By B. Raman
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas confirmed on June 21, 2011, that Brigadier Ali Khan, who served in the “regulation directorate” at the army headquarters, had been detained for “unauthorised and illegal activities”. Khan’s wife said he had been missing since May 5, three days after US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad. The army insisted the arrest was part of routine screening to weed out extremists from its ranks. Khan was not involved in counter-terrorism operations but in “routine work … nothing of significance,” Abbas said. Brig Ali’s father was a junior commissioned officer, and his younger brother is a colonel serving in the intelligence set-up. His son and son-in-law are both army captains. Subsequent reports indicated that the Brigadier was having contacts with the Hizbut Tehrir (HT) and four serving Majors were also under investigation for links with the HT.
The HT was formed in 1953 by Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani al Falastini, a Judge of the Shariat Appeal Court in Jerusalem. After Nakhbani’s death in 1979, Abad al-Qadim Zalum, a Jordanian, took over as its leader. The party’s headquarters were moved to London. Its multi language website is also reportedly operated from London. The London headquarters used to be headed by Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, a 42 year-old Syrian, but he is no longer associated with it. One does not know who is its present leader.
It has the same objectives as Al Qaeda, namely, introduction of Islamic rule according to the Sharia in Muslim majority countries and the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate, but projects itself as different from Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is essentially an Arab organisation, with Arabs holding senior positions and exercising command and control. As against this, the HT projects itself as a multi-ethnic Islamic organisation in which membership and senior positions are open to any Muslim, irrespective of his or her ethnic background.
Its Aims and Objectives say: “The Party accepts Muslim men and women as its members regardless of whether they are Arab or non-Arab, white or coloured, since it is a party for all Muslims. It invites all Muslims to carry Islam and adopt its systems regardless of their nationalities, colours and madhahib (Schools of Thought), as it looks to all of them according to the viewpoint of Islam.”
Al Qaeda is often accused of working for the Arabisation of Islam in non-Arab countries. The HT seeks to protect itself from such charges. At the same time, it admits that in its work it gave the first priority to the Arab countries and explains it thus: “Although Islam is a universal ideology, its method does not, however, allow one to work for it universally from the beginning. It is necessary, however, to invite to it universally, and make the field of work for it in one country, or a few countries, until it is consolidated there and the Islamic State is established. The whole world is a suitable location for the Islamic da’wah. But since the people in the Muslim countries have already embraced Islam, it is necessary that the da’wah starts there. The Arab countries are the most suitable location to start carrying the da’wah because these countries, which constitute part of the Muslim world, are inhabited by people who speak the Arabic language, which is the language of the Qur’an and hadith, and is an essential part of Islam and a basic element of the Islamic culture. The Hizb began and started to carry the da’wah within some of the Arab countries. It then proceeded to expand the delivery of the da’wah naturally until it began to function in many Arab countries and also in non-Arab Muslim countries as well.”
It projects itself as a politico-religious movement. It says: “Hizbut-Tahrir is a political party whose ideology is Islam, so politics is its work and Islam is its ideology. It works within the Ummah and together with her, so that she adopts Islam as her cause and is led to restore the Khilafah and the ruling by what Allah revealed. Hizbut-Tahrir is a political group and not a priestly one. Nor is it an academic, educational or a charity group. The Islamic thought is the soul of its body, its core and the secret of its life. Its purpose is to revive the Islamic Ummah from the severe decline that it had reached, and to liberate it from the thoughts, systems and laws of Kufr, as well as the domination and influence of the Kufr states. It also aims to restore the Islamic Khilafah State so that the ruling by what Allah revealed returns. The Party, as well, aims at the correct revival of the Ummah through enlightened thought. It also strives to bring her back to her previous might and glory such that she wrests the reins of initiative away from other states and nations, and returns to her rightful place as the first state in the world, as she was in the past, when she governs the world according to the laws of Islam. It also aims to bring back the Islamic guidance for mankind and to lead the Ummah into a struggle with Kufr, its systems and its thoughts so that Islam encapsulates the world.”
It projects its struggle as directed against “the disbelieving imperialists, to deliver the Ummah from their domination and to liberate her from their influence by uprooting their intellectual, cultural, political, economic and military roots from all of the Muslim countries. The political struggle also appears in challenging the rulers, revealing their treasons and conspiracies against the Ummah, and by taking them to task and changing them if they denied the rights of the Ummah, or refrained from performing their duties towards her, or ignored any matter of her affairs, or violated the laws of Islam. So all the work of the Party is political, whether it is in office or not. Its work is not educational, as it is not a school, nor is its work concerned with giving sermons and preaching. Rather its work is political.”
The HT has a three-stage strategy for achieving its objectives. In the first stage, which it claims has already been completed, it concentrated on making individual Muslims all over the world aware of its ideology, message and political programme of action. The goal to be achieved was to create in individual Muslims an Islamic mind-set and Islamic emotions. In the second stage on which it is presently embarked, it concentrates on educating the Ummah as a whole as an entity. In the third stage, it proposes to focus on the achievement of political power in order to pave the way for Islamic rule according to the Sharia all over the Islamic world and the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate.
The HT projects itself as an organisation opposed to the use of terrorism or other forms of violence for achieving its objectives. It claims that it wants to achieve its objectives through AGITPROP (agitation-propaganda) techniques. This should not be mistaken to mean that it advises individual Muslims, including its followers, to shun the use of terrorism for promoting the interests of Islam. It sees no contradiction between its opposition to terrorism as an organisation and its followers resorting to jihadi terrorism in countries where such a dichotomy may be required and justified.
To quote the HT: “Whenever the disbelieving enemies attack an Islamic country it becomes compulsory on its Muslim citizens to repel the enemy. The members of Hizbut-Tahrir in that country are a part of the Muslims and it is obligatory upon them as it is upon other Muslims, in their capacity as Muslims, to fight the enemy and repel them. Whenever there is a Muslim amir who declares jihad to enhance the Word of Allah and mobilises the people to do that, the members of Hizbut-Tahrir will respond in their capacity as Muslims in the country where the general call to arms was proclaimed.”
What, in effect, it says is that its members have two obligations. As members of the organisation, they cannot take to violence. As members of the Muslim community, they can take to arms if such a course of action is warranted by circumstances. Thus, it would be quite in order for a Muslim to propagate overtly the non-violent ways of the HT and, at the same time, take to terrorism covertly as a member of Al Qaeda or the International Islamic Front (IIF). The clandestine ways of the HT, about whose leadership not much is known, add to the fears about the real nature of the organisation and its linkages with Al Qaeda and the IIF.
Some analysts, particularly in Pakistan, describe the HT as an international Sunni movement, similar to Al Qaeda, but the HT itself says that its message and appeal are addressed to all Muslims, whether Sunnis or Shias. It wants its movement to be seen as a universal Muslim movement and not as a Sunni one.
Well-informed sources in Pakistan say that apart from the failure of the intelligence establishment to identify and weed out the pro-jihadi elements in the Armed Forces and the intelligence establishment, another cause for serious concern is the continuing failure of the intelligence establishment to identify all the leaders of the highly secretive Hizbut Tehrir (HT) and its supporters in the Armed Forces and arrest them.
The HT made its appearance in Pakistan for the first time in 2000. It had little role to play in the jihad of the 1980s against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. There is nothing secretive about its ideological propaganda in favour of an Islamic Caliphate, which is open. What is highly secretive are details of its leadership, organisational structure, methods of recruitment, membership and sources of finance.
What is equally disturbing is that the HT, while advocating open AGITPROP (Agitation-Propaganda) methods for spreading its ideology, lays equal emphasis on the importance of a clandestine penetration of the security forces since, in its view, it would not succeed in establishing an Islamic Caliphate if the Armed Forces remain opposed to it.
The HT ideology and operational methods were imported into Pakistan from the UK by its supporters in the Pakistani community in the UK. It is said that within 11 years it has been able to make considerable progress not only in setting up its organisational infrastructure, but also in recruiting dedicated members in the civil society as well as the Armed Forces. It is said that no other jihadi organisation has been able to attract as many young and educated members and as many supporters in the Armed Forces as the HT despite the fact that it has been present in Pakistan hardly for about 11 years now.
It was carrying on a campaign — open as well as secret–against Pervez Musharraf on various issues such as his alleged betrayal of Islam by supporting the US against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, his failure to “liberate” J&K from the control of India, his failure to condemn the US policies in Iraq etc.
In the beginning of 2004, the HT had circulated two anti-Musharraf pamphlets among Pakistani military personnel. The first of these pamphlets titled “Musharraf is transforming Pak Army into Colonial American Army” said: “The war, which Musharraf joined under the pretext of Pakistan First, is now being fought inside Pakistan. The people were informed that providing assistance to kill our Afghan brothers will save Pakistan but that lie has been exposed now. Today Pakistani army is killing Pakistani Muslims on Pakistani territory. Musharraf has reduced Pak Army into a Colonial American Army. Their motto has been practically changed from Jihad Fi Sabillillah (Jihad in the way of Allah) to Qital fisabil Amrica (Fighting for the sake of America). The butcher of Afghani Muslims is now busy in massacring the Muslims of Pakistan. These days the government repeatedly announces that killings in the tribal area are only carried out by Pakistani troops and there are no American troops involved in the operation. Most certainly, why would America risk her own troops while through the courtesy of Musharraf, she has Muslim blood at her disposal for free? To stop a civil war, the Ummah should eject Musharraf and establish Khilafah. We strongly advise the Army not to raise arms against their Muslim brothers since according to the Hadith of the Messenger, abusing a fellow Muslim is Fisq (transgression) while hitting him is Kufr (disbelief).”
In a statement circulated on April 27, 2005, on Musharraf’s visit to New Delhi for talks with the Indian leaders, it said: “Musharraf’s claim that he has not taken a U-turn on Kashmir is an absolute lie. As a matter of fact, in Delhi, his statement that he has come to India with a ‘new heart’ exposes that he has taken a U-turn on Kashmir. In expressing his view on his ‘new heart’ he proposed to make Line of Control a ‘soft border. Not only this, the General also explicitly called for working out arrangements where ‘boundaries become irrelevant.’ During his visit, Musharraf for the very first time claimed that there existed a representative Kashmiri leadership other than All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a clear shift in policy. In the past Pakistan was calling for solving Kashmir first, but now it maintains that trade, cultural exchange and other CBMs (Confidence-building Measures) should get preference. Hence, the Indian stance i.e. all issues should not be linked to Kashmir, is now being propagated by Musharraf himself. The Ummah should get rid of such rulers and the Muslims be united under a single leadership by establishing Khilafat. Consequently, it will be able to resolve problems such as Kashmir, Chechnya and Palestine with a great ease.”
The “Daily Times” of Lahore October 4, 2004, carried the following report on HT activities in Pakistan: “They are considered a new breed of Islamic fundamentalists, who study at top British and American schools yet abhor Western values, advocate a pan-Islamic state and favour the removal of Pakistan’s pro-US government.
“Militancy and violence is not part of their agenda and they want to achieve their “lofty goals” through a peaceful and non-violent struggle. But analysts say such men, fired by the passion of an Islamic renaissance, stand on a thin line dividing political and violent struggle.
“HizbutTehrir, an international Islamic group with roots from England to Central Asia, is a recent addition to myriad radical organisations striving to enforce “true Islam” in Pakistan. The group was outlawed in Pakistan in November 2003, just three years after it started operations, but its members continue undeterred, distributing party literature and holding small meetings in efforts to expand their base. Pakistan, an ally of the United States in the war on terror, banned several militant Islamic groups, but most re-emerged under new names. Hizbut Tehrir has refused to change its name despite the closure of offices and the arrest of several members.
‘British and US nationals of Pakistani origin comprise the backbone of this secretive group formed in Jerusalem in 1953. It wants to establish a supra-Islamic state on the model of the caliphate that existed in the early days of Islam. The group came to Pakistan through second-generation Pakistanis living in the West, particularly in Britain and the United States. They claim they had supporters in Pakistan for a long time but formal operations took time to establish.
“Many members abandoned what they call the luxuries of the West to come to Pakistan to live among fellow Muslims and work for the country’s transformation into a puritanical Islamic society of their dreams. “In terms of living standards, England is better. You don’t confront problems such as water shortages and power failures there,” said a Hizb member, who works as an executive at a bank.
“But you cannot safeguard the Islamic way of life in Western society. You become alienated,” said the 32-year-old, who migrated from his birthplace, London, to Pakistan two years ago. “We believe a change will come in the Muslim world from places like Pakistan, where an overwhelming number of people are Islamic-minded,” he said in a clipped British accent. Scores of young men like him moved to Pakistan mainly from Britain and the United States to work for the Islamic cause.
“With their trimmed beards and Western clothes, they stand in contrast to the turban and skull cap-wearing traditional followers of local Islamic parties. But their anti-West rhetoric is as radical as that of their more orthodox counterparts.
“Intelligence officials say the shadowy network is taking root among educated Pakistanis and a few of its members are under surveillance. Group members include engineers, chartered accountants, computer experts and doctors. Several of its members, some on the condition of anonymity, said the number of their supporters was increasing.
“We advocate unity amongst Muslims,” said Ismail Sheikh, a frail 34-year-old British national of Pakistani origin who was arrested for distributing pamphlets outside a Karachi mosque in July.
“But an anti-terrorism court acquitted him on lack of evidence last month and he was back to organisational work the same day, saying the arrest only strengthened his resolve. “They questioned me whether I had links to Al Qaeda, or if I had visited Afghanistan,” said Mr Sheikh, a dentist from the University of Wales. He abandoned his medical career in London and moved to Karachi in 1999 to become one of the group’s pioneer members. The government sees Hizbut Tehrir as a threat.
“Its activities were found prejudicial to national interest,” said Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, an Interior Ministry spokesman. “Its members incite people against the government through their writings and leaflets.”
“But Naveed Butt, a spokesman for Hizbut Tehrir, said that to bring about a change one needed political, not militant action. “We are being associated with militancy because we preach an alternative ideology,” said Mr Butt, an engineer from Chicago, where he was first introduced to the group in the mid-1980s.
“The best yardstick for our success is that we were banned within three years of our activities here.”
“Ahmed Rashid, author of a book on the Afghan Taliban, said Hizb was a movement based in Europe. “Young Muslims living in the West get exposure to their culture through religion. I don’t think they have any real popular support. Given the enormous number of Islamic schools and parties, it is difficult for someone like Hizb, which is seen as an import from England, to come in the field and make room for itself,” said Mr. Rashid. He said despite its radical ideas, there were no indications Hizb was involved in militancy.
“The membership of Hizbut Tehrir could just be a passing phenomenon for Islamic radicals rather than a permanent one. From here they could move on to militant groups,” Mr. Rashid said.
The “Sunday Times” of London reported as follows on July 5,2009: “British militants are pushing for the overthrow of the Pakistani state. Followers of the fundamentalist group Hizbut-Tahrir have called for a “bloodless military coup” in Islamabad and the creation of the caliphate in which strict Islamic laws would be rigorously enforced.
“Members of the group, which describes itself as the Liberation party in Britain but is banned in Pakistan, revealed last week that it had targeted the country as a base from which to spread Islamic rule across the world.
“The Sunday Times has obtained the names of a dozen British Hizbut-Tahrir activists based in Lahore and Karachi, or commuting between Britain and Pakistan. There are believed to be many more.
“One of Hizbut-Tahrir’s strategies in Pakistan is to influence military officers.
“Shahzad Sheikh, a Pakistani recruit and the group’s official spokesman in Karachi, talked openly about persuading the army to instigate a “bloodless coup” against the present government who, he said, were “worse than the Taliban”.
“It is the military who hold the power (in Pakistan) and we are asking them to give their allegiance to Hizbut-Tahrir,” he said. “I can’t explain to you in detail how we are trying to influence the military . . . We never disclose our methodology of change. You may say it’s a coup.”
“In 2003 four army officers were arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of being linked to extremist groups, although the groups and men have not been named. A Hizbut-Tahrir insider at the time claims they were recruited by the organisation’s “Pakistan team” while training at Sandhurst.
“And why all of this emphasis on Pakistan?
“The group is believed to have been set up in Pakistan in the early 1990s by Imtiaz Malik, a British-born Pakistani who may still be operating underground as its leader in the country. In 1999 a call was sent to British Hizbut-Tahrir members to move to Pakistan. This prompted the movement of some of the UK’s “top quality” activists to South Asia.
“Pakistan was neglected and ignored until it had a nuclear bomb and then the global leader realised it would be a good strategic base for the caliphate,” said Maajid Nawaz, one of the organisation’s pioneers in Pakistan, who has since renounced the group.”
Pakistanis belonging to the HT in the UK held a demonstration outside the Pakistan High Commission in Knightsbridge, London on March 19 2011 to strongly denounce the release of Raymond Davis by Pakistan’s rulers. Hundreds of men and women gathered to condemn what the HT called the treachery of the Zardari-Gilani regime.
According to reports carried by the Pakistani media, Rizwan Hussain, from the HT’s Pakistan Committee, said that Pakistan’s rulers had committed the greatest crime that a leadership could ever commit; that of betrayal, treason and collusion with a foreign power. He alleged that there was absolutely no doubt about the guilt of Raymond Davis yet Pakistan’s rulers had fully co-operated and facilitated his handing back to the US. He said that Pakistan’s rulers’ claim that they released Davis under the Shariah law of Diya or ‘blood money’ after the victim’s family pardoned him was worthy of contempt and laughter. Rizwan said Zardari should be asked if the Shariah allowed foreign agents secret entry into Pakistan? Where was the Shariah in allowing America to launch drone attacks and kill Muslims by the hundreds in the tribal areas? And what about the situation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, does the Shariah allow these rulers to do nothing as America illegally kidnaps and jails an innocent Muslim woman for 86 years he asked?
Rizwan described President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif as hypocritical liars who have sold everything to serve their masters in America.
Atif Salahuddin, also from the HT’s Pakistan Committee, said that Pakistan is the only so called American ‘ally’ in the world that is continuously bombed and attacked by America nearly every single day. This was a master to slave relationship in which Zardari, Gilliani and the Sharif brothers were all responsible for releasing Davis he said. Where was the so called ‘independent judiciary’? Where was Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudary in bringing this murderer Davis to account, he asked? Atif said that the military leadership was also responsible for the release of Davis and had failed in its duty to protect the people. Atif demanded that the Pakistan Army move to remove these treacherous rulers whose only aim in life is to slavishly serve America so that they can continue to sit in office and carry on with their corruption. Pakistan’s rulers had brought nothing but humiliation and American sponsored terror to the people, he alleged.
Mohammed Salim, another UK-based Pakistani member of the HT, said that the events in the Middle East had proved that the time of corrupt Muslim rulers was coming to an end and the Muslims were entering a new era. Salim said that the events in Tunisia and Egypt had proved that real authority lay in the hands of the people and if the people of Pakistan wanted change it was within their grasp. Pakistan’s people need to move and come out on 17th April to join HT rallies all over Pakistan in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi and Peshawar to force the Pakistan army to establish the Khilafat – the only way to end the American attacks and bloodshed.