pakistan International Airlines plane to China along with the navy chief late on Thursday. He said he planned to take delivery of a new warship. It was not clear what he was being investigated for.The Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, voiced hope the amnesty ruling would not destabilise the country.”Everybody in Pakistan, including our top military leadership, has made it clear that the military should focus on defending the country’s frontiers and elected government should run the government in accordance with the constitution and courts should adjudicate criminal matters in accordance with the law,” he told CNN. ”I hope everybody will play their constitutional role and [the] country will not go down the road of coups that has been disastrous for our country in the past.”The amnesty – called the National Reconciliation Ordinance – was passed in 2007 by the then president, Pervez Musharraf, who was under pressure to hold elections and end about eight years of military rule.Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling has weakened Mr Zardari and raised questions about his future. It has been welcomed by many Pakistanis, who viewed the graft amnesty as an immoral piece of legislation that whitewashed the crimes of the elite.Mr Zardari’s aides said any corruption charges against him were politically motivated and noted that they have never been proved despite being aired since the 1990s. Critics countered he was morally obliged to resign, at least while the court heard any challenges to his rule.”It will be in his own interest, it will be in the interest of his party and it will be good for the system,” Khawaja Asif, a senior leader from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League party, said.Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Guardian News and Media
Nanjing Night Net