Commonwealth Sec Gen meets Musharraf

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Islamabad, Sep 19 (UNI) Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon today met Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf to know about his plans to step down as army chief.

Mr McKinnon arrived in Islamabad a day after President Musharraf informed the Supreme Court that he would shed uniform after his election for second term but before taking the oath as the President.

The 53-member organisation, comprising former British colonies, gave President Musharraf a one year deadline in 2006 asking him to hang off uniform by end of 2007.

Sources told UNI that General Musharraf reiterated his pledge to hold free and fair parliamentary elections in the country.

The President, who ordered deportation of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on September 10 after his arrival in Islamabad, said he was committed to restore a genuine democracy in the country.

Mr Sharif, who had been allowed by the Supreme Court to return and remain in the country as Pakistani citizen, was sent back into exile hours after he landed in Islamabad.

The Government said Mr Sharif's decision to return to Pakistan was in violation of an undertaking he had signed in December 2000 to live in Saudi Arabia for ten years. The deal was brokered by royal Saudi government a year after Mr Sharif was ousted in a bloodless coup.

President Musharraf is also believed to have apprised Mr McKinnon of circumstances that led to deportation of Mr Sharif and the efforts of his government to provide level playing field to all political parties before the upcoming election.

A former Pakistan Prime Minister and chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party Benazir Bhutto has already announced to return home from a self-imposed exile on October 18 to lead her party during election campaign.

Ms Bhutto announced plans to return to Pakistan after her talks with President Musharraf on a power-sharing deal failed to make any progress.


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