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Commonwealth suspends Pakistan

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  • NEW: Commonwealth cites "serious violation" of its political values
  • NEW: Pakistan cannot participate in any Commonwealth councils or meetings
  • Under state of emergency, Musharraf suspended constitution, fired top justices
  • Pakistan also banned independent television networks; two major TV stations shut
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(CNN) -- Hours after Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf cleared the final legal hurdle to being re-elected to a third five-year term, the 53-nation Commonwealth on Thursday suspended Pakistan from its group.

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been under pressure to lift a state of emergency.

The Ministerial Action Group cited Musharraf's failure to lift the state of emergency he imposed earlier this month, step down as army chief and reinstate the country's constitution and its independent judiciary.

The suspension is "pending the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in that country," said the group, meeting in Kampala, Uganda.

The group noted that it had urged Pakistan 10 days ago to lift the state of emergency and take further steps, including the "full restoration of fundamental rights and the rule of law that have been curbed."

Calling the situation in Pakistan "a serious violation of the Commonwealth's fundamental political values," the group reiterated its call for Pakistan "to implement the necessary measures ... as soon as possible."

The suspension means Pakistan cannot participate in any of the councils or meetings of the Commonwealth, which comprises Britain and its former colonies, said Malta's foreign minister Michael Frendo, who chaired Thursday's meeting. In addition, no further Commonwealth programs will be carried out in Pakistan, although the group remains engaged with the nation, he told CNN.

The statement describes Pakistan as a "valued member of the Commonwealth."

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Musharraf declared the state of emergency on November 3, suspended the constitution and fired the country's Supreme Court justices, stacking the court and interim cabinet with his allies.

Under the order, Pakistan's government banned independent television networks and forced at least two major TV stations to close completely, although some restrictions have been eased.

Thousands of people were also jailed or put under house arrest, including opposition leaders former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan, a former cricket star. Thousands have since been released, officials said Tuesday, including Bhutto and Khan. Video Watch Khan after his release describe his country's turmoil »

Meanwhile, exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had tried to return from exile in September only to be deported, is poised to return to contest January elections, his party said on Thursday according to The Associated Press.

Sharif had reached "some deal" with authorities in Saudi Arabia, where he is in exile, to return to Pakistan, AP quoted Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, as saying.

Earlier Thursday the Supreme Court sided with Musharraf on the final legal challenge to his candidacy, paving the way to his re-election.


Musharraf has pledged to step down as military chief before being sworn in again to rule as a civilian president.

The Commonwealth suspended Pakistan in October 1999 and reinstated it as a member in May 2004. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

All About Benazir BhuttoPervez MusharrafPakistan

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