Commonwealth caucus to meet on Pakistan position

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6 (Reuters) Commonwealth ministers will meet in London on November 12 to decide on Pakistan's position in the grouping following President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule, Malaysia today said.

The Commonwealth re-admitted Pakistan in 2004 after the 53-nation grouping suspended the country following Musharraf's coup in 1999.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the emergency rule imposed at the weekend was a major setback to Pakistan's reconciliation process and described the political and security situation there as ''chaotic and very worrying''.

The meeting of the six-nation Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which includes Malaysia, will precede the Commonwealth summit in Uganda later this month.

''The situation needs to be discussed in terms of the position of Pakistan, how is their participation, how are we going to treat Pakistan, what action that we should take or what viewpoint we should hold,'' he told Reuters. He declined to elaborate.

Musharraf was elected president last month by parliament but could not take up the appointment until the Supreme Court ruled on whether he could legally be elected president while still remaining head of the army.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said at the weekend he was concerned about the latest developments in Pakistan.

''The suspension of the country's constitution days before the Supreme Court was due to pass judgement on General Musharraf's re-election as president is a matter of deep concern to the Commonwealth. It is a step in the wrong direction and a serious setback to democracy,'' he said.

Syed Hamid said he doubted whether calls for Musharraf to give up his military position and hold elections, given the present mood in Pakistan, would help return the country immediately to normalcy.

''It has to be handled with a lot of care. A lot of water has gone under the bridge.'' Reuters SS GC1717

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