The UK will not ban Hizb ut-Tahrir unless it challenges the country’s laws, British High Commissioner Adam Thomson said in an exclusive interview to The Express Tribune.
His comments come amid reports that the Pakistani military is preparing to court martial Brigadier Ali Khan who was detained in May for alleged links to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a non-militant organisation that seeks to implement strict Shariah law in Pakistan after overthrowing the elected government. The organisation is banned in Pakistan for its “extremist” agenda though there is no evidence to suggest its involvement in militant activities. It is operating in several countries of the world and is headquartered in the UK.
“We are well aware that Hizb ut-Tahrir is proscribed in Pakistan, but so far we have not found sufficient evidence to ban this organisation,” Thomson said.
We have a very proud tradition of free speech and we have laws that ensure it is not transgressed, he said. “There are many groups in the UK that make statements which may affect people but they have not broken the law.”
Speaking about the Afghan endgame, Thomson said that the UK is aware of Pakistan’s importance in the process. “We don’t see Pakistan as the only regional player but as a very important player in a political settlement for Afghanistan,” he said. “It is also extremely important for Pakistan to play a role diplomatically and politically, but not militarily except on its side of the border.”
He said that the British government is aware of the damage that has been done to Pakistan by instability in Afghanistan. “It is not in the UK’s interest to see Pakistan destabilised by any outcome in Afghanistan. There is not going to be stability in Pakistan or Afghanistan until there is peace in the border areas,” he said.
Regarding the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan, he said: “We aim to have all British combat forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 but that does not mean that Britain will leave Afghanistan. We will continue to provide military and non-military assistance to Afghanistan.”
He also said that the UK will also engage in a long-term development assistance programme since Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and will be in need of assistance for many years.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2011.
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