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October 20, 1999
Sharief accused of graft worth 100 million dollars
Andrew Hill in Islamabad
The Pakistani police, carrying out a clean-up of high-level corruption for the country's new army rulers, have accused ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharief of graft worth 100 million dollars, newspapers reported today.
''According to official sources, Nawaz has been charged with money laundering to the tune of 40 million dollars, tax evasion of over 60 million, forgery of 10 million dollars and misuse of public funds and his office for personal benefit,'' the English-language daily The Nation said.
It said the Federal Investigation Agency had submitted a report to the army rulers, who ousted Sharief on October 12, as part of a vast crackdown on top-level corruption for which Pakistan has become notorious.
The FIA declined to comment.
The military has so far resisted Western pressure to lay out a time-table for return to civilian rule or for when it would name a cabinet, saying it did not want to be rushed into the decisions.
British and Turkish newspapers have quoted new military ruler Pervez Musharraf as saying a cabinet would be named in three or four days.
The United States and the European Union have called for a quick return to democracy, threatening strong action otherwise, including the possible blocking of loans from the International Monetary Fund.
Diplomats said there was widespread popular support for General Musharraf's clean-up campaign tinged with hope that a legal system which has failed to make the elite accountable so far might finally prove effective.
Every government since 1985 has taken power pledging a clean administration and promised to get the rich and powerful to pay tax in a nation of 135 million where less than two per cent of people pay any income tax at all.
The Urdu-language Jangdaily, the country's largest circulation newspaper, wrote in its editorial: ''The people want that the accountability of the corrupt should be meaningful and impartial.''
Pakistani newspapers again carried large advertisements from banks urging the nation's elite to meet a November 16 army deadline for repayment of bad debt worth more than 200 billion rupees (four billion dollars).
''Pay your loans before the hand of the law forces you to do so with a penalty. Settle your debt before time runs out,'' said one quarter-page insertion by the state-run Habib Bank.
Allegations of corruption by Sharief are not new, but during his rule the government brushed them aside as lies fabricated by opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and focused its own graft probe on her financial dealings.
Benazir Bhutto was convicted this year, with husband Asif Zardari, of massive graft but repeated her denials in a BBC interview and said she would be cleared by any independent probe.
But she still faces re-arrest on return from exile in London, where she was on a visit when she was convicted for taking kickbacks from a Swiss-based company employed to counter tax evasion.
Bhutto has said she was trying to contact the military.
Charges made against Sharief include non-payment of tax on several luxury flats in London's exclusive Mayfair area, defaulting on massive loans made to the family's Ittefaq Business Group and profiting from sugar sales to neighbouring India.
Various members of Sharief's cabinet, including his anti-corruption officer, Senator Saifur Rehman, face allegations that they used their power to avoid import taxes and to get huge government contracts at bloated rates.
Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, former information minister in the caretaker government set up in December 1996 after the ouster of Benazir Bhutto, and also a well-known columnist, wrote in Jang newspaper: ''The accountability of corrupt should be quick, ruthless but transparent... a slow, ineffective, accountability setup would not meet people's expectations nor fulfil national needs.''
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