The suspense mounted as 16 November drew near. A month earlier, the new military ruler of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf, had warned all "willful" loan defaulters to repay their debts back to the banks by that date or face the consequences. The build-up to mid-November was marked by daily countdowns in newspapers and TV, and advertised warnings. But when the day came around, the defaulters had returned only 10 billion rupees out of the total colossal figure of PKR 211 billion (USD 1 = PKR 50 approx).

The expectation was that the army would crack down heavily on those who didn't pay back. And some fantasies did come true, with the people getting to see some bigwigs being rounded up; 35 of the top defaulters are now in custody, joining the company of fellow defaulter, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

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Himal Southasian