Britain could not save Pakistan from Commonwealth suspension

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Kampala, Nov 23 (UNI) Even as Britain, Sri Lanka and Canada favoured ''deferring punitive action'', other members, including African nations, succeeded in getting Pakistan suspended from the 53-member Commonwealth group for muzzling democracy by imposing state of emergency in the country.

When the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) met here last night, British Foreign Minister David Milband urged the members to give time to President Pervez Musharraf to ''make good on his promises to organise free and fair elections in Januaray''.

Britain, supported by Sri Lanka and Canada, assured that they would ''review progress'' by Gen Musharraf towards meeting the Commonwealth demands.

African ministers, however, opposed ''double standards'' on democracy and stated that Pakistan was readmitted in 2004 after Gen Musharraf promised that he would take off his military uniform. ''We are still waiting for this to happen,'' they stated.

Infact a few hours before the suspension of Pakistan from the Commonwealth, British Prime Minister David Brown and the Pakistan President held telephonic conversation on the issue.

Gen Musharraf in the run up to the CHOGM summit made a series of concessions and pleaded for delay in the decision with the British Prime Minister. However, even the last minute efforts from Britain failed to pursuade the CMAG from taking strong action against Pakistan.

Britain, however, was able to get few concessions for Pakistan, like the CMAG agreeing to review the progress following the conduct of January 2008. It also agreed to send the CMAG delegation to the South Asian nation for making a spot study of the situation.

British Foreign Secretary David Milband said ''decision against Pakistan was taken in sorrow and not in anger''.

The CMAG meeting was attended by ministers of Lesotho, Tanzania, Guinea, Canada, Malta and St Lucia.

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