The investigations into the two unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Pakistan's President Gen.Pervez Musharraf in December, 2003, brought to light the penetration of jihadi terrorist organisations into the Pakistan Army and Air Force at the junior and middle levels. Four officers of the Army and six of the Air Force were found to have joined hands with an assortment of jihadi terrorist organisations such as the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM),the Jundullah, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and the Al Qaeda in hatching the conspiracy to have Musharraf killed as a reprisal for his co-operation with the US in the so-called war against terrorism.
2. They could not forgive him for helping the US-led coalition in Afghanistan in its military operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. He became an apostate in the eyes of the Al Qaeda despite his continued support to the jihadi organisations for their activities in India's Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and had to be eliminated at any cost. In fact. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, had openly called for the overthrow of Musharraf and warned that his continuance in power would help the Hindus of India in destroying Islam in Pakistan.
3. The leadership role in the planning and execution of this conspiracy was played by the LEJ and Al Qaeda, represented by Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the Libyan, who was arrested by the Pakistani security forces earlier this month.
4. There are still many unanswered questions about this conspiracy. Who took the initiative in planning this conspiracy? These officers or the leaders of these jihadi organisations? When was the conspiracy hatched? How did Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Directorates-General of the Army and the Air Force remain unaware of this conspiracy despite the fact that the conspirators had allegedly held some of their preparatory meetings in their living quarters in military cantonments and Air Force stations? Was there a complicity in the intelligence establishment itself? If so, at what level? Why has the Government not been able to identify so far those in the intelligence establishment involved in the conspiracy? Was there an involvement of the Hizbut Tehrir, a highly secretive organisation which came into existence in Pakistan for the first time in 2000, in this conspiracy?
5. These questions have re-surfaced in the wake of the arrest of Abu Faraj and the re-arrest of a civilian employee of the Air Force involved in the conspiracy, who had managed to escape from custody in November last while under interrogation. It may be recalled that when a section of Army officers led by Maj. Gen. Zaheer-ul-Islam Abbasi joined hands with the HUJI in 1995 in plotting to have Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minister, and Gen. Abdul Waheed Kakkar, the then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), assassinated and then to capture power, the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence had come to know of the conspiracy and crushed it before the conspirators could make progress. But the detection at that time was accidental. The capture of a jeep carrying arms and ammunition from the North-West Frontier Province in which an Army Brigadier and Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the Amir of the HUJI, were travelling together led to the detection.
6. In the case of the conspiracy against Musharraf there was no detection. The conspirators were able to complete their preparations and actually execute the conspiracy. If Musharraf survived it was partly due to God's grace and partly to the use by his security guards of a remote-control de-activation device.
7.That there are apprehensions in the minds of those close to Musharraf over the role of sections of the intelligence establishment in the entire conspiracy and over the failure of the investigating agencies so far to unravel the entire conspiracy became evident from an interview given by Dr.Aamir Liaqat Hussain, Minister of State for Religious Affairs, to the prestigious "Daily Times" of Lahore, on May 5,2005. An advance summary of the interview was carried by the newspaper on May 6,2005. This summary has quoted the Minister as warning that Musharraf had a lot of enemies ‘within’ who could make an attempt on his life again at any time. He said that there were certain elements within the forces who could attack the General. He added: “No common people could attack President Musharraf, but certainly there are elements in the forces who can launch yet another attack against him. There is an ISI within the ISI, which is more powerful than the original and still orchestrating many eventualities in the country.” The Minister said he feared a threat to his own life because he supported Musharraf's call for an enlightened and moderate Islam and has been given the task of preparing the texts of sermons advocating enlightened and moderate Islam to be used at all mosques of the Armed Forces.
8. Well-informed sources in Pakistan say that apart from the failure of the intelligence establishment to identify and weed out the pro-jihadi elements in the Armed Forces and the intelligence establishment, another cause for serious concern is the continuing failure of the intelligence establishment to identify all the leaders of the highly secretive Hizbut Tehrir (HT) and its supporters in the Armed Forces and arrest them.
9. This organisation, which has built up a world-wide presence since 1953, made its appearance in Pakistan for the first time in 2000. It had little role to play in the jihad of the 1980s against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Like Al Qaeda, it advocates an Islamic Caliphate in which the Sharia will be supreme, but says it wants to achieve it through peaceful mass agitations and not by resort to terrorism or other acts of armed violence. Even though it was born long before Al Qaeda, many believe that the HT now functions as the political wing of the Al Qaeda. What the Al Qaeda seeks to propagate through jihadi terrorism, it propagates through political means.
10. There is nothing secretive about its ideological propaganda in favour of an Islamic Caliphate, which is open. What is highly secretive are details of its leadership, organisational structure, methods of recruitment, membership and sources of finance.
11. What is equally disturbing is that the HT, while advocating open AGITPROP (Agitation-Propaganda) methods for spreading its ideology, lays equal emphasis on the importance of a clandestine penetration of the security forces since, in its view, it would not succeed in establishing an Islamic Caliphate if the Armed Forces remain opposed to it.
12. The HT ideology and operational methods were imported into Pakistan from the UK by its supporters in the Pakistani community in the UK. It is said that within five years it has been able to make considerable progress not only in setting up its organisational infrastructure, but also in recruiting dedicated members in the civil society as well as the Armed Forces. It is said that no other jihadi organisation has been able to attract as many young and educated members and as many supporters in the Armed Forces as the HT despite the fact that it has been present in Pakistan hardly for about five years now.
13. It has been carrying on a campaign -- open as well as secret--against Musharraf on various issues such as his alleged betrayal of Islam by supporting the US against the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, his failure to "liberate" J&K from the control of India, his failure to condemn the US policies in Iraq etc.
14. In a statement circulated on April 27, 2005, on Musharraf's recent visit to New Delhi for talks with the Indian leaders, it said: "Musharraf’s claim that he has not taken a U-turn on Kashmir is an absolute lie. As a matter of fact, in Delhi, his statement that he has come to India with a ‘new heart’ exposes that he has taken a U-turn on Kashmir. In expressing his view ‘new heart’ he proposed to make Line of Control a ‘soft border. Not only this, the General also explicitly called for working out arrangements where ‘boundaries become irrelevant.’ During his visit, Musharraf for the very first time claimed that there existed a representative Kashmiri leadership other than All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a clear shift in policy. In the past Pakistan was calling for solving Kashmir first, but now it maintains that trade, cultural exchange and other CBMs (Confidence-building Measures) should get preference. Hence, the Indian stance i.e. all issues should not be linked to Kashmir, is now being propagated by Musharraf himself. The Ummah should get rid of such rulers and the Muslims be united under a single leadership by establishing Khilafat. Consequently, it will be able to resolve problems such as Kashmir, Chechnya and Palestine with a great ease."
15. There was no credible evidence of the HT's possible involvement in the anti-Musharraf plots of December,2003, but its present call for "getting rid of such rulers", which is similar to the call issued in the past by al-Zawahiri, is ominous.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
The "Daily Times" of October 4, 2004, carried the following report on HT activities in Pakistan: Hizbut Tehrir defies ban, continues to draw educated Pakistanis
They are considered a new breed of Islamic fundamentalists, who study at top British and American schools yet abhor Western values, advocate a pan-Islamic state and favour the removal of Pakistan’s pro-US government.
Militancy and violence is not part of their agenda and they want to achieve their “lofty goals” through a peaceful and non-violent struggle. But analysts say such men, fired by the passion of an Islamic renaissance, stand on a thin line dividing political and violent struggle.
Hizbut Tehrir, an international Islamic group with roots from England to Central Asia, is a recent addition to myriad radical organisations striving to enforce “true Islam” in Pakistan. The group was outlawed in Pakistan in November 2003, just three years after it started operations, but its members continue undeterred, distributing party literature and holding small meetings in efforts to expand their base. Pakistan, an ally of the United States in the war on terror, banned several militant Islamic groups, but most re-emerged under new names. Hizbut Tehrir has refused to change its name despite the closure of offices and the arrest of several members.
British and US nationals of Pakistani origin comprise the backbone of this secretive group formed in Jerusalem in 1953. It wants to establish a supra-Islamic state on the model of the caliphate that existed in the early days of Islam. The group came to Pakistan through second-generation Pakistanis living in the West, particularly in Britain and the United States. They claim they had supporters in Pakistan for a long time but formal operations took time to establish.
Many members abandoned what they call the luxuries of the West to come to Pakistan to live among fellow Muslims and work for the country’s transformation into a puritanical Islamic society of their dreams. “In terms of living standards, England is better. You don’t confront problems such as water shortages and power failures there,” said a Hizb member, who works as an executive at a bank.
“But you cannot safeguard the Islamic way of life in Western society. You become alienated,” said the 32-year-old, who migrated from his birthplace, London, to Pakistan two years ago.“We believe a change will come in the Muslim world from places like Pakistan, where an overwhelming number of people are Islamic-minded,” he said in a clipped British accent. Scores of young men like him moved to Pakistan mainly from Britain and the United States to work for the Islamic cause.
With their trimmed beards and Western clothes, they stand in contrast to the turban and skull cap-wearing traditional followers of local Islamic parties. But their anti-West rhetoric is as radical as that of their more orthodox counterparts.
Intelligence officials say the shadowy network is taking root among educated Pakistanis and a few of its members are under surveillance. Group members include engineers, chartered accountants, computer experts and doctors. Several of its members, some on the condition of anonymity, said the number of their supporters was increasing.
“We advocate unity amongst Muslims,” said Ismail Sheikh, a frail 34-year-old British national of Pakistani origin who was arrested for distributing pamphlets outside a Karachi mosque in July.
But an anti-terrorism court acquitted him on lack of evidence last month and he was back to organisational work the same day, saying the arrest only strengthened his resolve. “They questioned me whether I had links to Al Qaeda, or if I had visited Afghanistan,” said Mr Sheikh, a dentist from the University of Wales. He abandoned his medical career in London and moved to Karachi in 1999 to become one of the group’s pioneer members. The government sees Hizbut Tehrir as a threat.
“Its activities were found prejudicial to national interest,” said Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, an interior ministry spokesman. “Its members incite people against the government through their writings and leaflets.”
But Naveed Butt, a spokesman for Hizbut Tehrir, said that to bring about a change one needed political, not militant action. “We are being associated with militancy because we preach an alternative ideology,” said Mr Butt, an engineer from Chicago, where he was first introduced to the group in the mid-1980s.
“The best yardstick for our success is that we were banned within three years of our activities here.”
Ahmed Rashid, author of a book on the Afghan Taliban, said Hizb was a movement based in Europe.
“Young Muslims living in the West get exposure to their culture through religion. I don’t think they have any real popular support. Given the enormous number of Islamic schools and parties, it is difficult for someone like Hizb, which is seen as an import from England, to come in the field and make room for itself,” said Mr Rashid. He said despite its radical ideas, there were no indications Hizb was involved in militancy.
“The membership of Hizbut Tehrir could just be a passing phenomenon for Islamic radicals rather than a permanent one. From here they could move on to militant groups,” Mr Rashid said.