'Corrupt' Afghan MPs are named in parliament

Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal Mr Zakhilwal was educated in Canada and is seen as pro-Western

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Afghan lawmakers accused of corruption have been named in parliament by Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, triggering noisy cheering and applause in the lower house.

Mr Zakhilwal had been under pressure to name them after making general accusations earlier this year about corruption in parliament.

He did so in a heated session of the lower house.

Corruption is one of the key challenges faced by the country.

It has become an especially important issue as it tries to establish a functioning state before US-led troops leave next year.

One of the accused MPs, Naeem Lalai, shouted insults at Mr Zakhilwal as he delivered what correspondents say was an incendiary speech that shocked and delighted lawmakers.

Another accused MP, Samiullah Samim, told the BBC Mr Zakhilwal's accusations were "totally baseless and completely false". Other accused MPs refused to answer their telephones when contacted by the BBC.

Smuggling flour

The minister said Mr Lalai had tried illegally to import 1,970 cars and that he and other lawmakers often persuaded custom officers to allow their contraband shipments into the country.

Afghan money changer with dollars (October 2011) Corruption is a an endemic problem throughout Afghanistan

"Any time he [Mr Lalai] comes back from abroad he brings a lot of alcoholic drinks," Mr Zakhilwal said. "Yesterday, he called one of my customs officers and threatened him with death."

The minister - seen as a pro-Western politician - also accused MP Zahir Qadir of being involved in smuggling flour from Pakistan worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"I was called by Mr Zahir asking me to release it," he said.

In another case, he said that MP Samiullah Samim had telephoned him from Germany to ask for the release of some fuel trucks that had been impounded.

When he responded that it would be illegal, the MP said that if it were legal he would not be phoning the minister.

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says that Mr Zakhilwal easily shrugged off a vote of no confidence in the aftermath of his pronouncements and will have won public support for his stand against corruption.

But our correspondent says that he has made himself some powerful enemies.

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