KARACHI: Religion appeared to be an integral part of the lecturer's life but for his students to believe that he belonged to a banned outfit and preached anti-state ideology to young people was difficult.
On Wednesday afternoon things were as usual at Szabist, whose faculty member, Owais Raheel, has been arrested in connection with having links with the banned Hizbut Tahrir (HT). According to the institution, he was suspended last month after failing to show up for his classes.
But those who knew Raheel and were taught by him were in for a shock. "We had no idea that he was from the HT. He always denounced radicalism and was against violence," said a student.
Raheel taught probability and statistical inference and operations management to BBA students at Szabist, where he had joined a year ago. A highly qualified man, Raheel is an engineer with a BE degree from NED University and an MBA degree from the Institute of Business Administration.
According to Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) incharge Mazhar Mashwani, Owais Raheel was detained from Nihari-Inn, Boat Basin, at 2pm on Tuesday. "He is involved in anti-state activities," Mashwani said, adding that the investigation is underway. "We have to find out if he is involved in any terrorist activities." The CTD official said that they found numerous pamphlets and literature of the banned outfit, which he would distribute outside mosques in the Defence Housing Authority and Clifton. But he refrained from doing so in his classrooms and within the university premises. They believe he joined the organisation in 2007. His role in the organisation was to distribute pamphlets in mosques situated in Clifton and DHA.
"He belongs to an educated family," Mashwani said, adding that his friends and colleagues will also be investigated. Raheel was also attached with another private organisation, the police official said.
"He is involved in brain-washing activities," Mashwani said, adding that it has not been confirmed as yet whether Raheel was involved in terrorist activities. Three of his students, who did not want to be named, called him a gentle and helpful man, having full command not only of his subject but of other matters as well.
"I once went to him to get my concepts cleared on another supply chain course and he was so helpful. I really liked him as a teacher," said a student.
Religion in class
At the end of some of his sessions, students say that he would spend five to ten minutes talking about religion, what Islam is and how it has evolved. However, they insist that he never tried to impose his religious views or force them to follow his ideology. "He never offended anyone with his views, even people of other faiths," said a student. This is all the experience students had with Raheel's religious inclinations.
Szabist's senior administration manager Khurram Mumtaz told The Express Tribune that Raheel was suspended last month after he failed to attend his classes, giving no reason for his absence. "It is shocking for us to hear that he was arrested. This is the first incident that has occurred to one of our lecturers," he said.
Mumtaz said that at Szabist they do conduct background investigations before hiring faculty members but for an institution to discover an individual's affiliations especially with banned outfits, is difficult. Students said that they tried to contact Raheel when he failed to come for classes, but his phone was off. "The administration didn't tell us why he wasn't coming. He was just replaced by another teacher," said one student, saying that Raheel last taught a class as Szabist three weeks ago.
On Wednesday, the CTD personnel produced the suspect in the chamber of ATC-III judge Saleem Raza Baloch. The investigation officer said they received credible information on Raheel’s involvement in terrorism related activities, which came within the ambit of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. He has been placed under preventive detention for three months under Section 11EEEE (1) for interrogation.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2015.
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