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November 3, 1999
Sharief preached austerity but revelled in luxury
Pakistan's deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharief used to pride himself on the ''heavy mandate'' he won in the 1997 election, but security measures at his private mansion in Raiwind hint at a man who lived in fear of the masses.
Each of the windows in the 22-room mansion at this sprawling, 182-hectare family estate situated outside Lahore are protected by a grill of 2.5-centimetre-thick bars.
Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, is where Sharief had his political power base.
A visit to Sharief's family estate, called Jati Umra, reveals more than heavy security. It reveals a level of luxury which the average Pakistani could never afford. The average Pakistani earns 450 dollars in a year.
There are separate houses for Sharief, his two brothers and parents as well as a guest house.
In public Sharief lectured austerity, but the dozens of private guards, gardeners, and servants who looked after Jati Umra, hidden behind its 4.5 metre high wall, creates the impression that austerity was seldom practised in the complex.
As is permitted by Pakistani law, Sharief declared his quarters in the estate to be the official prime minister's house, apparently in a bid to offset the expensive maintenance costs.
The mansion has winding marble staircases, stone and vinyl tiles of individual design for every bedroom and expensive furniture. A canal cuts through the estate and a man-made lake sits in the centre of it.
Sharief's austerity measures included a cut in the prime minister's fund and a move from the palatial prime minister's house in Islamabad, completed during his tenure, to a modest government building.
On Monday, General Pervez Musharraf told reporters that military authorities are currently sifting through the documents of various provincial departments, including the Lahore Development Authority and the communication and works department, apparently trying to trace the huge amounts of money which were allegedly spent on the mansion since February 1997.
Gen Musharraf did not specify on what charges Sharief was being investigated or how much had been spent on the mansion in Lahore or the recently built prime minister's house in Islamabad.
The 47-year-old former premier has been detained by the army since the October 12 coup and moved from location to location. The mass-circulation newspaper jang reported last Sunday, quoting ''reliable sources'', that Sharief had grown a beard in military detention and was missing his favourite dishes from the prime minister's house kitchen.
Sharief's party, the Pakistan Muslim League, on Saturday called for his immediate release along with other leaders who were arrested. It also called for the charges against Sharief, if any, to be made public.
Sharif became prime minister for the second time in February 1997. His first term was cut short in 1993 after the president at the time, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, dismissed him for corruption. The supreme court restored him to power and then Sharief and Khan resigned under pressure from the military.
The Lahore estate was built by Sharief's father, who named it Jati Umra after the village where he was born in India.
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