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Pakistan high court orders government to reopen corruption cases

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Tuesday threatened to imprison the head of the country's corruption agency for failing to meet a 24-hour deadline to reopen several corruption cases. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [official profile; JURIST news archive] gave National Accountability Bureau (NAB) [official website] Chairman Naveed Ahsan and acting Chairman Irfan Nadeem another day to reopen the cases [AP report], including several against President Asif Ali Zardari [official website]. Ahsan pledged in writing that the cases would be reopened. The court's order displays the continuing tension between Pakistan's government and judiciary. In response to the court's orders, police detained [Reuters report] Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency Ahmed Riaz Sheikh [official website], who was convicted of corruption eight years ago. Sheikh's prison sentence was waived in 2002, and he was subsequently promoted within the agency, after former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] issued amnesty in 2007.

Tuesday's arrest is the first since the Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text], which granted immunity to Zardari and 8,000 other government officials from charges of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between January 1986 and October 1999. In December, a Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Interior Minister Rehman Malik [official profile] on corruption charges. Malik is among 19 officials whose corruption cases the NAB has petitioned to reopen [PTI report] in an anti-corruption court in Rawalpindi. The NAB has also petitioned a Lahore court to reopen the cases of 32 individuals, including that of Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar [official profile]. The NRO was signed [JURIST report] by Musharraf as part of a power-sharing accord allowing former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] to return to the country despite corruption charges [JURIST report] she had faced.

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