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Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan 'disappoints' Commonwealth

Mr Axworthy met deposed government officials

The Commonwealth team visiting Pakistan has said it is saddened by the outcome of its trip.

Pakistan in crisis
The delegation leader, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, said he was "disappointed" that the group had not secured a timetable from Pakistan to restore civilian rule.

Pakistan was temporarily suspended from the 54-member Commonwealth following the coup led by General Pervez Musharraf earlier this month.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge: "A timetable would have been good for Pakistan"
However, Mr Axworthy indicated that a full suspension from the Commonwealth was by no means a foregone conclusion, because the military leaders did appear willing to work towards restoring a democratically-elected government.

General Musharraf said he could not give any assurance when democracy would return.

He said his priorities were stabilising the economy, strengthening the Pakistani federation and introducing "certain electoral reforms".

[ image:  ]
The delegation will report back to a Commonwealth summit in South Africa in two weeks.

Although it held high-level talks with General Musharraf and members of the ousted government, the team was unable to meet deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The general allowed them to talk to Mr Sharif by telephone, but they were told that he did not want to speak on the phone.

BBC correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones said that presumably he wanted a face-to-face meeting.

Lloyd Axworthy: "There's some willingness to look at the move from a military regime to a civilian one"
The delegation was irritated at being unable to contact Mr Sharif, who has been under house arrest since the coup on 12 October.

Mr Axworthy said the team had been unable to obtain "direct verification of his [Sharif's] health and legal status".

No contact

The BBC's Stephen Cole talks to Hasan Sharif
Mr Sharif's London-based son, Hasan Sharif, told the BBC that he had not spoken to his father since the coup.

"I don't know where my father is being kept."

[ image: Nawaz Sharif's son is concerned for his father's safety.]
Nawaz Sharif's son is concerned for his father's safety.
He said he mother was in Lahore, also under house arrest.

"They are not letting my mother go anywhere or to talk to anybody, and still the telephone lines are suspended."

Mr Sharif hinted that he feared for his father's safety.

"The Commonwealth has been denied to speak to my father in person. Is there any valid reason for that, why they have not been granted an audience in person with my father?"

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