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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 12:40 GMT
Court blow for Pakistan minister
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC correspondent, Islamabad

Pakistan Supreme Court
The court asked the NAB to be more transparent
Pakistan's Supreme Court has refused the government's request for it to withdraw a corruption case against an incumbent minister.

The court also called for regular hearings in the case to be heard from the first week of March.

Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a case of bank default of 690m rupees ($11m) against the minister, Faisal Saleh Hayat.

Mr Hayat had defected from Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan's Peoples Party.

Before his defection, Mr Hayat - who is federal minister for Kashmir affairs - was accused of not repaying the loan taken in the name of his wife from a Pakistani bank for their family's textile mill.

The unexpected snub from the Supreme Court came as the government's prestigious anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) tried to wriggle out of a tricky situation.

The Bureau had filed a case of alleged wilful bank default against Mr Hayat in 2002, when he was member of Ms Bhutto's party.

Changing tack

Once he switched sides after the general elections, and became a senior cabinet minister, Mr Hayat took the plea that the bank loan had been re-scheduled, and the charges should be dropped.

General Pervez Musharraf
The NAB was set up by President Musharraf
Since the case had already gone before an anti-corruption court, technically it became difficult for the NAB to reverse its conclusions.

As the challenge came before the Supreme Court, NAB lawyers requested the three-member bench to refer it back to the organisation for an out-of-court reconciliation between Mr Hayat and the bank.

Headed by chief justice Nazim Hussain, the Supreme Court bench reacted sharply, and accused the anti-corruption body of trying to use the supreme court for its own purposes.


The NAB was asked to be more transparent in its deals, and was asked to submit a formal request if it really wanted to withdraw the case.

The NAB was initially constituted by President Musharraf to probe allegations of corruption against previous and incumbent officials and those who hold public office.

But opposition parties say during the last few years the organisation has been used for witch-hunt and to pressurise politicians into changing loyalty.

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