THIS week's decision by the Commonwealth to end the suspension of Pakistan from its membership has served only to show how international judgements have been distorted by the requirements of the war on terror. Pakistan's suspension was imposed in 1999 following a military coup which brought General Pervez Masharraf to power; economic sanctions were also imposed by the United States and other countries for the same reason. However, everything changed when only Pakistan could provide the air bases and other facilities necessary for military action in Afghanistan following 9/11. Suddenly General Musharraf and his country became acceptable as an ally and has remained so despite the serious scandal of the sale of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea by the head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.
The Commonwealth has been more choosy about the company it keeps because it tries to hold to the idea that membership depends on the existence of a free parliamentary democracy. Even so, under international pressure, it last week agreed that the promises made by General Musharraf, to stand down as a military president with the power to dismiss the elected parliament and prime minister by the end of this year, were good enough to allow Pakistan to return to the Commonwealth fold. Unfortunately, however, General Musharraf does not want membership on these terms. Yesterday he said that he would not be dictated to by the Commonwealth: We will take steps that are in the interests of Pakistan, not of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth should be proud of having a country like Pakistan joining it, therefore we don't accept such conditional ties. A superb snub, it might be said, but it also suggests that Musharraf has no intention of taking off his uniform at the end of the year.
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