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Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 16:18 GMT


World: South Asia

Sharif under investigation

General Musharraf with Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar

Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, has said that ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is being investigated over a series of possible offences.

Pakistan in crisis
In his first news conference since he overthrew Mr Sharif's government last month, General Musharraf also said he was considering holding a referendum to see if the people of Pakistan agreed with his actions.

"I would like to put it to the NSC (the newly-appointed National Security Council) for a judgement, whether a referendum should be held," he said.

General Musharraf said Mr Sharif was being investigated over defaulting on loans and for his actions on 12 October, when General Musharraf was dismissed and his scheduled commercial flight refused permission to land at Karachi airport.


[ image:  ]
The general said the legal process would be open and Mr Sharif would get a chance to explain his side of the story during any court cases that may come up.

During the news conference, General Musharraf spoke about the need to eliminate corruption.

"Never before so few have plundered so many," he told reporters.

He said an accountability bureau would be set up to look into corruption, starting at the top before going down to all levels of society, with special courts delivering quick judgements.

"Accountability is the demand of everyone ... and we want to do it quickly," he said.

Plans outlined


[ image: Nawaz Sharif is under investigation]
Nawaz Sharif is under investigation
The general also said his administration would guarantee the freedom of the press, rejuvenate Pakistan's economy and reform the country's political structure.

He said Pakistan's people would be made the "master of their own destiny", through the devolution of power to local government.

A think-tank of experts would look into political reforms to come up with a system that suited Pakistan.

International relations

On the diplomatic front, the general said he would like to resolve all outstanding issues with India, not least that of Kashmir, which, he said, must not be sidelined.

But he added that while peace would be met with peace, hostility would be met with hostility.

Asked about his plans for Pakistan's nuclear capability, he said the country was following a strategy of minimum deterrent.

He said that while he has an open mind on signing the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, he wanted to develop a national consensus on the issue.

General Musharraf would not be drawn on how long he intends to stay in power. He said he did not want to be judged on how long he remained in charge, but rather on how successful he was in achieving his goals.

Diplomacy

As part of his administration's diplomatic offensive, a special envoy - Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, a former foreign minister - left Pakistan on Sunday on an international tour that will take him to Washington, Beijing and Tokyo.

Last week, a Commonwealth delegation led by Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy visited Islamabad in the hope of securing a timetable for the restoration of democracy.

The team held high-level talks with General Musharraf and other key Pakistanis, including members of the ousted government.

But they were not given a date for fresh elections and were also unable to meet Mr Sharif.



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