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The Hizb ut-Tahrir threat
By Muhammad Amir Rana | From the Newspaper | 11th July, 2011

THE arrest of Brig Ali Khan and four majors last month bring Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) into the spotlight. Though HT did not confirm or deny their links with itself, its spokesman in Pakistan said in a recent interview that the idea of resonates with officers of the armed forces.

HT is an ideological group that falls somewhere between political Islamists and militant Islamists, and may also be classified as a kind of a revolutionary Islamist set-up. HT emphatically asserts that the only way to progress, prosperity and development is the implementation of Islam as an ideology in Pakistan, in fact the whole world.

In Pakistan, it has an anti-constitutional and anti-democratic outlook and agenda, and its narrative on militant and violent movements and groups in the country remains vague. This vagueness is a major hurdle in assessing the real threat the group can pose. Most analysts tend to watch madressahs and popular mass movements for signs of radicalisation. The danger with HT is ever more serious and often overlooked because it is not always visible and does not conform to stereotypes.

HT`s political discourse is based on religio-ideological narratives that are already in abundance in Pakistan and are one of the root causes of the main security threats posed to Pakistan`s state and society. HT can, in fact, give impetus to the theo-political polarisation in Pakistani society where space for any discourse other than the Islamist narrative has almost already disappeared. This is a threat in general, irrespective of which Islamist organisation or group is contributing to it; and HT is also a part of this threat augmentation.

HT claims to be a non-violent movement, but has been linked to a number of terrorist plots in Pakistan, including an attempt to assassinate former president Gen Pervez Musharraf. A report by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, quoting an HT member, claimed that the group did not deny the involvement of HT members in some “violent activities” — such as the plot to assassinate Musharraf and the case of an army captain who faces court martial in Kotli, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on charges of planning a coup on HT`s behalf. khilafat khilafat

Some other factors also suggest that HT may pose potential threats to the security of the Pakistani state and society. Firstly, the frustrated youth associated with HT may get involved in terrorist activities; secondly, HT does not denounce such activities. Thirdly, HT does not discount the possibility of resort to violence via the military, in order to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing the state; it rather obliges it. Naveed Butt, HT spokesman in Pakistan, states that after the establishment of , part of the second phase will be to widen the borders of the state through offensive `jihad` or aggressive warfare. kufr khilafat. khilafat khilafat

At another level, the pursuit of a jihadist agenda cannot be ruled out in the case of HT. It believes that jihad and preaching will be used for “taking humanity out from the darkness of (infidelity) to the light of Islam” after the establishment of Perhaps HT has assumed a timeline for the establishment of their in Pakistan after which it plans to pursue a `jihad` to expand the boundaries of .

However, the question is, if things do not happen according to HT`s expectations, as the dominant discourse in Pakistan suggests, who can guarantee that the organisation, or its members at least, will not adopt the militant or jihadist discourse to achieve their primary objectives, especially when there are already some indications of their involvement in such activities. khilafat

Secondly, HT tries to influence the political leadership, mainly leaders of Islamist parties in Pakistan. It claims, as discussed earlier, that they do not have a clear agenda and that HT can provide them with a viable blueprint for the establishment of , or an `Islamic` revolution, that they are working towards.

Most Islamist organisations are traditionalists in their approach and work under the constitution of Pakistan. HT can lead the Islamists to a viewpoint that is characterised by opposition to the constitution. In other words, HT has the potential to compress the political and democratic space by guiding the Islamist parties and the citizens of Pakistan towards non-democratic and unconstitutional narratives of governance and state-functioning.

Thirdly, HT has been persistently targeting Pakistan Army officials for enlisting and the fact that it has the potential to augment the `Islamic revolution` niche occupied by some senior military officials cannot be ignored.

It is pertinent to mention that in two military coup plots unearthed in Pakistan HT was the prime suspect. A military court in Pakistan-administered Kashmir identified two military officers and two civilians in January 2010 as members of HT and charged them with planning to attack the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan. This facility is generally believed to be used as a base for US drones attacking targets in Pakistan`s tribal areas. The accused were also charged with transferring sensitive information to HT, which had also developed close links with Maj Gen Zaheer Abbasi, the main accused in the foiled military coup in 1995.

Fourthly, HT concentrates considerably on university students and those studying in professional institutions. The infiltration of these groups, especially with an anti-state and anti-constitutional agenda, runs the risk of putting more and more educated Pakistani youth on the path of radicalisation. According to Maajid Nawaz, a former member of HT, the radicalisation of this section of youth could have a poisonous effect on other segments of society, eventually making the core fabric of society prone to extremism because of its Islamist-guided polarisation.

HT certainly has the potential to polarise progress in Pakistan by injecting schismatic dogma into the very classes that Pakistan so desperately needs to progress.

The writer is editor of the quarterly research journal Conflict and Peace Studies.