The army on Wednesday confirmed the detention of four more officers for their alleged links with banned Hizb ut-Tharir in a development that indicates a new push by the military to purge the institution of elements who may have sympathies for militant groups.
The arrest of four unnamed majors is linked with the detention of Brigadier Ali Khan, who has been in custody since May 6 for questioning over his ties with the banned outfit, which calls for creating a pan-Islamic caliphate system by ousting, what it says, is the pro-American government in the country.
Hizb ut-Tharir is outlawed in some countries, including Pakistan, but interestingly the group is legal and active in Western countries, such as the United States and Britain. It claims to advocate non-violence, but some fear its extremist ideology can provoke its followers to embrace militancy.
“Yes, four army majors are being questioned for their links with Hizb ut-Tharir,” Major-General Athar Abbas, Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) told The Express Tribune. However, he would not say when the four were taken into custody and where were they posted.
But military sources say that unlike Brig Khan, the four were not working at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. Some sources did not rule out the possibility of the detained officers’ involvement in a bigger plot.
However, Maj Gen Abbas refused to comment on it saying more revelations at this stage might compromise the investigations. “It is premature to draw any such conclusion,” he added.
A military official familiar with the development said the officers were detained after their conduct started influencing their colleagues.
“Anyone can have their own ideology or religious leaning but when it starts affecting the military discipline and other people, that’s where authorities take action,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
In the case of these five officers, they were in serious violation of military discipline and had tried to propagate their own ideology in the military, he added.
Meanwhile, the wife of detained Brigadier Ali Khan told The Express Tribune that her husband was extremely angry over the US raid in Abbottabad to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “Like other patriotic Pakistanis, my husband was also upset on that day,” said Mrs Khan.
She called the charges against his husband as rubbish and totally false. “Yes, he offers prayers five times a day. Yes, he is a practicing Muslim but he has absolutely no links with any extremist organisation,” she insisted.
Brigadier Khan’s lawyer Inam Rahim, a retired colonel, told the Associated Press that his client was arrested for demanding that someone within the military be held accountable for the top-secret US special forces’ raid that killed Bin Laden last month in Abbottabad.
However, military authorities have dispelled the impression that his detention was in any way connected to the Abbottabad incident.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.
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