January 12th, 2021
By Asra Haque
In a press briefing on Monday, January 11, the Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar categorically denied any military interference in political affairs, stating that there was no reason for the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement to carry out a long march to the military headquarters in Rawalpindi.
However, the very same day, Secretary-General of the Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PML-F) Muhammad Ali Durrani announced to the media that he was currently paving the way for a grand national dialogue between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the opposition parties, the judiciary, and the Pakistan military, suggesting that perhaps the establishment indeed has a stake in ongoing parliamentary negotiations.
Who is Muhammad Ali Durrani
Muhammad Ali Durrani launched his political career with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pasban, a militant wing of the Sunni-Deobandi political group, and was a senator for seven years between 2003 and 2012. He was also the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting during Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorial regime. Although he claims that he is a representative of the President of the PML-F Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi III, more popularly known as Pir of Pagaro VIII, Durrani is widely known as a pro-establishment politician.
Why is he important?
Very recently, he had met the leader of the Opposition and incumbent President of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in Kot Lakhpat jail and was seen with the President of the JUI wing of Maulana Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F). When questioned why, Durrani stated that he, acting in the interest of the stability and betterment of Pakistan, is attempting to bring the leaders of all major opposition parties and the ruling PTI government together to engage in a public debate.
His reasoning is that the deadlock between the federal government and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has put parliament and democratic processes in jeopardy, particularly with the PDM’s move to resign from local, provincial and national offices.
Durrani’s meetings with Shahbaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, and now Chaudhry Nisar has been followed by many political pundits with great interest, who now say that that the JUI-F General-Secretary’s entry in the current political scene is an indication that the establishment wants an end to the confrontation.
There may be some merit to this theory as, in addition to being known as a pro-establishment personality, Durrani’s sudden appearance coincides with the PDM’s recent threats to hold a long march to the military’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Mohammad Ali Durrani’s action plan
In an exclusive interview with Voicepk.net, Muhammad Ali Durrani unveils that he is in the process of creating an agenda to have all political, democratic and military stakeholders engage in a public debate – the agenda itself, he states, will not be made public however the resultant dialogue will be held in the purview of the media and will have the establishment on board.
He expressed his relief at the PDM’s decision to momentarily roll back its very real threat of resigning from all parliamentary bodies, lauding that the opposition’s decision to save parliament at a time when political unity is the need of the hour to pull Pakistan out from an economic slump.
He further proposed holding all elections (local body, provincial and national) on a single day to ensure maximum transparency, and assuage concerns of political parties that claim rigging. Drawing comparisons with the US elections, he lamented that even the greatest democracy in the world is not free from accusations of rigging every election cycle, but hoped that his proposal may help make elections in Pakistan fairer.