Arrest of Pakistani officer revives fears of extremism within military,
By Tim Lister and Aliza Kassim, CNN, June 22, 2011
(CNN) -- Brigadier General Ali Khan was close to retiring at the end of a distinguished career in the Pakistani Army when he was detained early in May -- and accused of links with an outlawed Islamist group.
His arrest, which became public Tuesday, shocked fellow officers at army headquarters and again raises the specter that senior ranks of the Pakistani officer corps may be infiltrated by Islamist militants.
Brigadier Khan is the most senior officer to face such allegations since 1995, according to a CNN analysis of previous cases.
Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Khan was believed linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation). He said efforts were underway to arrest members of the group who had been in contact with Khan.
"The military has zero tolerance for any such activity and strict disciplinary action will be taken against those involved," said Major General Abbas.
Pakistani officials say Brigadier General Khan, who is 59, had an administrative role at army headquarters in Rawalpindi. His work did not involve counterterrorism and he did not command any unit. But he would have seen plenty of sensitive information….
Reuters news agency quoted Khan's wife as dismissing the allegations as "rubbish," saying her husband was "an intellectual, an honest, patriotic and ideological person."
"It's a fashion here that whosoever offers prayers and practices religion is dubbed as Taliban and militant," Reuters quoted her as saying….
Hizb ut-Tahrir says it is committed to non-violence but has urged soldiers to rebel against the military hierarchy and its goal it to establish a global Islamic Caliphate.
Simon Valentine, a British researcher who has studied extremism in the Pakistani armed forces, said that while Hizb ut-Tahrir doesn't advocate violence "a cardinal element of its ideology and modus operandi is to infilitrate the armed forces and, once gaining sufficient support, cause a military coup."
"Despite claims of zero tolerance of HuT within the Army," he said, "militant Islam, including the HuT, has much support from the grass roots to the highest level within all branches of the armed forces."…
Hassan Abbas, a scholar at Columbia University who has written extensively about Pakistani military intelligence, the ISI, told CNN he suspected there was more to the case than any alleged contacts with Hizb ul-Tahrir.
"Association with such a group would not be enough to hold him for six weeks," especially as Khan was weeks away from retirement, he said.
Abbas, author of "Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror," said there is an alarming trend that includes Pakistani pilots refusing to bomb militant strongholds, and units surrendering to militant groups rather than fire on them.
Valentine, who is a regular visitor to Pakistan, said Khan's arrest may be "part of an attempt to bolster the army's reputation amid accusations that it is pro-militant," in the wake of the raid by U.S. special forces that killed bin Laden.
But Hassan Abbas believes the military had no desire for the Khan case to become public. "The military is in deep crisis in the aftermath of Abbottabad," he says. "They would have preferred to hush this up."
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Pakistan army officer held for 'links with extremists' - BBC; Army confirms brigadier’s arrest for extremist ties - Express Tribune; Brigadier’s arrest shows extent of radicalisation - The News