Pakistani politicians meet Commonwealth official to talk democracy

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The Independent Online

Pakistan's deposed politicians met Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon Sunday and argued for a quick return to democracy and an end to military rule.

Pakistan's deposed politicians met Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon Sunday and argued for a quick return to democracy and an end to military rule.

"We appreciate the Commonwealth support for democracy," Liaquat Baluch, a leader of the orthodox Jamaat-e-Islami, or Party of Islam, told The Associated Press after meeting McKinnon.

The Commonwealth, an association comprising Britain and its former colonies, suspended Pakistan's membership after the Oct. 12 military coup that ousted the government of Nawaz Sharif. Since then, the Commonwealth has been pressing the military to hold early elections.

But military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf says elections will be held in line with a Supreme Court deadline of three years. He says the government will first try to revive the economy, weed out the corrupt and impose electoral reforms that will allow for free and fair polls.

In a meeting Saturday with Musharraf, McKinnon repeated the Commonwealth's hope for early polls.

Hamid Nasir Chattaha, the leader of a so-called Grand Democratic Alliance made up of 17 political parties, met McKinnon Sunday to argue for early elections, saying the army is using reforms and accountability as an excuse to delay elections.

Representatives of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League and ousted Premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party were scheduled to meet McKinnon later Sunday.

Musharraf accuses Sharif's government of massive corruption and of destroying institutions.

Corruption is a major issue in Pakistan, where four successive elected governments have been toppled on corruption charges in the last 10 years.

There is little pressure from Pakistanis for elections in a country where the army has ruled for 25 of its 53-year history.

Baluch said there have been no protests against the military takeover because people are frustrated by the massive corruption and mismanagement of the two former ruling parties.

"But Pakistanis want democracy," he said.

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