ISLAMABAD Pakistan has detained a brigadier assigned to army headquarters over alleged links to a banned group, the army said on Tuesday, the highest-ranking serving officer arrested in a decade. Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Brigadier Ali Khan, who had an administrative post and was not involved in operations, was detained last month over links to the banned Hizbul Tahrir.
The detention follows growing pressure on Pakistan to root out any suspected militant sympathisers from its ranks after Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US forces in Abbottabad on May 2.Abbas said the detention shows the army is determined to weed out bad actors, but also stressed that Khan was not linked to the Taliban, which is seen as much more of a threat by the West than Hizbul Tahrir.Abbas said efforts were being made to trace other members of Hizbul Tahrir – a radical but non-violent group which seeks the establishment of a caliphate – who had been in contact with the brigadier.“We follow zero tolerance policy of such activities within the military.
Therefore prompt action was taken on detection,” Abbas told Reuters. He declined to go into details. A military official, who declined to be identified, ruled out the possibility of the brigadier’s involvement in any plot. “He just had contacts with the banned group. But he was not involved in any type of conspiracy,” Khan, who lived in the garrison town of Rawalpindi where the army has its headquarters is from a family of soldiers – his father was a junior officer while he has two sons and one son-in law in the army.His wife Anjum rejected the allegations against him as “rubbish”. “Every general knows Brigadier Ali Khan. Even (army chief) General (Ashfaq) Kayani knows him,” she told Reuters.
“We can never think of betraying the army or our country. “He 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.” She said her husband went missing May 5, and she has been searching for information about his whereabouts since then.Authorities had assured her that he would soon return, she said. She said her father-in-law served in the army as a junior commissioned officer, while her son and son-in-law were currently serving in the army. “Our three generations have served the army, and none of our family members have any links with the militants,” she said.
The BBC’s Urdu-language service said that Khan had been working for two years at the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi before disappearing suddenly about one and a half months ago. The report quoted a relative of Khan as saying that he did not return from work on the evening of May 6. When they got in touch with the army, military officers apparently told them that the brigadier had been held for questioning but will soon return home.Hizbul Tahrir, which is active in many Muslim countries and also in Britain, was banned in Pakistan in 2003. The group says it does not advocate violence, but many critics say it has ties to militant organisations. It tends to attract supporters among the young and the educated elite.
Some fear it may have been making inroads into the army. “What we see is that it is trying to infiltrate the military and wanting to bring some sort of a change through the military and that could be dangerous,” retired general and defence analyst Talat Masood said. The allegations against the brigadier could show gaps as far as discipline was concerned, he said, but added that it was a positive sign that the army had found out and taken action. “I think the army is trying do a clean-up,” he said. “They have realised that otherwise the institution will be undermined.” agencies – Dailytimes