ISLAMABAD, June 22: Army said on Wednesday that another four of its officers were being interrogated for links with Hizb-ut-Tehrir (HuT), reinforcing fears that radicalisation could be more widespread in the military than earlier believed.
“Four other officers are being questioned for their alleged links with HuT,” ISPR Director General Major General Athar Abbas said in an interview with the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation.
He warned that the trend of infiltration of army by extremist groups could be “harmful for entire nation and national security.”
The disclosure came a day after the military publicly acknowledged that it had detained Brig Ali Khan, head of regulations wing at the General Headquarters, for links with HuT. He is the highest-ranking military officer to have been arrested for links with extremist organisations.
Gen Abbas said Brig Khan’s links with “HuT have been proven”.The group of four officers, all said to be of the rank of major, are being interrogated on charges of collaborating with Brig Khan and having links with HuT.
He told Dawn that the four officers were not posted at the GHQ. This indicates that Brig Khan’s network was not limited to the army headquarters.
Military sources fear that Brig Khan and the four majors could be part of a plot. Gen Abbas avoided responding to a question about the possibility of involvement of these officers in a conspiracy, saying it would be premature to disclose details about the case because that could affect the investigation.
The exact charge-sheet against Brig Khan has not been made public.
HuT has been accused of inciting army officers to launch a rebellion.
UK-based anti-extremism think-tank Quilliam Foundation’s chief executive Maajid Nawaz, who was formerly associated with HuT, said in a twitter posting: “Pakistani army (was) targeted by my old group Hizb-ut-Tehrir we have warned of this for years.”
The Guardian quoted Maajid Nawaz as having said: “It’s a core tenet of their ideology. This is how they intend to come to power, through a military coup.”
A group of junior officers linked to HuT tried to mount a coup in 2003, but the plot was foiled and the plotters were jailed. Last year two officers were court-martialled for ties with HuT.
Brig Khan was detained four days after Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2 in a US raid in Abbottabad. Military sources say Brig Khan had reacted strongly to Osama’s killing. His reaction, a military officer said, could have precipitated his arrest although he had been under surveillance for a long time and had even been denied promotion for his extremist tendencies.
Brig Khan’s wife confirmed to journalists that her husband had been angry over violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the covert action undertaken by the US to kill Bin Laden. “Weren’t you,” she retorted on being asked by a reporter if Brig Khan was disturbed over US raid and added: “I even wept. He is a patriotic Pakistani and was of course upset.”AP quoted Brig Khan’s lawyer Col (retd) Inam Rahim as saying that his client was arrested for demanding that someone within the military be held accountable for the covert US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.