Pakistan's Supreme Court Declares Zardari 's Amnesty Illegal

The full 17-member Supreme Court bench declared that the amnesty protecting Zardari from prosecution was illegal, reviving old corruption charges and raising the prospect of senior members of the government being dragged into court. On Thursday evening, the National Accountability Bureau, a government corruption watchdog, began the process of issuing arrest warrants, freezing accounts, and barring some of the accused from the leaving the country, local media reported, TIME reports .

It was also reported, Ahmed Mukhtar was stopped at the Islamabad airport late Thursday, one day after Pakistan's Supreme Court voided an amnesty protecting more than 8,000 people from corruption charges and ordered authorities to resume proceedings against the accused, the Dawn newspaper reported.

President Asif Ali Zardari was among the beneficiaries of the amnesty, known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance, but he enjoys a constitutional immunity from prosecution.

Zardari is under pressure from his political opponents and commentators to resign on moral grounds; however, there were no immediate signs of his stepping-down.

Dawn said on Friday that Mukhtar was to leave with Pakistan's naval chief, Admiral Noman Bashir, for China on a three-day scheduled visit to take delivery of a frigate. Bashir proceeded as planned.

The minister told the private Geo news channel that his name was placed on the so-called Exit Control List in connection with a corruption investigation that has been pending against him for the past 12 years. He denied the graft allegations and vowed to defend himself, Hindustan Times reports.

Meanwhile, a number of cases were pending against Zardari when it was announced by Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan's president, that he and others would be immune from prosecution under the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

Musharraf declared the NRO while under pressure to hold elections and end eight years of military rule.

Although Zardari has spent years in jail over corruption charges, he alleges the charges were politically-motivated and questions hang over whether he was ever actually convicted.

Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) won elections in 2008, restoring civilian rule, but the NRO expired at the end of last month and the PPP did not have enough support to renew the ordinance in parliament.

Zardari already faces low public approval ratings and any political trouble in Pakistan is likely to be watched very closely by the West which wants Islamabad to focus on combating Islamist fighters, reports.

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