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Pakistan rejoins Commonwealth

The Commonwealth restored Pakistan's membership yesterday in recognition of the democratic steps taken there since the country rescinded emergency rule late last year.

The 53-member organization said it welcomed Pakistani ruler General Pervez Musharraf's decision to step down as chief of army staff and the easing of restrictions on the country's media.

The organization said that, while concerns remained over the independence of the country's judiciary and the need for electoral reform, Pakistan "had taken positive steps to fulfill its obligations" as far as the body's democratic principles were concerned.

Pakistan was suspended from the Commonwealth, a grouping centered around Britain and its former colonies, in November following Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule and the detention of thousands of opposition activists.

Musharraf's leadership has seen his country excluded from the Commonwealth more often than not. Pakistan was kicked out from the Commonwealth's councils for five years following his 1999 coup.

Fiji, another country that has often found itself frozen out of the organization for undemocratic behavior, looks likely to remain out in the cold a while longer.

The country's military regime was most recently suspended from the Commonwealth in December 2006 following a coup.

While Fiji's new rulers claim to be working to restore democracy, the group expressed its "grave concern" over what it called "slippages" in election preparations.

It also expressed concern at reports suggesting that Fiji's judiciary and media were being "seriously compromised."