Pak suspension from Commonwealth is symbolic, says Australia

November 23rd, 2007 - 2:03 pm ICT by admin  

Melbourne, Nov 23 (ANI): Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has backed Pakistan’s suspension from the Commonwealth, with an admission that it is a symbolic penalty.

It (the suspension) is symbolic more than anything, Downer said.

The Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting in Kampala suspended Pakistan on Thursday, saying that the situation in Pakistan “continued to represent a serious violation of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values.”

Describing the decision as quite appropriate, Downer said President General Pervez Musharraf had clearly weighed up the consequences and decided suspension was worth the risk.

The Australian quoted Downer, as saying that Musharraf needed to step down as Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and reinstate democracy.

There is no doubt about that, he said.

Former Howard government minister Richard Alston, now Australias High Commissioner in London, represents Australia in the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) on Saturday.

A Commonwealth ministerial committee decided to suspend Pakistan from the 53-nation bloc pending the return of the rule of law following the imposition of emergency rule earlier this month.

“CMAG (Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group) has suspended Pakistan forthwith from the council pending the return of the rule of law and democracy,” Commonwealth Secretary General, Don McKinnon, said.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3, placing the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry under house arrest, detaining lawyers, rights activists and opposition members and curbing press freedoms.

Pakistan will be banned from attending the organisation’s meetings and taking part in the Commonwealth Games.

It is the second time that Pakistan has been expelled from the Commonwealth. The country was suspended in 1999, after Musharraf seized power in a coup. It was reinstated in 2004. (ANI)

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