Pakistan's Defense Minister Barred From Leaving Country

Pakistan's defense minister says he was barred from leaving the country late Thursday following a Supreme Court decision that revived corruption charges against him and several senior members of Pakistan's government.

Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told a local television station he and his naval chief were blocked from boarding a flight at Islamabad's airport for an official state visit to China, where he was to pick up a new warship.  He said he was not aware that federal authorities had his name on an exit control list.  

Mukhtar is among 247 people who are barred from traveling without permission while Pakistan's anti-corruption agency investigates graft charges against them.

Pakistan's Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that an amnesty for top politicians and bureaucrats, including President Asif Ali Zardari, was unconstitutional, meaning that up to 8,000 graft cases could be reopened.

The decision has caused political turmoil in Pakistan, with members of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, PML-N party calling for Mr. Zardari's resignation.

Mr. Zardari is still immune from prosecution as president, but analysts say his already weak government could be further undermined if his political allies face charges.

Former President Pervez Musharraf introduced the amnesty in the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance as part of a power-sharing deal reached with Mr. Zardari's wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. 

Earlier Thursday, Pakistani intelligence officials say two suspected U.S. drone attacks in the tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border killed at least 17 people.


Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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