Pakistanis should go "to the streets" for Islamic rule: Party

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2011 9:54 AM
Pakistanis should go "to the streets" for Islamic rule: Party

By William Maclean, Security Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) -

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a global Islamist party banned in many Muslim states, said on Friday Pakistanis should take to the streets to call for Islamic rule and join a campaign to end subservience to Washington that was advancing "from Indonesia to Tunisia."

The party, which says it is non-violent but is accused by some analysts of seeking a coup in Islamabad, added that "powerful factions" in Pakistani society including the military should also take part, but violence had no place in its work.

Hizb ut-Tahrir won international attention when Pakistan's army said on June 22 it was questioning four majors about alleged links to the party, following the arrest in May of a brigadier suspected of having such ties.

Brigadier Ali Khan, whose lawyer has denied the allegations, was the highest-ranking serving officer arrested in a decade.

The Pakistan army is under pressure to remove Islamist sympathizers in its ranks after U.S. forces found and killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad on May 2.

In an interview, party spokesman Taji Mustafa said the party sought to emulate the creation of the first Islamic state in what is now Saudi Arabia by "winning public opinion in favor of Islam" through discussions, marches and rallies.

The party worked "to motivate all sections of society to express their determined will, such that they take to the streets and demand the Islamic Caliphate system."

The party and its goal of an Islamic ruler, or Caliph, who implements sharia law posed no threat to Pakistan, said Mustafa, based in Britain, where the party is not banned.

"The threat to Pakistan comes from Zardari, Kayani and Gilani who support drone strikes that kill their own citizens, and who collude with a U.S.-led war of terror," he said, referring to the president, army chief and prime minister.

POWERFUL FACTIONS

Security analysts say the party, not normally seen as a top security threat, has struggled to win mass support in Pakistan and focuses its message on the army since a coup would be the easiest way to oust the civilian government.

The party's Pakistan branch issued a statement earlier in June saying Muslims all over the world, or the "Ummah," were looking to Pakistan's army to provide support for the party's goal of setting up an Islamic state, or Caliphate (Khilafah).

Asked to comment, Mustafa said the party's search for their support was not aimed at obtaining armed backing since that "contradicts our method for bringing about change."

"Seeking nusrah (support) was a practice of Prophet Mohammad when he worked to establish the first Islamic state in Medina," he said.

"It is to ask the powerful factions in society - including the military - to support our call for the implementation of the Khilafah system, to side with the people and to stop propping up the current treacherous regime which is using the military to fight its own citizens as it supports America's war and drone strikes - something that is hugely unpopular."

Mustafa said that globally the party operated in more than 40 countries, both Muslim-majority and -minority countries. It sought to bring the former under a Caliphate. In the latter, it sought to preserve a strong Islamic identity among Muslims.

"Despite the attempts of several Western-backed rulers to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir in parts of the Muslim world, our call for the Khilafah system is gaining traction by the day from Indonesia to Tunisia," he said.

His remark echoes those of many Islamist organisations that portray this year's Arab uprisings against political despotism and economic stagnation as Islamist-inspired. Many Arabs say Islamists have played only a minimal role.

(Reporting by William Maclean)