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Commonwealth slams Musharraf ahead of summit

world Updated: Nov 05, 2007 19:47 IST
IANS
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With less than three weeks to go before the Commonwealth summit, the body's Secretary-General Don McKinnon on Saturday expressed "grave concern" at the declaration of emergency by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

"The suspension of the country's Constitution days before the Supreme Court was due to pass judgement on General Musharraf's re-election as president is a matter of deep concern to the Commonwealth. It is a step in the wrong direction and a serious setback to democracy," McKinnon said.

Pakistan, which was suspended from the Commonwealth in 1999 and restored to full membership in 2004, is now set to top the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala from Nov 23-25.

If, as is widely expected, India's High Commissioner to Britain Kamlesh Sharma is voted to succeed McKinnon as secretary-general at Kampala, then dealing with Pakistan will be his first and immediate task.

In his statement McKinnon said the challenges facing Pakistan are widely acknowledged, but suspending constitutional rule and taking arbitrary action against the judiciary are not the answer.

"It is essential that the constitution and the rule of law be restored and the judiciary respected. The Commonwealth also expects that the elections due to be held in January 2008 will not be postponed and that President Musharraf will abide by his undertaking to relinquish his military office before taking the oath as President for a second term."

McKinnon said he will discuss the developments in Pakistan with the Chairman of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which was established in 1995 to deal with serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth's fundamental political values.

The Group, whose current members are the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malta, Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, Sri Lanka and Tanzania, has been regularly engaged with the situation in Pakistan.

At their summit in Malta two years ago, Commonwealth leaders declared that a single person holding the offices of head of state and chief of army staff is incompatible with principles of democracy. They reiterated that until the two offices are separated, the process of democratisation in Pakistan will not be considered irreversible.

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