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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 15:49 GMT
Musharraf's corruption crackdown 'failing'
President Musharraf speaking shortly after taking power in 1999
Musharraf swept to power promising reform
Owen Bennett Jones

When Pakistan's President Musharraf mounted his coup he vowed to rid the country of corruption and told the Pakistani people that: "the process of accountability will be transparent for the public to see."

Two years and three months later many believe the military regime is letting the corrupt go free.

Never before so few have plundered so many... Accountability is the demand of everyone and we want to do it quickly

President Musharraf, 1999
According to Farhan Bokhari of the Financial Times "most businessmen now believe the commitment to attack corruption has become weaker."

"The view is that if you are corrupt and give up part of the wealth that you earned from corruption you get away scot free."

In recent weeks two senior retired military officers have been set free after reaching deals to pay back a percentage of their ill-gotten gains.

Vested interests

The regime does have reasons to protect the corrupt. In the first place senior officers are reluctant to see their colleagues go to jail.

General Rashid Qureshi
Qureshi says the military regime is less corrupt than previous governments

Secondly, the threat of corruption charges enables the army to control the civilian politicians ahead of this year's promised elections.

General Musharraf has said that he will remain President after the elections.

He wants to prevent the politicians from demanding too big a share in power.

And some politicians who have already accommodated themselves to the military regime have had their corruption cases dropped.

Clear message

Raza Rabbani from the Pakistan People's Party believes the message is clear.

"It will be a continuous process in which the accountability process is used mercilessly so that a kings party of corrupt politicians can be put together," he said.

The military deny the charge. President Musharraf's spokesman, General Rashid Qureshi insists the military regime is more honest than its civilian predecessors.

And he says the army is still determined to pursue the corrupt. "The more powerful the person in the bureaucracy the tougher we've been," he said.

See also:

24 Sep 01 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
14 Aug 01 | South Asia
Musharraf's 'roadmap to democracy'
01 Nov 99 | South Asia
Sharif under investigation
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