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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 19:29 GMT


World: South Asia

Bhutto declared fugitive

Former MP Nawaz Kokhar is led away by an army officer in Islamabad

Pakistan's military government says former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who is living in exile in London, is wanted as part of an anti-corruption drive.

The National Accountability Bureau, set up by new military leader General Pervez Musharraf last month, said it was seeking 12 people who were in hiding or abroad, including Ms Bhutto.

Pakistan in crisis
Twenty-one influential people, including politicians and leading businessmen, have been arrested for failing to repay bank loans worth millions of dollars within a deadline set by the military.

The Bureau said only $160m was repaid before the deadline expired at midnight on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz said $3bn was owed to financial institutions as a result of loans taken out under previous civilian administrations.

In another development, the French news agency reported that deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif was flown to Karachi shortly after midnight local time in order to appear in court on Friday.

Mr Sharif has been charged with conspiracy to murder and kidnapping by Pakistan's new military rulers.

Crackdown

Normal programming on national television was interrupted to announce the names of wilful offenders in a special bulletin.


Islamabad correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones: "The campaign has secured under 6% of the outstanding loans
"Bhutto, wanted in a number of cases, is a proclaimed offender and is outside the country," the Accountability Bureau said in a statement.

The bureau also named former premier Nawaz Sharif, who is in detention, as one of those wanted on corruption charges.

Ms Bhutto had refused to return to Pakistan after she was found guilty of corruption by the Nawaz Sharif-led government.

She was sentenced to five years in prison but has said the charges were untrue and the trial unfair.


[ image:  ]
The Bureau also listed 21 politicians and industrialists who were arrested in raids conducted across the country on Wednesday.

They included Anwar Saifullah Khan, a former cabinet minister in Ms Bhutto's government, former Pakistan People's Party MP Nawaz Khokhar, Bashir Ahmed Bilour of the Awami National Party and retired air marshal Waqar Azeem, a former chairman of Pakistan International Airlines.

"They have committed crimes against this nation ... We have to be tough," Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said on television.

New law

A tough new law has been enacted to deal with anti-corruption cases.


The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones: "The military are not giving many details"
People found guilty of corruption could face jail terms of up to 14 years in jail, while politicians found guilty would be disqualified from public office for 21 years.

The military said it wanted to concentrate on catching the major defaulters and not those who owe small amounts to the banks. The small debtors were the first to repay the banks.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones says many of the defaulters are businessmen who argue that their industrial units are not performing and that they are, consequently, genuinely unable to repay.

Most defaulters were reported to have ignored the deadline of midnight on Tuesday (1900 GMT) for repayment.

Defaulters include senior politicians from all the main political parties, and major industrialists closely connected with ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Recovering the loans has become a big test of the military's credibility.

Soon after he ousted Nawaz Sharif in a military coup, General Musharraf said he intended to crack down on corruption and clean up the economy.





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Internet Links


BBC Urdu service

Pakistan People's Party

Government of Pakistan

Dawn newspaper's list of those arrested


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