ISLAMABAD: A military court sentenced five military officers, including a brigadier, at a court martial on Friday, convicting them of links to a banned radical group. It is the first time senior army officers have been convicted and jailed over associations with banned organisations.
Brig Ali was sentenced to five years in jail, according to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). The four others – Major Sohail Akbar, Major Jawwad Baseer, Major Inayat Aziz and Major Iftikhar – were jailed for three years, two years, and 18 months each, respectively.
The ISPR statement did not name the group, but officials have in the past identified it as Hizbut Tahrir (HuT). The group, headquartered in Britain, does not advocate violence, but has been accused of links to violent extremist groups.
The HuT is working to rid the Islamic world of ‘corrupt rulers’ and establish a caliphate on the pattern of medieval Islam.
The ISPR said the convicted officers have the right to appeal, but provided no details.
The HuT is not banned in Britain, but has been outlawed in Pakistan and lies on the fringes of Western concerns about links between the military and militant groups.
Brig Khan was detained days after al Qaeda head honcho Osama bin Laden was killed in a top-secret US commando raid in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
Brig Khan had allegedly become exceedingly vocal on sensitive issues and had even called for the resignation of army and ISI chiefs over the Bin Laden debacle.
Family and lawyer deny that Brig Ali had links with the HuT and claimed that the main reason behind his detention and subsequent conviction appears to be his highly critical stance on the army’s high command and its relationship with the US.
According to the BBC, Brig Khan had started writing letters to army generals, some of whom were his former colleagues, with suggestions on how to become ‘self-reliant’ and “to purge the army of the American influence”.
He allegedly told senior officers such as Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that Pakistan’s ‘unconditional’ support to the Americans was creating an environment of resentment in the lower ranks of the army.
Brig Khan is known to have a ‘brilliant’ service record and comes from a family with three generations of military service.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.