Pakistan back in 53-nation Commonwealth (Second Lead)May 12th, 2008 - 9:05 pm ICT by admin
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 12 (IANS) Nearly six months after it was expelled from the Commonwealth, Pakistan was Monday readmitted into the 53-nation body following the restoration of democracy in the country. The decision was taken after a meeting here of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the trouble-shooting body responsible for ensuring adherence to the Commonwealth principles of democracy, good governance and human rights.
“CMAG agreed that, since it last met on Nov 22, 2007, the government of Pakistan had taken positive steps to fulfil its obligations in accordance with Commonwealth fundamental values and principles,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.
“It accordingly decided that Pakistan is now restored to the councils of the Commonwealth,” Sharma added.
The group, which comprises nine Commonwealth foreign ministers, welcomed the fact that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who had imposed emergency Nov 3, had given up his role as chief of army staff.
CMAG noted several other steps towards restoration of democracy in Pakistan including the lifting of emergency provisions, the holding of general elections, lifting of curbs on media, the release of political detainees and the most contentious issue - the independence of judiciary.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim who chaired the meeting said the Commonwealth had put Pakistan on road to further democratic reforms.
“The opportunity to graduate from one position to another must be given,” he said.
“The parliament of Pakistan knows what is best for Pakistan. Passing judgement on the system is not one of our duties,” he added.
An official statement said: “CMAG requested the secretary-general to continue to offer technical assistance to the government of Pakistan, as appropriate, to support the further strengthening of democratic institutions and processes in the country. CMAG also urged other Commonwealth members to provide similar assistance.”
on April 16, Sharma had said that he hoped Pakistan could soon be readmitted to the Commonwealth, describing the Feb 18 general elections as “very welcome”.
Pakistan was suspended from the Commonwealth at the November summit in Kampala after Musharraf declared emergency rule.