Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Pakistan attacks Commonwealth's move

AGENCIES , KAMPALA AND ISLAMABAD

A Commonwealth summit opened yesterday, one day after suspending Pakistan's membership in the organization of mostly former British colonies, a move Islamabad angrily rejected.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) -- a special group set up to safeguard democratic standards -- harshly criticized Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for his three-week-old state of emergency.

"Pakistan has got to end the state of emergency, General Musharraf has got to remove his uniform to fight elections," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

"There has got to be freedom for the press and freedom for the judiciary and there's got to be a release of all the political prisoners," he said. "If that were to happen, then the suspension of Pakistan would be lifted."

Pakistan was quick to react.

"The CMAG decision is unreasonable and unjustified. Pakistan will review its association and further cooperation with the organization," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said in Islamabad yesterday.

The ministry said Pakistan would not to bend to "unrealistic" outside pressures.

It was the second time Pakistan had been suspended after being barred when Musharraf first seized power in 1999. It was reinstated in 2004.

The Kampala summit will also discuss Fiji, which has been suspended since a military coup last year.

However, one of the biggest issues on the agenda was climate change and its impact on Commonwealth members

Meanwhile former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif will make a fresh attempt to return from exile in the next four or five days, a spokesman for his party said.

It was not immediately clear whether Sharif would get back before Monday, the last date for filing election nominations and so be able to run for parliament.

He flew back to Pakistan on Sept. 10 but was deported to Saudi Arabia by Pakistani authorities just four hours later.

Musharraf had agreed to Sharif's return during discussions with Saudi King Abdullah, a leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League said.

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