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Pakistan blocks top officials' travel

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan's anti-corruption agency barred the defense minister and nearly 250 other top officials from leaving the country Thursday as political turmoil deepened after a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a graft amnesty.

The ruling means up to 8,000 graft and other cases dating to the 1990s have been, or will be, reopened. The decision has roiled the country's political elite just as the United States is looking for a solid partner to help it fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban along the Afghan border.

U.S.-allied President Asif Ali Zardari and several key aides are among those who benefited from the amnesty. Zardari is protected by constitutional immunity from criminal prosecution.

Pakistan's anti-corruption agency said 247 who had cases withdrawn under the amnesty were blocked from travel because cases against them were now under investigation.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 Interior Minister Rehman Malik — a key aide of Zardari — was included, as well as Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar.

Mukhtar told a TV station that immigration officials barred him from boarding a Pakistani International Airlines plane to China along with the navy chief late Thursday. He said he planned to take delivery of a new warship. It was not clear what he was being investigated for.

Pakistan blocks top officials' travel 12/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 10:40pm]
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