Hizbut Tahrir and the army

Army is loyal to ideology of Pakistan, few officers may be led astray because of their insulation from civil society.

Editorial August 04, 2012

The Pakistan Army has taken the right course by deciding that officers owing allegiance to banned organisations cannot be tolerated. A military court has sent to jail five military officers, including a brigadier, for membership of a terrorist organisation called Hizbut Tahrir (HUT) and for attempting to overthrow the political order in the name of religion. Brigadier Ali Khan got five years while Major Sohail Akbar, Major Jawwad Baseer, Major Inayat Aziz and Major Iftikhar have been jailed for three years, two years, and 18 months each, respectively. Brigadier Khan came into the focus of army investigators after al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad in May 2011. He called for the resignation of army and ISI chiefs over bin Laden’s killing and wrote letters to army generals on how to become self-reliant and cleanse the army of American influence.

The army is a part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Anyone who arrogates to himself the right to work towards overthrowing the constitutionally established military institution in favour of whatever personal programme is guilty of treason and cannot be allowed to operate freely.

UK-based HUT and its sister outfit al Muhajirun were allowed into Pakistan in the early 2000s under former General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s government. Their founder, Umar Bakri, a Syrian Arab preacher, has since been exiled from the UK. Among his followers were many Pakistanis belonging to the largest Muslim minority in Britain.

According to a former HUT activist, Majid Nawaz, the HUT was set-up in Pakistan in the early 1990s by Imtiaz Malik, a British Muslim and in 1999, a call was sent to British HUT members to move to Pakistan, which prompted the movement of some of the UK’s top quality activists to South Asia. At least 10 British activists were planted in each of Pakistan’s main cities. Egypt, Libya and Pakistan banned the HUT which was proscribed by Pakistan in 2004, following an alleged plot to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf.

More recently, on October 22, 2009, the HUT was banned in Bangladesh for allegedly trying to destabilise the country. The home secretary of Bangladesh said the government “feared the HUT posed a serious threat to peaceful life”.

In his book, Islam under Siege: Living Dangerously in Post-Honour World (Polity Press 2003) Akbar S Ahmed, a former Pakistan’s High Commissioner in the UK, wrote:

“In Britain, Sheikh Umar Bakri’s Khilafah, the journal of the Hizbut Tahrir, attacked Jinnah as a kafir and an insult for a Muslim. Moreover, it accused Jinnah of being an enemy of God and of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) because Jinnah supported women, Christians and Hindus, and advocated democracy. Why, I asked myself, did they pick on Jinnah? Because, I concluded, Bakri saw him as a major ideological opponent. Significantly, after the American strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, Bakri emerged in the media to claim that he represented Bin Laden in Europe” (P 113).

It is common knowledge in Pakistan that non-state actors have decided to shift their allegiance from Pakistan to terrorist organisations like al Qaeda. The Pakistan Army is fighting them in parts of our tribal areas and offering sacrifices in the shape of casualties to save Pakistan from the clutches of these terrorists. One deserter army officer, Major Haroon Ashiq, is in jail for working for al Qaeda, putting the nation on notice about the kind of danger Pakistan faces.

Misguided officers were moved more by blind emotion than by reason and information, otherwise they could not have joined an outfit that condemned the founder of Pakistan and the idea of Pakistan on the basis of which Pakistan has given itself a constitution. The army is overwhelmingly loyal to the ideology of Pakistan but a few officers may be led astray because of their insulation from civil society. In Pakistan, despite its efforts, the HUT has not won any support from an electorate that accepts democracy and votes for parties that accept the representative system operating in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.

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