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Commonwealth threatens to suspend Pakistan over emergency decree

[JURIST] The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) [official website] has threatened [statement] to suspend Pakistan from the Commonwealth if it does not end emergency rule by November 22. The group also called on Pakistan to release all detainees, restore the constitution and the independence of the judiciary, and have Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; BBC profile] resign as army chief by the same deadline. The Commonwealth ministers and ambassadors voiced

grave concern at the dismissal of the Chief Justice and several other judges and their placement under house arrest, which it deemed to constitute a serious breach of the Harare Commonwealth principle of independence of the judiciary and the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles. [The CMAG] took the view that other actions taken against lawyers, opposition politicians and civil society leaders, and the suspension of all private media broadcasts and restrictions on the press also constitute violations against Commonwealth fundamental values of freedom of expression and human rights. It noted with alarm the recent amendment to the Army Act, which retrospectively gives military courts the right to try civilians on charges of ‘anti-national’ activities and believed this to be a further derogation of constitutionality and rule of law.
Musharraf said Sunday that Pakistan would hold anticipated parliamentary elections before January 9, but set no time limit to the emergency rule [JURIST report] he declared a week ago. A variety of international critics have already expressed dismay [JURIST report] at the government's dismissal of top judges, its detention of hundreds of lawyers and opposition activists, and its restriction of independent television programming. CBC has more.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group was established by Commonwealth Heads of Government in November 1995 to deal with serious or persistent violations of the Harare Declaration [text], which lays down the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth, formerly the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth Latimer House Principles on the Three Branches of Government [PDF text] set out the relationship between parliament, the judiciary and the executive in Commonwealth member countries.

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