Former president Pervez Musharraf has announced a "grand alliance" of 23 political parties that will operate under the umbrella of the Pakistan Awami Itehad (PAI), DawnNews reported on Friday.

The alliance will be headed by Musharraf, while Iqbal Dar has been appointed Secretary General. The central office of the alliance will be in Islamabad.

Addressing a press conference in this regard, Musharraf denied persistent rumours that he had wished to lead the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), claiming that it was ridiculous to think that he would want to be head of a "minor, ethnic party".

"MQM-Pakistan is merely half of what the [original] party used to be," he said. "I am concerned about [the internal problems] of the party; however, I have no interest in replacing Farooq Sattar or Mustafa Kamal even if their parties are united," he insisted.

Criticising MQM, he said that the party and the muhajir community have lost respect. The muhajir community would do better to abandon ethnic politics and join PAI, he said.

He added that the alliance between MQM and the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) could not last due to a lack of leadership. However, he said, that it would still be better for both MQM and the PSP to form an alliance.

He expressed hope that Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi would join his grand alliance as well.

The former president also advised Pakistan Tehhreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan to "join hands with a group that would take Pakistan forward" while accusing him of only thinking about his own party (PTI).

The political parties that have already joined PAI include the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Sunni Itehad Council, Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen, Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, Muslim Conference (Kashmir), PML-Junejo, PML-Council, PML- National, Awami League, Pak Muslim Alliance, Pakistan Mazdoor Ittehad, Conservative Party, Muhajir Ittehad Tehreek, Pakistan Insani Huqooq Party, Millat Party, Jamiat Ulma Pakistan (Niazi Group), Aam Loug Party, Aam Admi Party, Pakistan Masawat Party, Pakistan Minority Party, Jamiat Mashaikh Pakistan, Social Justice Democratic Party.

APML Secretary General Dr Amjad announced an upcoming convention in Aiwan-e-Iqbal, Lahore and a "huge" rally that would take place in Karachi in December.

Musharraf thanked the alliance for appointing him chairman and announced that he would return to Pakistan soon, adding that he did not want any security when he does since the country's situation is better now.

He said he will return at the "appropriate time" so that the "development work in the country is not disturbed".

Ready to face the courts

Musharraf, who was charged with treason by a special court last year and was declared an absconder in the Benazir Bhutto murder case in August this year, claimed that he was ready to face all charges as the courts are not under "Nawaz Sharif's control anymore".

"The accountability process should not be affected by my arrival [to Pakistan]," the former president said, adding that the courts and the armed forces must be "allowed" to function as both institutions are working in the country's favour.

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