LONDON: Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) is under instructions from its global leadership to focus on Pakistani youth, professionals and the middle-class and convert them to the secretive-natured Islamist party’s radical cause of bringing “khilafah” revolution in the only nuclear Islamic state.
‘The News’ has learnt from a senior source within the HT, which was banned by Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan but operates freely in many western countries, that the party’s leadership, believed to be moving between Middle East and Central Asia, has authorised the dedication of resources towards targeting Pakistani youth, within and outside Pakistan.
The senior source said the leadership has asked its die-hard supporters to trim their beards or go clean-shaven so as not to appear suspicious. The infiltration is on a massive scale and it is understood that Pakistan’s spy agencies are monitoring several civil and military officers who are suspected of having ties with the extremist party.
A show of this approach was visible during the recently concluded 4th annual Pakistan Future Leaders’ Conference (PFLC) 2013 at Oxford University which was attended by Pakistani student delegates from more than 40 colleges and universities. The participants of the conference were shocked when they saw that at least 40 HT activists almost invaded the weekend conference in the historic city of Oxford and remained camped there for the entire length of the conference and did everything to dominate the agenda of different sessions but also manipulated, cajoled, vilified and ridiculed Pakistani students. This was a well-organised infiltration of the conference, well-structured and well-planned to highjack the event, influence the debate and spread their marketing material – all of it focused on why Pakistan needs Khilafah system.
The HT exploited the open platform policy of the PFLC which is mainly aimed at Pakistani students, professionals, academics and policymakers irrespective of their religious, professional or political affiliations. The registration form only asks the delegates to specify the organisation or university they belong to, however they are not expected to officially represent those.
It was clear that naïve Pakistani student delegates were at a disadvantage because all of them attend the conference in their individual capacity as opposed to an organised group which strategically placed its members in small teams in different committees in the conference where they could influence the discussion in a co-ordinated manner without identifying themselves as HT members. This scribe personally met the HT leaders at the conference, who graduated from universities several years ago, but were present during all meetings, pretending to be there as concerned Pakistanis.
The HT activists distributed their material without due permission from the organisers and openly intimidated some of the chairs and co-chairs who are responsible for maintaining discipline during the committee discussions and ensure equitable participation by all committee members.
At every event, they pulled stunts and made no secret that they were there to demonstrate their organisational skills and gang power. At the opening of the conference, all of them walked out when famous singer Attaullah Esakhewli took to the stage, followed by young music bands. During Imran Khan’s speech to more than 500 students, the HT members staged a co-ordinated walkout from the Union hall, creating disruption in the proceedings.
During Aitzaz Ahsan’s speech on the closing day of the conference, various members of the HT staged individual walk outs at various stages and one of the members even misbehaved with the former lawyers’ leader. They routinely surrounded individual students in groups and tried to convert them to the HT ideology and despite the refusal of the students to engage with them, the HT members would persist with threatening behaviour.
Two female student from Pakistan, who are law students at the Oxford University and were part of the Legal Affairs Committee, were left in tears when asked by the HT members that they should have been accompanied by a “senior male member” to the conference. Both students, who want to remain nameless, said members of the HT responded to them aggressively when debating Pakistani laws and one activist told the chairperson, a Pakistani girl, not to voice her opinion and the issues she was bringing up were irrelevant.
They told The News: “The HT members were about 7 in number and their actions seemed very contrived. They seemed to have deliberately come in such a huge group in a committee of a total of 12 delegates so they could form majority and shut everyone else out. They called us names and said we were incompetent, disoriented and didn’t posses ‘Islamic knowledge’.”
A Pakistani student from Lahore said she has taken part in student activities in Pakistan but “never encountered such narrow minded people in Pakistan with such a clear inability to respond to reason or logic or any kind. Nor have religious people I've encountered before been so aggressive and violent in the propagation of their beliefs”.
Speaking to The News, a spokesman of the PFLC said: “Hizb-ut-Tahrir did not take permission to spread their marketing material and or for an organised contingent of the organisation to attend the conference as a group. The purpose of the conference is to bring together Pakistanis with from various schools of thought and view points and to encourage them to learn to resolve the pressing problems on a table through dialogue and debate rather than by intimidation and force. Delegates are expected to attend in their individual capacity with an open mind and to learn from each other.”
Asif Salahuddin of Hizb-Ut-Tahrir (Pakistan Committee), when asked about the allegations made by students and academics, said that individuals who share the HT thoughts and ideas were attending PFLC to simply put their views across regarding the vision they have for Pakistan.
“It is a shame that such complaints have been raised by some 'Pakistani students' as Hizb-ut-Tahrir is open to debate regarding any of its proposals for the future of Pakistan, and as such the party is willing to discuss this on any fairly established platform. We are a peaceful political party and any person associated with Hizb-ut-Tahrir would only contribute positively to the well acclaimed culture of debate and discussion at Oxford University.”
HT was once the most active Islamist party in Britain which campaigned on daily basis on various issues affecting British Muslim communities, including issues of the Islamic world, but the party has gone quiet on almost all its campaigns and the only focus of the party now is Pakistan and Pakistani communities, especially its youth. The party came under pressure from Britain’s security establishment following the London bombings and David Cameron, the then opposition leader, went to the extent of promising that he will ban the party when in power but he, after becoming the prime minister, has completely gone quiet about the party. This has raised many questions as how the party has been spared wrath of the government and why the party has folded many of its operations in the UK and other western countries but has increased its total focus on Pakistan. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan has publicly questioned why Britain has allowed free reign to the party in the UK while it has been banned in Pakistan due to its policies.