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Minister quits after army claims

Pakistan's federal minister for defence production has resigned after being summoned by the prime minister to explain comments he made criticising the army and accusing it of killing prominent politicians.

Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi accused the army of killing several high-profile Pakistani figures, including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and ethnic Baluch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani later summoned Mr Jatoi to explain his comments, and told reporters the minister made his statements "in his personal capacity, and within five or six hours he resigned".

Information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told local TV that Mr Jatoi's comments were "against our policies".

The army is widely considered the most powerful institution in Pakistan and it is risky for officials to criticise it.

The military has carried out three coups against civilian governments in Pakistan and has ruled the country for much of its 63-year history.

Mr Bugti, the Baluch tribal leader, was killed in an August 2006 military operation. The 79-year-old's remote cave hide-out collapsed in an unexplained explosion while security forces were searching for tribal insurgents who fight for a larger share of natural resources extracted from impoverished Baluchistan. The exact details of Mr Bugti's death are disputed.

Ms Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 after speaking at an election rally in a garrison city just outside Islamabad.

The military-led government at the time blamed the killing on the Pakistani Taliban, which stages attacks throughout the country from its sanctuary in the tribal areas near the Afghan border.

Critics in Pakistan speculated the nation's military or intelligence apparatus could have been involved in the killing, which the government denied.

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