Pakistan's military leader General Pervez Musharraf said on Friday the country's ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, might face charges of tax evasion and defaulting on loans.

In an interview with the BBC, Musharraf also said his drive against corruption might target the army, saying they are "of the same stock" as corrupt individuals who face arrest on November 17, the day after his deadline for the repayment of loans.

He spoke with BBC News 24, the corporation's 24-hour television news channel.

Musharraf's military staged a bloodless coup on October 12 and ousted Sharif's government. The coup was triggered when Sharif dismissed Musharraf as head of the army while the general was returning from an official visit to Sri Lanka.

Sharif has been in protective custody since the military takeover and has not been seen in public. He is reported to be under investigation for corruption and tax evasion.

Asked whether it was time to make a decision about Sharif's fate, Musharraf told the BBC: "Yes, absolutely. The legal process is on, I do understand it is taking a little bit of time because the issue is very complex.

"And 17th November, as you know, is the target on one of the issues that he surely is involved in and that is loan defaulting or income tax evasion ... these charges will shortly be there."

When the BBC's reporter then asked whether this meant Sharif would be charged, Musharraf said: "Again it is with the accountability group. But surely he is involved in these things."

Musharraf indicated there could be other arrests on corruption charges.

"On the 17th I would immediately take action against selected top cream of this list we are making and we initiate formal inquiries and maybe put them in custody ...

"We do not want them to escape at all so therefore if we think anyone will leave the country we will have to do something about it."

Asked if there was corruption in the army, Musharraf said: "Yes there could be some, I don't deny it, we are from the same stock.

"It can't be ruled out and when I say accountability across the board I really do mean the military is part of the horizontal accountability process."

In a separate interview with the Times newspaper published on Friday, Musharraf said he could not give a time frame for a return to democracy until his objective of reviving the economy had been achieved, adding that a deadline would only generate political instability.

Musharraf said the military had no choice in staging its bloodless coup.