Pakistan coup denied, minister blocked from leaving

Other News Materials 18 December 2009 06:28 (UTC +04:00)

Political tension has risen in Pakistan since the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down an amnesty that protected Zardari, several of his ministers and thousands of others from corruption charges, Reuters reported.

A spokesman for the state anti-graft agency said on Thursday the names of about 248 people had been placed on a list of people barred from leaving the country.

The spokesman did not identify any of those on the list but Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, was one of them, said the president's spokesman, Farhatullah Babar.

"The name of the Defense minister happens to be on the list and he was not allowed to go," said Babar, adding he believed Mukhtar had been on his way to China late on Thursday when stopped.

Rumours of a coup started, apparently, when Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told CNN in an interview he hoped there would not be a coup. The rumours swirled briefly in forex markets.

"Of course there is no coup," said Babar, in Islamabad, where life was normal with no sign of any unusual activity in the chilly pre-dawn hours.

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 62-year history, last staged a coup in 1999.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has vowed to stay out of politics but analysts say the military could intervene in the event of a serious crisis.

Mukhtar was not immediately available for comment but Babar said the minister had dismissed the accusations against him.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik is also on the list of people who were protected by the 2007 amnesty which the Supreme Court said was unconstitutional and struck down.