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Military Dictator Welcomed Back To Commonwealth

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Issue: 19 Section: International News Pakistan Topics: democracy

June 25, 2004

Military Dictator Welcomed Back To Commonwealth

Pakistan--controlled by the military dicatorship of Pervez Musharraf, who seized control of in a 1999 coup d'etat--was readmitted to the Commonwealth on May 22nd under condition that Musharraf comply with Pakistan's 17th Constitution Amendment, forcing him to step down as army chief by December 31st of this year. Commonwealth Secretary-General Donald McKinnon stated that the Musharraf regime must accede to the constitutional separation of the offices of president and army chief, even though Pakistan's elected parliament has voted to officially recognize Musharraf as president.

Although the response of Pakistan's foreign ministry is one of gratified relief, Musharraf himself churlishly responded that Commonwealth countries should "look at their own records before criticizing others"; and that if "[Pakistan is] happy to join the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth should be happy to have a country like Pakistan in it." He contends that Pakistan's readmission should be unconditional and that the Commonwealth should not interfere in what he sees as the internal affairs of the nation.

Opposition parties, for their part, protested that Pakistan should not be allowed back in the Commonwealth at least until Musharraf's party stops repressing critics. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is in exile and her husband in prison, while much of her party has been bribed or strong-armed into joining the government's coalition.

The move to readmit Pakistan was prompted by Britain's appreciation for Pakistan's support in the Afghanistan war and India's new government's eagerness to normalize relations with the old foe.

» Newindpress.com: Pakistan's Commonwealth membership restored after assurance

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