Canada calls for tough Commonwealth stand on Pakistan

November 14th, 2007 - 10:27 am ICT by admin  

“Canada is pressing for a strong Commonwealth response that sets clear deadlines for the end of the state of emergency and for the restoration of democratic processes and principles,” The News quoted Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier as saying in a statement.

Bernier also called for the release of all political prisoners, free and fair elections and a separation between the head of the government and the army.

“I urge the government of Pakistan to take these actions immediately and I urge all sides to refrain from violence and to respect human rights,” Bernier said.

On Thursday, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon has convened a special meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in London on November 12 to discuss the situation in Pakistan.

The meeting of CMAG ministers follows the declaration of a state of emergency in Pakistan by President Pervez Musharraf.

In a statement issued on November 3, McKinnon expressed grave concern at this development, calling it a step in the wrong direction and a serious setback to democracy.

CMAG comprises the Foreign Ministers of nine countries - Canada, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malta, Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and United Republic of Tanzania.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is in touch with the Commonwealth at the ‘highest level’ to ward off any possible measures taken against the country by the CMAG meeting on November 12.

“Yes, we are in touch with the Commonwealth officials at the highest level so that no adverse action is taken against Pakistan during the CMAG meeting being held in London on Monday,” Foreign Office sources told the Daily Times.

They said Musharraf ’s announcement that he would hold the general elections by mid-February next year and would resign as Army Chief had improved Pakistan’s official standing.

“The Commonwealth is basically concerned with elections and uniform, and the announcement by the president has boosted the chances that no harsh measures would be taken,” sources said.

They also said removal of restrictions on the media before the meeting would be a ‘big help’ to convince the Commonwealth that Pakistan was committed to restoring full democracy and civilian rights including the freedom of expression.

Sources said the CMAG could either recommend expulsion or suspension of Pakistan if convinced that the Pakistan Government was not serious in following and implementing the Harare Declaration.

“Either of the two punsihments would be a blow to diplomatic efforts to minimise the fallout of the November 3 action,” they said.

Pakistan was suspended from the councils of the 53 member Commonwealth in October 1999 and restored to full membership in May 2004. However, it has since remained on the agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).

At their meeting in Malta in 2005, the Commonwealth heads of government had noted that the holding of the offices of head of state and Chief of Army Staff by the same person was incompatible with the basic principles of democracy and the spirit of the Harare Commonwealth principles.

They also said until the two offices were separated, the process of democratisation in Pakistan would not be irreversible. (ANI)

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