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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 15:59 GMT
Pakistan attacks Commonwealth ban
By Paul Anderson
BBC correspondent in Islamabad

General Pervez Musharraf
Pakistan has been suspended since Musharraf's 1999 coup
Pakistan has sharply criticised the Commonwealth for its continuing exclusion from the organisation's decision-making councils.

Pakistan's membership of the councils was suspended in 1999 after General Musharraf seized power in a coup.

Islamabad now says it has fulfilled the criteria to rejoin all Commonwealth bodies, but Commonwealth delegates at a summit in Nigeria did not agree.

Pakistan says its main adversary, India, is blocking the process.

The criteria or standards they have used to exclude Pakistan are discriminatory and they do not make sense
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan
Pakistani officials say they have no intention of following Zimbabwe and pulling out of the Commonwealth, but they are still fuming at the organisation's continuing refusal to lift the suspension from its key decision-making bodies.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman, Masood Khan, said the criteria used by the Commonwealth were discriminatory and did not make sense.

The negative image of Pakistan deprived the Commonwealth, he said, of vibrancy, adding it ought to demonstrate more democracy.

India blamed

Pakistan argues it has fulfilled the obligation to restore democracy after the military coup four years ago, with a fully functioning National Assembly formed after elections last year, and a civilian cabinet.

However, some Commonwealth leaders say the row over the sweeping powers assumed by President Musharraf just before the elections and the fact that he still serves as the chief of army staff, means the transfer to democracy is not complete.

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan
India is blocking Pakistan's readmission, says Masood Khan
Mr Khan said it was no secret that Pakistan's chief adversary, India, was blocking its return to the fold, despite support for Pakistan from influential members like Britain and Australia.

This time, he said, India's negative vote had been decisive.

Mr Khan also took a swipe at India over the barbed-wire fence it is building along the Line of Control separating Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

India says it is to stop deadly incursions by Islamic militants - Mr Khan said the fence, now about a quarter complete along the 750-kilometre (470-mile) line, violated UN resolutions and bilateral agreements with India.

India has stepped up erection of the fence since a ceasefire came into effect nearly two weeks ago.

It is scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year.

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