Pakistan military refuses pledge on democracy

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The Independent Online

The Pakistani military authorities refused to give in to Commonwealth demands yesterday that they give a timetable for the restoration of democracy.

The Pakistani military authorities refused to give in to Commonwealth demands yesterday that they give a timetable for the restoration of democracy.

Official spokesmen repeatedly told four Commonwealth foreign ministers who are assessing the political situation in Islamabad that their top priorities are eliminating corruption and introducing good governance in Pakistan, two weeks after the bloodless coup that removed from office the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

It was impossible to say how long that would take - it could be days or months, or even years - said a Foreign Office spokesman, Tariq Altaf. Officials also tried to persuade the foreign ministers that the coup was popular.

Canada's Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, didn't seem too convinced. Asked whether most people in the country supported the coup, he said: "Certainly many people in the government have told us that."

The Commonwealth team will make recommendations to the organisation's summit in Durban next month, which will decide whether to suspend Pakistan. The country's officials have already been barred from attending UN meetings.

Islamabad has made clear that while it would regret full suspension, it is much more concerned about Washington's reaction to the coup. And so far the military has been reassured by what it has heard from US and International Monetary Fund officials.

The Commonwealth team also met ministers from the ousted government. So far no former minister has condemned the coup, and the furthest they have gone is to call it "unfortunate". The former minister for religious affairs, Raja Zafa ul Haq, said he has made two demands. "Number one is the restoration of the parliament," he said, "and we have also asked, then, to meet Nawaz Sharif." The Prime Minister remains in custody.

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