THE Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, Uganda, has made a sensible decision in suspending Pakistan's membership of the Commonwealth while reiterating the terms of readmission. Some African states wanted unconditional suspension but, according to reports from Kampala, Britain and Canada took the lead in making the decision a carrot rather than a stick. That was the right course because Pakistan had lobbied hard to avoid suspension, promising yet again that it is progressing towards respect for democracy and the rule of law. The Commonwealth has, in effect, taken President Musharraf at his word but told him that he must prove his professed intentions with action.

The action required of him is well-established. First and foremost he must release the former chief justice and his colleagues from house arrest and replace the compliant substitute Supreme Court he has created with the real thing. Second, he must undertake that the state of emergency will be lifted well before the promised elections in early January; to hold an election while politicians and activists are imprisoned and the media is muzzled is nonsense. He must also make his promised announcement that he is relinquishing his military status.

Others have a role to play in ensuring that Pakistan can rejoin the Commonwealth in due course. Benazir Bhutto must make absolutely clear that she and her Pakistan Peoples' Party will not participate in an election held under existing conditions; she has not yet done so but she should add her political weight to the pressures on President Musharraf.


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