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Commonwealth reinstates Pakistan

The organization called on Musharraf to step down as head of the army by the end of the year.
Don McKinnon
Pervez Musharraf

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Commonwealth announced Saturday it has lifted Pakistan's nearly five-year suspension from the group of former British territories.

Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon announced the move following a meeting in London of the nine-member Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

However, he said the group expected Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf to honor an assurance that he would step down as head of the army by the end of the year.

McKinnon said the group would keep Pakistan on its agenda and monitor developments in the country.

Pakistan was suspended following the 1999 military coup that put Musharraf in the presidency.

McKinnon said Pakistan had to fully implement amendments to its constitution "in letter and in spirit," including "the issue of the separation of the offices of the president and chief of army staff," Reuters reported.

The amended constitution, among other things, reinstates a provision preventing the president from also being the military leader.

Musharraf "will really be in conflict with his own constitution" if he doesn't follow through, McKinnon told CNN.

"I think he will also be in conflict with his legislatures because they were the ones who gave him consent. ... The ministers would be disturbed if this is not to come about."

The ministers decided to give Pakistan "encouragement" by reinstating it at this point, McKinnon said.

"The group welcomed the progress made in restoring democracy and rebuilding democratic institutions in Pakistan, as well as the restoration of the 1973 constitution as amended by the 17th amendment, and decided that Pakistan should no longer remain suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth," McKinnon said.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said: "It's good news that our membership has been restored. ... Shortly we will begin to play our active role in the organization."

Ahmad noted that Pakistan has been a crucial partner in the war against terror and that Musharraf has done everything he said he would do to restart democracy.

"We have fulfilled all the conditions and that's why the Commonwealth people have restored us again," he said.

Representatives of Nigeria, India, Canada, Tanzania, Lesotho, the Bahamas, Malta, Samoa and Sri Lanka made the decision in the name of the 53-member Commonwealth.

CNN Producers Eden Pontz and Syed Mohsin Naqvi contributed to this report.

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