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Thursday, November 11, 1999 Published at 12:17 GMT

World: Africa

Pakistan to dominate Commonwealth summit

General Musharraf's chair will remain empty in Durban

On the eve of the Commonwealth summit in South Africa, the organisation's secretary-general has indicated that there will be no further censure against the military regime in Pakistan.

Pakistan was suspended from councils of the 54-nation organisation after General Pervez Musharraf toppled the government Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 12 October.

[ image: Anyaoku:
Anyaoku: "Further discussion with Pakistan"
A report by Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, who led a Commonwealth mission for talks with Pakistan's new leader at the end of last month, will be considered by the eight-nation Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the eve of the Durban meeting.

Speaking to journalists, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said that the ministers would recommend for the Commonwealth to "engage in further discussion with Pakistan on how to help Pakistan return to democracy at the speediest possible rate."

The question of further sanctions "will arise only after that time which heads of government will set will have been exhausted," he added.

Diplomatic sources say that Pakistan is likely to be given a two-year deadline to re-establish democracy.

Pakistan not the only issue

The BBC's Greg Barrow in Durban says delegates are embarrassed that the Pakistan issue will hang like a black cloud over the Durban meeting.

The BBC's Greg Barrow in Durban: "Delegates are embarrassed that Pakistan will hang like a black cloud over the summit"
There are other important issues to be discussed.

Chief Anyaoku, who steps down as Secretary-General after this summit, said Commonwealth leaders should be spending the next few days considering the economic challenges of member states in the 21st century.

This is of particular significance as the summit takes place on a continent that has been notoriously under-achieving in economic terms and torn by civil wars, human rights abuses and dictatorships.

These are exactly the problems the Commonwealth has set out to tackle.

Since the Harare Declaration of 1991, the Commonwealth has collectively pledged itself to try to promote good government, democracy and popular accountability.

Future of the Commonwealth

Not all of its members are models of democratic rule. Nonetheless the organisation has managed to make its voice heard in world affairs.

South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela, has noted the Commonwealth's role in supporting the anti-apartheid cause during the 1970's and '80's.

And over the past two decades the Commonwealth has become a notable champion of the concerns of smaller nations.

Correspondents say that over the next few days the organisation's members will have the chance to make their voices heard again and secure the Commonwealth's relevance in the next century.

Click here to see BBC's News Online's Talking Point on whether the Commonwealth is a pointless talking shop

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