Controversial Senate Chairman of Pakistan gets Lok Sabha Speaker’s invite

Sanjrani is believed to represent the interests of the military elite

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has invited his Pakistani counterpart Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani to attend the centennial celebration of the creation of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. The invite has not been confirmed by the Ministry of External Affairs yet but other informed sources told The Hindu that the August 24 letter sent to the Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan was a routine gesture as Pakistan is part of the Commonwealth and other members of the grouping are also likely to be part of the celebration.

“As the Public Accounts Committee celebrates the 100th year of its journey, it would be an honour for us, if you could kindly be the guest of Parliament of India and grace this historic event with your esteemed presence,” said the letter that was first reported by Pakistani social media handles working with BOL TV.

The PAC is the oldest parliamentary committee in the Indian legislative affairs and has been crucial in upholding the principle of accountability as it exercises oversight of public expenditure, a key function of the democratic system.

India and Pakistan were engaged through backchannel talks between December 2020 till April 2021. According to reports published in Pakistan’s DAWN newspaper, intelligence officials of both sides met during that period at least 5 times in a Gulf country to discuss bilateral issues, especially Kashmir.

The talks subsequently were overshadowed by the developments in Afghanistan where Pakistan-backed Taliban fighters gained upper hand in the battle against the Afghan national defence forces ultimately dislodging the government of President Ashraf Ghani on August 15. India was forced to withdraw its diplomatic officials after the fall of the Ghani government.

The latest move also appears to be an attempt to engage the Pakistani establishment as Mr. Sanjrani is believed to represent the interest of the military elite of Pakistan.

Mr. Sanjrani, belonging to the restive province of Balochistan, had courted controversies in the past. In August 2019, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) jointly accused him, an independent from Balochistan, of working for PM Imran Khan’s government.

The Opposition jointly brought a resolution accusing him of weakening the democratic processes of the Senate but he survived a no-confidence motion by a few votes. His three-year term ended on March 12, 2021 but he won a second term immediately firming up his reputation of being backed by the Government of Imran Khan.

Mr. Sanjrani’s visit is expected to take place during December 4-5 when the events are scheduled to be held in Delhi but his presence and interactions will be of interest especially because of the spill over effect of Afghanistan visible in the spike in violence in Kashmir. Mr. Sanjrani himself had in the past championed the cause of Kashmir saying at one point that he would write to all the parliamentarians of the world to highlight alleged human rights violations committed by Indian forces in Kashmir.

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