Fears grow of Islamist group infiltrating Pakistan army

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by JAYRAM, Jun 23, 2011.


    JAYRAM 2 STRIKE CORPS Senior Member

    Mar 8, 2011
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    North Frontier, The Mighty Himalaya's
    Thursday, June 23, 2011 3:12 AM EDT

    By NAHAL TOOSI Associated Press

    ISLAMABAD — The revelation that a senior Pakistani army officer was detained on suspicion of ties to a radical Islamist group has raised fresh concerns about the reach and influence of an organization that has long vexed analysts and politicians.

    Hizb-ut-Tahrir says it rejects violence but uses venomous rhetoric and pushes for military coups. It seeks the overthrow of Pakistan's elected government and wants to unite the Muslim world under one government following strict Islamic law.

    Pakistan's army confirmed on Tuesday that Brig. Ali Khan, whose rank equals that of a one-star general, is being investigated on alleged ties to Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Khan's wife has called the allegations "rubbish."

    The news comes as the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos not far from Pakistan's equivalent of West Point has added to worries about extremist infiltration in Pakistan's security forces — although there's no evidence yet of a military role in concealing the al-Qaida chief.

    Critics of Hizb-ut-Tahrir say it's not too far off from overtly militant Islamist groups, and that its anti-West preaching paves the way for a radical mindset that eventually leads some members to pick up weapons or tolerate those who do.

    "Hizb-ut-Tahrir has been an inspiration for jihadism," said Maajid Nawaz, a former member who now leads a think tank aimed at countering extremism.

    The group was founded in the early 1950s in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, who the group's various websites describe as a judge, scholar and politician. In the decades since, the group spread quickly throughout Muslim nations, as well as Western countries such as Britain and the U.S., and boasts hundreds of thousands of members worldwide.

    It says it wants to change Muslims' attitudes in order to lay the groundwork for restoring the Islamic caliphate, the structure that once governed much of the Muslim world. It also says it opposes democracy because the concept clashes with Islamic law, which is divine as opposed to man-made.

    Hizb-u-Tahrir, which means "Party of Liberation," has not been directly and definitively tied to terrorism, and insists it is pushing its agenda peacefully. It spreads its message in part through savvy use of the Internet, relying on slick websites, Twitter and even media-friendly information packets.

    But the group's advocacy of strict Islamist orthodoxy and its anti-government messages — whether it's against dictatorships or elected leaders — are seen as a threat in some countries. Turkey, Egypt and some Central Asian states are among Muslim nations that have banned it or cracked down on its activities.

    Other countries such as Britain, Australia and the U.S. — where free speech and association laws offer some protection — just monitor it closely.

    Britain is currently reviewing the group's status in the hopes of implementing a ban. Home Secretary Theresa May said last month that the government remained "concerned about that group's actions."

    Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a general who himself took power in a 1999 coup, banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2003.

    Still, Hizb-ut-Tahrir has managed to operate relatively freely in Pakistan, distributing its views through text messages, leaflets and rallies. On what appears to be its Pakistan website, it appeals to army officers to overthrow the country's "traitor rulers" because of their alliance with the United States.

    The group's spokesmen in Pakistan could not be reached for this article, but one recently told an Associated Press reporter in the southern city of Karachi that the majority of its members in the country were educated and often were doctors, economists and engineers. He did not give exact figures for membership.

    Pakistan's army has a history of overthrowing democratically elected governments or engineering their fall through covert means, but those actions have been carried out with the consent of the top army brass and often because of a perception the elected government was dysfunctional beyond repair.

    The military's top leaders view Hizb-ut-Tahrir as a threat partly because its ideological underpinnings are not about defending Pakistan but rather about establishing the caliphate, and because it could spur lower-level soldiers to try pushing aside superiors, according to former members of the armed forces.

    "They don't want a coup inside the army — it would lead to anarchy," said Asad Munir, a former senior intelligence official.

    Nawaz came to Pakistan in 1999 to travel and recruit members for Hizb-ut-Tahrir. He now leads the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based think tank that promotes pluralism and has helped set up a Pakistan-based group, Khudi, aimed at countering extremist narratives.

    Nawaz said Hizb-ut-Tahrir doesn't have "many thousands" of Pakistani followers but that it prefers to convert intellectual and other elites, including army officers, who hold the levers of power.

    "Their strength isn't in building a mass movement," Nawaz said. "It's in the fact that they are in the intellectual vanguard in the phenomenon of Islamism, and they have inspired the rise of the phenomenon of jihadism."

    Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan in Karachi and David Stringer in London contributed to this report.

    Fears grow of Islamist group infiltrating Pakistan army The Republican-American

    JAYRAM 2 STRIKE CORPS Senior Member

    Mar 8, 2011
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    Arrest of Pakistani officer revives fears of extremism within military, CNN

    By Tim Lister and Aliza Kassim, CNN
    June 22, 2011 -- Updated 0723 GMT (1523 HKT)

    (CNN) -- Brigadier General Ali Khan was close to retiring at the end of a distinguished career in the Pakistani Army when he was detained early in May -- and accused of links with an outlawed Islamist group.
    His arrest, which became public Tuesday, shocked fellow officers at army headquarters and again raises the specter that senior ranks of the Pakistani officer corps may be infiltrated by Islamist militants.
    Brigadier Khan is the most senior officer to face such allegations since 1995, according to a CNN analysis of previous cases.
    Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Khan was believed linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation). He said efforts were underway to arrest members of the group who had been in contact with Khan.
    "The military has zero tolerance for any such activity and strict disciplinary action will be taken against those involved," said Major General Abbas.
    Pakistani officials say Brigadier General Khan, who is 59, had an administrative role at army headquarters in Rawalpindi. His work did not involve counterterrorism and he did not command any unit. But he would have seen plenty of sensitive information.
    Khan comes from a military family stretching back three generations, and has a son in the armed forces. Pakistani media report that one of his brothers is a colonel with the intelligence service.
    Reuters news agency quoted Khan's wife as dismissing the allegations as "rubbish," saying her husband was "an intellectual, an honest, patriotic and ideological person."
    "It's a fashion here that whosoever offers prayers and practices religion is dubbed as Taliban and militant," Reuters quoted her as saying.
    One of his brothers, Bashir Khan, told the Pakistani television network Aaj that the brigadier had been in the army for 25 years - serving with UN peacekeepers in Bosnia and spending time in the United States. In 2008, Khan received the highest honor available to soldiers of his rank.
    Khan's detention comes amid heightened concern about religious extremism within Pakistan's armed forces.
    Hizb ut-Tahrir says it is committed to non-violence but has urged soldiers to rebel against the military hierarchy and its goal it to establish a global Islamic Caliphate.
    Pakistani sources tell CNN that in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, it produced pamphlets urging soldiers to turn against their commanders.
    The group was outlawed by General Pervez Musharraf in 2004 but a Pakistani court subsequently overturned the ban. It is also active in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Indonesia.
    Simon Valentine, a British researcher who has studied extremism in the Pakistani armed forces, said that while Hizb ut-Tahrir doesn't advocate violence "a cardinal element of its ideology and modus operandi is to infilitrate the armed forces and, once gaining sufficient support, cause a military coup."
    "Despite claims of zero tolerance of HuT within the Army," he said, "militant Islam, including the HuT, has much support from the grass roots to the highest level within all branches of the armed forces."
    Valentine, who has researched Hizb ut-Tahrir in depth, said its views enjoy widespread support throughout Pakistani society.
    "Such militancy as seen in the HuT is fuelled by an increasing anti-Americanism which is rife throughout Pakistan," he told CNN.
    Hassan Abbas, a scholar at Columbia University who has written extensively about Pakistani military intelligence, the ISI, told CNN he suspected there was more to the case than any alleged contacts with Hizb ul-Tahrir.
    "Association with such a group would not be enough to hold him for six weeks," especially as Khan was weeks away from retirement, he said.
    Abbas, author of "Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror," said there is an alarming trend that includes Pakistani pilots refusing to bomb militant strongholds, and units surrendering to militant groups rather than fire on them.
    Last month, Pakistani Taliban insurgents stormed the Naval Air Station in Karachi, apparently armed with inside information on its layout and security. They destroyed two U.S. supplied surveillance aircraft.
    Days before he was abducted and murdered, Pakistani journalist Syed Shahzad described that attack as "the violent beginning of an internal ideological struggle between Islamist elements in the Pakistani armed forces and their secular and liberal top brass."
    He went on to quote unnamed sources in the ISI, Pakistan's military intelligence service, as saying: "It was shown several months ago that the Pakistan navy is vulnerable to Islamists when a marine commando unit official was arrested.....Now, they (intelligence) realize how the organization (navy) is riddled and vulnerable to the influence of militant organizations."
    Last year two serving officers -- including a colonel - and two former officers were indicted in a court martial for allegedly planning a terrorist attack on the Shamsi airbase.
    Shamsi -- in Balochistan province -- is a remote base reportedly used by the United States drone program. The four were alleged to have been in contact with Hizb ut-Tahrir. They have pled not guilty.
    And in 2004, several lower-ranking air force personnel were convicted in connection with assassination attempts against Pakistan's leader at the time, General Pervez Musharraf.
    One of them, Abdul Islam Siddiqui, was hanged but maintained he was innocent of involvement. Other soldiers said they had been tortured into implicating him.
    Valentine, who is a regular visitor to Pakistan, said Khan's arrest may be "part of an attempt to bolster the army's reputation amid accusations that it is pro-militant," in the wake of the raid by U.S. special forces that killed bin Laden.
    But Hassan Abbas believes the military had no desire for the Khan case to become public. "The military is in deep crisis in the aftermath of Abbottabad," he says. "They would have preferred to hush this up."

    Arrest of Pakistani officer revives fears of extremism within military - CNN.com
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    sob Moderator Moderator

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