Court orders top Pakistan official held for graft

ISLAMABAD Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:50pm IST

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A top Pakistan government official was detained on Tuesday on the orders of the Supreme Court, the first official to face legal action over revived corruption charges after a controversial amnesty was thrown out.

The detention of Ahmed Riaz Sheikh, director general of the country's top police investigation agency, could herald action against numerous officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari, and could intensify a destabilising face-off between the judiciary and the government.

"The court sent him into police custody after he withdrew his challenge to his conviction," Sheikh's lawyer, Rashid A. Rizvi, told Reuters.

The Supreme Court in December threw out a 2007 amnesty deal that had protected Sheikh and several thousands of others -- including Zardari -- from old corruption charges.

The amnesty was widely seen as the basis for a power-sharing deal between former military president Pervez Musharraf and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007 after returning from self-imposed exile.

The Supreme Court has been demanding the revival of corruption cases since it threw the amnesty deal out.

The government says Zardari, who faces corruption cases filed in the 1990s which he says were politically motivated, is protected by presidential immunity.

(Reporting by Kamran Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton; Editing by Paul Tait)

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