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Pakistan's Suspension from Commonwealth is Maintained - 2002-11-01

Pakistan remains suspended from full membership in the 54-nation Commonwealth following a ministerial meeting Friday in London. An eight-member team of Commonwealth foreign ministers has concluded Pakistan needs to make more progress toward restoring democracy.

The chairman of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, Botswana Foreign Minister Mompati Merahfe, says Pakistan's recent election was not enough to put it back in good graces with the association.

"I think it would be premature, or this committee would be acting precipitously, if it were to conclude that democracy has been restored to Pakistan," he said.

The Commonwealth's secretary-general, Don McKinnon, said the committee remains concerned about how the elections were conducted.

"There were deficiencies in that electoral process, even though on election day it was considered that most people were able to have a say in what they wanted to happen," he explained.

Mr. McKinnon added Pakistan's status with the Commonwealth will be reviewed at the ministerial group's first meeting next year, probably in March.

The Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, has said that the October 10 elections for national and provincial assemblies had restored democracy to his country. However, opposition parties and human rights monitors say the president has retained much power through executive decrees.

In a statement issued at the end of the meeting in London, the Commonwealth ministers said they are concerned because General Musharraf has promulgated some new laws even after the election.

Pakistan has been suspended from the Commonwealth's councils since a 1999 military coup. The Commonwealth is mostly made up of former British colonies and it aims to promote democracy and economic development.