C'wealth to defer its decision on Pak

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Kampala (Uganda), Nov 22: The Commonwealth is likely to defer its decision on the suspension of Pakistan from the 53-member grouping as the military regime has conveyed to its leaders that it was committed to install a democratically elected government by January 2008.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which had given Pakistan a ten-day ultimatum on November 12 to lift emergency or face suspension, will meet here this evening and is expected to take a soft approach towards the country.

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The CMAG may give some more time to President Pervez Musharraf to shed his military uniform and install a democratic government.

Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan Mohammadmian Soomro has written a letter to the heads of governments of the Commonwealth informing them that, ''the political situation in Pakistan is fast returning to normalcy and the government is also taking steps to hold free and fair general elections in the country in January.'' India appears to be not in favour of tough measures by the Commonwealth against Pakistan and is hopeful that the political situation in that country would stabilise soon.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is taking part in the Commonwealth summit here, has repeatedly said, ''a prosperous, stable, peaceful and democratic Pakistan is in our interest. I sincerely hope that the difficulties through which Pakistan is passing, are resolved and they find pragmatic, practical and effective means to solve their problems.''

Another important issue before the Commonwealth is the election of the next secretary general as the term of the present incumbent Donald McKinnon is expiring in March 2008. India has fielded its High Commissioner in London Mr Kamlesh Sharma as its candidate for this coveted post. He has been pitted against Maltese Foreign Minister Michael Frendo and Commonwealth Business Council Director General Mohan Kaul. India is hopeful that Mr Sharma would emerge as a consensus candidate for the post and is lobbying for his unopposed election.

The Commonwealth is also expected to discuss at length issues of terrorism, security of smaller countries as well as promoting strong commercial, political and cultural ties among the Commonwealth countries. An important issue that is going to come up before this summit is the report of Commonwealth Expert Group on Democracy and Development headed by nobel laureate Amartya Sen. The security of smaller nations will also come up for intense discussions among the Commonwealth leaders.

UNI

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