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Commonwealth Gives Musharraf  November 22 Deadline


Foreign ministers from the Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies said Monday it would suspend Pakistan from the organization unless President Pervez Musharraf lifted the state of emergency by November 22. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

The nine-member Commonwealth ministerial action group has in effect given President Pervez Musharraf 10 days to restore democratic institutions Pakistan or face suspension from the 53-nation body.

The heads of the Commonwealth member states are meeting in Kampala November 23rd.

At a news conference after Monday's London meeting, Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon called on President Musharraf to begin implementing a number of changes.

"Immediate repeal of the emergency provisions and full restoration of the constitution and of the independence of the judiciary," said Don McKinnon. "This should also include full restoration of fundamental rights and the rule of law that have been curbed under the proclamation of emergency. President Musharraf to step down as promised [as army chief]. Immediate release of political party leaders and activists, human rights activists and lawyers and journalists detained under the proclamation of emergency."

McKinnon also says curbs on the press must be lifted and conditions must be created for holding free and fair elections in accordance with the constitution.

General Musharraf knows the implications of refusing to comply. Pakistan was previously suspended by the Commonwealth in 1999 after he seized power in a coup.

Pakistan was reinstated five years later after Musharraf agreed to give up his role as head of the armed forces, something he has still not done.