Commonwealth suspends military-ruled Pakistan

Commonwealth suspends military-ruled Pakistan

Kampala: Acting tough, the Commonwealth has suspended Pakistan after President Pervez Musharraf failed to meet a deadline to lift emergency and step down as army chief, while India Thursday hoped that its neighbour would restore democracy at the shortest possible time.

The “CMAG (Commonwealth foreign ministers) suspended Pakistan forthwith from the councils of the Commonwealth, pending the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in that country," Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon told reporters after an extended late night sitting.

The 53-member organisation had earlier suspended Pakistan in 1999 after a bloodless coup by General Musharraf, ousting the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but was readmitted in 2004 after the Commonwealth recognised progress on the democracy front.

Notwithstanding “some progress" by the government since CMAG’s last meeting on 12 November, when an ultimatum was issued to Islamabad, the situation in Pakistan “continued to represent a serious violation of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values", McKinnon said.

“The state of emergency had not been lifted. The constitution and the independence of the judiciary not restored and fundamental rights and the rule of law remain curtailed," McKinnon said.

However, the group said it would “review progress following the conduct of scheduled parliamentary elections in January 2008" and affirmed “its strong commitment to remain engaged with Pakistan" to assist the return to democracy in that country. A group of Commonwealth foreign affairs ministers may visit the country next year.

Reacting to its turmoiled neighbour’s suspension from the international body, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna, said: “We have noted the decision of the CMAG (Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Action Group). Our hope remains that Pakistan will return to stability and democracy as soon as possible," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna told reporters here.