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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Corruption targeted in Pakistan
US dollars being counted
Transparency International wants to eliminate 'grease money'
Pakistan's government has promised a crackdown on the corruption, pledging to work with domestic and foreign bodies stamp out the graft for which the country has become notorious.

President Pervez Musharraf outlined a national anti-corruption strategy to a conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, before signing a pledge to eliminate a culture of bribes in the public and private sector.

The country's Security and Exchange Commission, the Auditor General and a long list of ministers also signed up, along with senior private sector leaders including senior figures from Pakistan's chambers of commerce.

From the international arena they were joined by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank - and the US Ambassador, Nancy Powell.

According to Shaukat Omari, head of the local chapter of anti-graft campaign Transparency International, getting international agencies on board was the key.

"What we needed was a commitment from donors, international financial institutions and the diplomatic corps," he told BBC News Online.

Even the laws and procedures we have are full of discretion, and that discretion is what we feel causes corruption
Shaukat Omari
Transparency International
Only by marshalling forces inside Pakistan and out could the culture of "facilitation payments" - payoffs to middlemen in the hope of gaining government contracts - be tackled.

"Now everyone can be held to account," he said.

"The President made clear that this is a priority."

Bad reputation

Pakistan's problems with corruption are of long standing.

Mr Musharraf's rise to power as a result of a coup in 1999 was ostensibly a response to pervasive graft in the highest levels of government.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was recently convicted by a Swiss court of laundering money, allegedly from payoffs.

Nawaz Sharif, her successor - and the man from whom Mr Musharraf took power - was charged in Pakistan with graft once he had been deposed.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Omari had told BBC World Business Report that Pakistan's laws needed radical overhaul to deal with the problem.

"People say that we have the laws and we have the procedures, they're just not implemented," he told the programme.

"But basically even the laws and procedures we have are full of discretion, and that discretion is what we feel causes corruption."

Helping hand

The backing of international bodies is seen as key because in the past they have faced accusations of turning a blind eye to corruption.

World Bank and IMF insiders such as Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and former World Bank Chief Economist, allege that both bodies routinely looked the other way rather than check up whether their loans were being diverted into private pockets.

Since then, both have promised to put transparency at the heart of their activities.

According to Mr Omari, the international agencies are now committed to helping the groups being set up to find ways of implementing the pledge.

Transparency International director Shaukat Omari
"We are bringing all the stakeholders together"

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