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Pak busts jihadi coup plot

world Updated: Jul 26, 2011 01:36 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
Imtiaz Ahmad

Pakistani intelligence agencies have warned that the Islamic fundamentalist Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization was planning a Egypt-style uprising in Pakistan and using the help of sympathetic officers in the military to overthrow the government, a report in the Express Tribune said on Monday.

However, military officials said the arrest of a brigadier and four army majors in May has aborted any such plans and that if there was a danger of an Islamicist coup, it had now been taken care of.

In a correspondence between the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Punjab police, a copy of which the newspaper obtained, the ISI warns that the HuT wanted to deeply infiltrate the military as well as academia. It is believed the military high command's arrest of brigadier Ali Khan, who served in the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, came after this warning. The brigadier and majors are in army custody and face possible court martial.

HuT is active across Pakistan and has recently taken to distributing pamphlets and held small rallies demanding the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan and elsewhere. The pamphlets urged the people to rise up in the style of Tunisians and Egyptians and get rid of the civilian government. Officials said the HuT had propagated the use of a military takeover to topple the government of president Asif Ali Zardari.

Retired General Talat Masood said the attempts by various religious organisations to infiltrate the military in Pakistan "was nothing new" and in the days of General Zia ul Haq, "such efforts were encouraged."

There was a previous attempt by an Islamicist officer to seize power through a coup, though that was a largely individual effort. In 1995, one Major General Abbasi tried to stage a military coup against the government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Abbasi wanted the army takeover to be the start of an Islamic revolution in the country. The military high command arrested and court martialled Abbasi.

Retired General Moinuddin Haider, a former interior minister, said the bigger worry was ties of the military officers with bigger religious organizations and the fact that these were not closely monitored. "HuT is a small fish. There are bigger fish in the pond," he commented.

The former RAW Pakistan analyst, B. Raman, has blogged on the danger of HuT, noting that while it eschews terrorism it strongly advocates an Islamicist coup d'etat. He underlined the "continuing failure of the [Pakistani] intelligence establishment to identify all the leaders of the highly secretive HuT and its supporters in the armed forces." and arrest them.

(with inputs from Delhi)