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C’wealth suspends Pakistan again

world Updated: Nov 23, 2007 22:13 IST
Aloke Tikku
Aloke Tikku
Hindustan Times
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Pakistan has been suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth on Friday for the second time in eight years after President General Pervez Musharraf clamped a state of emergency on November 3.

Islamabad termed the suspension as unreasonable and unjustified, saying it did not take ground realities in Pakistan into account. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the suspension decision was necessary and called on General Musharraf to “remove his uniform to fight an election”.

Delhi – watching the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) proceedings from the sidelines – said it had taken note of the decision and reiterated its desire to see peace and stability in Pakistan as soon as possible.

India has its own set of concerns. It’s High Commissioner to Britain, Kamalesh Sharma, is running for the job of secretary-general of the 53-nation grouping and has competition from the Malta's Foreign Minister Michael Frendo. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said Delhi was “cautiously optimistic” that Sharma would make it.

“We are talking to all our friends. We are telling them why this is a good candidacy. We are in that process,” he said. (Back in the 1980s, India’s candidate for the job, Jagat Mehta, lost to Shridath Ramphal of Guyana).

On Pakistan, CMAG said the situation in Pakistan continued to represent “serious violation” of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. The CMAG on November 12 handed over a five-point list of things-to-do to Islamabad if it wanted to remain in the club.

The group said there had been some progress made by Pakistan, but was disappointed the conditions remained substantially unfulfilled. The emergency remained in force, the constitution and independence of judiciary were still to be restored and fundamental rights and rule of law remained curtailed, the CMAG said.

Islamabad had been lobbying over the last few weeks to get off the hook and seemed to have convinced CMAG members from Malaysia and Sri Lanka. But African and Pacific states insisted it would be hypocritical to keep Fiji and Zimbabwe out, but let Pakistan remain.

But the suspension might last only a few months if Musharraf sticks to his deadlines on holding elections in January 2008.

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