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Commonwealth to discuss Pak's suspension

Some 4,000 delegates are set to descend on the spruced-up Ugandan capital Kampala for the weekend's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and top on the agenda is the current unrest in Pakistan.

world Updated: Nov 22, 2007 12:48 IST

Some 4,000 delegates are set to descend on the spruced-up Ugandan capital Kampala for the weekend's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and top on the agenda is the current unrest in Pakistan.

A Commonwealth ministerial committee has already condemned the suspension of the constitution by President Pervez Musharraf, saying the move was not in line with "Commonwealth values" but is set to decide if and what kind of punishment to slap down.

The group called for an "immediate repeal of the emergency provisions and full restoration of the constitution and of the independence of the judiciary", or else threatened to suspend Pakistan from the Commonwealth.

Pakistan was suspended from the Commonwealth in 1999 after Musharraf took power with a military coup but readmitted in 2004.

Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002 after a flawed election and in turn, pulled out of the Commonwealth entirely in 2003.

The Commonwealth's 53 members, mostly former British colonies and Mozambique, which has no colonial ties to Britain, are also set to discuss issues relevant to Africa like climate change and poverty, said Manoah Esipisu, deputy director of public affairs for the Commonwealth Secretariat, which sits in London.

The Commonwealth, which was formed in 1931 as the British empire began to unravel and represents some two billion people across the globe, is criticised with being ineffective and a post-colonial club that has no pull on the world stage.

Many of the group's members are small underdeveloped island nations like Vanuatu and St Lucia as well as impoverished African countries, and some Asian states. Britain, Canada and Australia are its economic heavyweights.

But Esipisu said the Commonwealth acts as a bloc, using tiny Gambia as an example of a country that could rely on its membership to the group as leverage when negotiating.

CHOGM will consider an application to the Commonwealth by Rwanda, despite the central African state's historic ties to Francophone countries -- a sign of its desire to distance itself from France.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who acts as the head of the Commonwealth, is set to open the three-day summit on Friday.