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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 05:09 GMT
Pakistan tops Commonwealth talks
General Pervez Musharraf
General Pervez Musharraf seized power in October 1999
By the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt

Commonwealth foreign ministers meet for a second day in London on Tuesday, with Pakistan dominating the agenda.

The eight-nation committee - known as the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group - has been hearing submissions from a range of Pakistani organisations on the progress being made towards a return to democratic government.

On Monday, London's elegant Marlborough House teemed with Pakistani politicians and activists, many of whom had come to Britain specially to give the Commonwealth their views.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon
Commonwealth head Don McKinnon wants a date for a return to democracy
The main parties had turned out in force, and organisations ranging from Amnesty International to the Commonwealth Magistrates' and Judges' Association and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce had brought submissions reflecting their own particular concerns.

Now the foreign ministers will have to weigh up the evidence they have heard, and decide whether Pakistan is moving fast enough towards democracy.

When the army took power 18 months ago, the Commonwealth hestitated, and stopped short of a full suspension.

Pakistan is currently suspended from meetings, but not from the organisation.

So there is still room for the screws to be tightened a little on General Musharraf's military government, while stopping short of the ultimate sanction - expulsion from the Commonwealth.

Zimbabwe fears

The other main agenda item for this meeting is Fiji, where the Commonwealth has been pressing for the restoration of the elected government.

Zimbabwe is not on the official agenda, but it is clear that many of the countries on the committee are worried about developments there.

The problem is that President Mugabe's government was properly elected, and however badly it may govern, it is not clear that the Ministerial Action Group, under its present mandate, has any power to intervene.

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See also:

12 Oct 00 | South Asia
Pakistan: Still out in the cold?
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistan sets election timetable
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Waiting for democracy
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