BEFORE the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, Pakistan was something of a pariah state. Its membership of the Commonwealth had been suspended because of a military coup led by General Musharraf and economic sanctions were being operated by the United States. But as soon as the Twin Towers were attacked and the terrorists identified as being based in Afghanistan, General Musharraf found himself in an advantageous position since his country borders Afghanistan; the United States wanted to be able to establish bases there for its campaign against the Taleban. Suddenly sanctions were lifted and Pakistan became a respectable member of the community of nations. Not even the subsequent revelation that the head of Pakistan's nuclear programme had personally given nuclear secrets and materials to Libya, Iran and perhaps North Korea, ruptured the new-found friendship between the United States and Pakistan. The Commonwealth did not move quite so quickly but in May it re-admitted Pakistan on condition that the parliamentary democracy overthrown by General Musharraf would be restored and that he would resign from his army post while acting as preszident.

For the past few days the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, has been in Pakistan on a mission to assess whether progress to full democratic status has been such that the Commonwealth can remove the provisional nature of Pakistan's re-admission. He found that General Musharraf's promise to step down as head of the army at the end of this year has been broken and that he intends to remain in that position, although the parliamentary opposition says that this is unconstitutional. Mr McKinnon seems to have accepted the position but it must be open to doubt whether heads of government of the Commonwealth will be so ready to do so when it is reported to them.


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