Pakistan's week-old military regime rejected international criticism today and said it will unveil its new ruling council in about a week.
Brig. Rashid Qureshi, an army spokesman, said also that deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif is in good health but will remain in "protective custody" until a corruption investigation involving his government is conducted. "No one has been ill-treated at all," Qureshi told reporters, declining to say where Sharif is being held.
Qureshi said Gen. Pervez Musharraf--the army chief of staff and the man who led the coup that ousted Sharif--will probably take another week to choose the six army officers and civilians who will make up the new ruling National Security Council.
Qureshi acknowledged that there is international pressure on the military to restore democracy, but he said the process will not move more quickly because the army does not want democracy in name only, but in substance.
"There are a lot of people outside this country who do not realize the ground reality," he said. "We are not interested in just the label, the label of democracy, we are interested in the substance . . . and that does take time."
Musharraf led a bloodless coup on Oct. 12, and the United States and the European Union have called for a quick return to civilian rule. Both have threatened stern action otherwise, suggesting they could block International Monetary Fund disbursements to Pakistan. The nation depends heavily on foreign aid, and it has foreign reserves of just $1.4 billion, barely enough for three months of imports.
On Monday, foreign ministers of the Commonwealth, an organization composed mainly of Britain andits former colonies, suspended Pakistan from the organization's councils and said they would send a mission to Islamabad to press the military to restore democracy. Refusal could lead to Pakistan's suspension from the organization.
Pakistani foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad has asked the Commonwealth to send a fact-finding mission to Pakistan to gauge public support for the army before making a final decision.
Qureshi said also that an investigation has begun into the Oct. 12 events at Karachi Airport, when an aircraft flying Musharraf and 200 other people to Pakistan from Sri Lanka was not allowed to land. The army takeover had already begun when the plane was denied landing rights, apparently on Sharif's orders; the pilot was reportedly told to fly to another country.
The plane was kept in the air until the army gained control of the airport and allowed the plane to land, with about 10 minutes of fuel left.