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British Islamists plot against Pakistan

British Islamists plot against Pakistan

Author: Nicola Smith in Lahore
Publication: The Sunday Times
Date: July 4, 2009
URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6638483.ece

British militants are pushing for the overthrow of the Pakistani state. Followers of the fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir have called for a "bloodless military coup" in Islamabad and the creation of the caliphate in which strict Islamic laws would be rigorously enforced.

Members of the group, which describes itself as the Liberation party in Britain but is banned in Pakistan, revealed last week that it had targeted the country as a base from which to spread Islamic rule across the world.

The Sunday Times has obtained the names of a dozen British Hizb ut-Tahrir activists based in Lahore and Karachi, or commuting between Britain and Pakistan. There are believed to be many more.

Tayyib Muqeem, an English teacher from Stoke-on-Trent, said 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.

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, he said.

He added that Islamic rule would be spread through "indoctrination" and by "military means" if non-Muslim countries refused to bow to it. "Waging war" would be part of the caliphate's foreign policy.

One of Hizb ut-Tahrir's strategies in Pakistan is to influence military officers, he revealed.

Shahzad Sheikh, a Pakistani recruit and the group's official spokesman in Karachi, talked openly 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."

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 at the time claims they were recruited by the organisation's "Pakistan team" while training at Sandhurst.

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 the country. In 1999 a call was sent to British Hizb ut-Tahrir members to move to Pakistan. This prompted 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.

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 added.

"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.

Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a former professor in Lahore who is now a security analyst, said: "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 spreads its message through a secretive network of small groups. Its recruitment campaigns among students are clearly bearing fruit: evidence was found of cells in Lahore's major universities and private colleges.

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