A UK-based fundamentalist group has hatched a plot to overthrow Pakistan's government through a "bloodless coup" and establish a "caliphate" in which Islamic laws will be rigorously enforced, a media report said today.
Followers of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Pakistan, aim for a "bloodless military coup" and creation of the caliphate in Islamabad, The Sunday Times reported.
Members of the group, which describes itself as 'the Liberation Party in Britain', claim they had targeted the UK as a base from which to spread Islamic rule across the world.
The report said a dozen British Hizb ut-Tahrir activists are currently based in Lahore and Karachi, or keep travelling between the UK and Pakistan, and there are many more.
Tayyib Muqeem, an English teacher from Stoke-on Trent told the newspaper that he had moved to Lahore to convert Pakistanis to the movement.
At Lahore's Superior College, where Muqeem has set up a Hizb ut-Tahrir student group, he said the organisation's aim was to subject Muslim and western countries to Islamic rule under sharia law, "by force" if necessary.
He said Islamic rule would be spread through "indoctrination," and by "military means" if non-Muslim countries refused to bow to it and "waging war" would be part of the caliphate's foreign policy.
Muqeem said one of Hizb ut Tahriri's strategies in Pakistan is to influence military officers. Shahzad Sheikh, a Pakistani recruit and the group's official spokesman in Karachi, spoke 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 Hizb ut-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," Sheikh said.
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 Hizb ut-Tahrir 'insider' claimed they were recruited by the organisation's "Pakistan team" while training at Sandhurst in the UK, the paper said.
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 1999 a call was sent to the British members to move to Pakistan, prompting 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.
In a caliphate, every woman would have to cover up and stoning to death for adultery and the chopping off of thieves' hands would be the law, the paper said.
Nawaz claimed at least 10 British activists were planted in each of Pakistan's main cities. "The traffic has been increasing ever since and people are always going back and forth (to the UK)," he said.
"Hizb ut-Tahrir sets the mood music for suicide bombers to dance to," said Nawaz, who has now started an initiative to "claim Pakistan back" from extremists.
The report also quoted Hasan-Askari-Rizvi, a former professor in Lahore who is now a security analyst, saying: "This organisation was brought to Pakistan by Pakistani Britishers. People were impressed that these young, educated Brits were so committed to Islam that they came to Pakistan."
The group's recruitment campaigns among students are clearly bearing fruit: evidence was found of cells in Lahore's major universities and private colleges, it said.