Caliphate Dreaming

Pakistan is cracking down on the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. So why is it allowed to operate freely in the United States and Britain?


Pakistan wants the world to know that it is finally cracking down on Islamist extremists — at least, some of them. Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, approved the arrest last month of Brig. Gen. Ali Khan for links to the proscribed Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the army is now interrogating four majors for their connections to Khan.

Coming after the revelation that Osama bin Laden was residing in a Pakistani garrison town and widespread allegations of collusion between the Taliban and its intelligence services, Pakistan’s focus on the self-styled “Party of Liberation” may come as a surprise. But Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ambitions in South Asia — and to some extent the success of its decade-long focus on Pakistan and its neighbors — make it a legitimate threat to the stability of the Pakistani state.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a typical South Asian Islamist group — its origins lie in the heart of Middle Eastern anti-colonialism. Founded in Jordan in 1952 by the Palestinian exile Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, the movement called for Arab unity based on Islamic principles. This revolutionary party operates in more than 40 countries worldwide. It openly seeks to establish an expansionist state ruled by one leader, the caliph.

At present, no state — even Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia — meets the party’s ideological criteria. The world’s countries are instead labelled Dar al-Kufr, the land of disbelief, which should rightfully be transformed into Dar al-Islam, the land of Islam. The Dar al-Islam/Kufr construct provides the caliphate with the authority to annex all Muslim-majority countries, and impose its intolerant brand of sharia as state law. If a Muslim country resists, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s manifesto, The Ummah’s Charter, dictates: “The state must rise to declare jihad against the kuffar [disbelievers] without any lenience or hesitation.”

The manifesto also sanctions Muslims to engage in jihad in “occupied Islamic lands.” Israel falls under this definition, according to Hizb ut-Tahrir’s global leader, Ata Abu Rishta, a fact that he saysjustifies the murder of Israeli Jews. An article entitled “Martyrdom Operations” in a June 2001 Hizb ut-Tahrir magazine, Al-Waie, suggested tactics such as suicide bombings and hijacking Israeli planes,

Despite this, Hizb ut-Tahrir has always claimed its methods are non-violent and instead focus on what it calls “political struggle.” To this end, the group seeks to build support from within military elites in order to engender military coups — the party’s preferred method to establish the caliphate. Coup attempts in Jordan 1968, 1969 and 1971, as well as in southern Iraq in 1972, all failed.

South Asia and Pakistan in particular have been a special focus of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s activities since the mid-1990s. While Hizb ut-Tahrir officials in Pakistan refused to confirm whether Khan was a member of the organization, they openly affirmed that their goal is to reach those “that are shaking the power corridors.”

According to Rashad Ali, a former leading member of the British branch, Khan’s arrest is a sign that the party is repeating the same mistakes of the past. “The failure of the Hizb to take power after gaining a brief spell of support is playing itself out again, as it did in the Middle Eastern countries in the 60s and 70s,” he said.

Khan is not the first Pakistani soldier to be arrested for alleged links to Hizb ut-Tahrir. In January 2010, a military court in Pakistan indicted two army colonels, a former Air Force pilot, and an engineer for belonging to the party. The colonels were accused of providing sensitive information about military installations to Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the other two were accused of planning to commit acts of sabotage at an Air Force base in Baluchistan.

According to Abdul Qadeem Zallum, a former global leader of the organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s focus on Pakistan stems from its possession of nuclear weapons. In 2008, Hizb ut-Tahrirencouraged the army to attack the United States, stating that since Pakistan possessed “nuclear weapons, missiles technology and half a million brave soldiers who are ready to attain martyrdom for Islam, [it] is in a good position to injure and bruise an already battered America.” In the days following the assassination of bin Laden, the group reportedly distributed leaflets in Pakistani military bases calling on officers to establish the caliphate.

As Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Pakistan, Britain is key to the party’s operations in South Asia. The party draws on Britain’s large Muslim population of South Asian descent, and focuses its recruitment on exploiting perceived grievances — Kashmir, Indian “hegemony”, and American “neocolonial” influence. Former members claim that British party members were called upon by the global leadership in the late 1990s to help establish a Pakistan branch of the party, which was set up under the direction of Imtiaz Malik, a British-born Pakistani who is believed to be operating covertly in the country. British members have been planted in Pakistan’s main cities, and Hizb ut-Tahrir leadership in Pakistan still contains a number of British Pakistanis.

The group’s strategy in the United States and Europe remains the creation of a monolithic Muslim bloc — model Islamist communities living amidst, but apart from, Western populations — that will eventually serve the party’s larger goals of worldwide Islamist revolution. This summer, Hizb ut-Tahrir will hold annual conferences in both Britain and the United States. While the party does not enjoy the same level of support in Britain as it did during the first years of the “war on terror,” the conference will likely be attended by a few thousand followers. They will gather to hear the senior leadership repeat the party’s message that, whether the issue is the world economic crisis or the Arab Spring, the only solution to problems in Muslim-majority countries is the creation of an Islamist state.

Though the Pakistani military boasts of a “zero tolerance policy” toward Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain takes a more sanguine view of the organization. In 2004, the Foreign Office said it had “yet to see convincing evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir as an organisation advocates violence or terrorism.” Before coming to power, the Conservatives promised to ban the group immediately, but have since realized such a step is impossible. Current anti-terrorism legislation prohibiting the glorification of terrorism is not retroactive, and Hizb ut-Tahrir uses euphemistic language in the West to disguise its support for jihad.

The party uses its ability to operate with impunity in Britain to plan to expand its authority in South Asia. Former members claim there are established committees that focus on recruiting students of Bangladesh, Pakistan and, more recently, Indian descent living in Britain, so they may continue Hizb ut-Tahrir’s agenda upon their return. Recognizing its enemy India’s relative military strength, Hizb ut-Tahrir is also concentrating on Bangladesh — whose army reserves, when coupled with Pakistan’s, could potentially shift the balance of power on the subcontinent. Former British members of the party claim that, by developing a presence in India, the party aims to subvert India’s large Muslim-minority population against the state.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has been recruiting in Pakistan for more than a decade. “They will call for secession within the military,” Rashad Ali said. While its presence is not strong enough to make a wholesale takeover of Pakistan viable, it could lay the groundwork for increased chaos, he warns. “Pakistan’s population has already suffered over 2,000 terrorist attacks in the last year and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideology provides justification for jihadist activities.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir is also exploiting bin Laden’s recent assassination for political mileage against the Pakistani state. Taji Mustafa, the group’s media representative in Britain, recently said on the London-based satellite station the Islam Channel: “What next? Is anybody safe? This shows the treachery of the Pakistani government, and this is how people see it, that, you know, nobody’s safe in Pakistan from America.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir’s tactics may be flexible, but its endgame is not. The party remains wedded to its dream of a totalitarian caliphate, and is prepared to use military force to achieve it. Though Hizb ut-Tahrir will most likely fall short of its goal in Pakistan, its pernicious ideology will undoubtedly contribute to the country’s social and political fragmentation.


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  • Nasim Hassan  On July 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    All impoverished down trodden people hark back to the past glories to get out of their current miserable state. Muslims believe that they have tried dictatorship, kingdoms and democracy but so far nothing has worked for them.

    So they like to bring back the times when there was stability, peace and prosperity. However the past cannot be brought back. The simple reason is the prevailing conditions at that time.

    Since the conditions have changed, modern technology has taken over the world so the Khilafat even if imposed from the top will not work.

    Muslims all around the world should stop looking back and study few countries that are Muslim and have started to make progress in modern times.

    Those countries include Turkey and Malaysia. Their model is applicable under current conditions.


  • Mubaschir Inayet  On July 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Can someone explain to me how we can have a Caliphate in the modern world with instant communications available in the form of emails, Face Book, Tweeting, and an abundance of literature of all religious sorts available free at the click of a button? Growing number of people have started reading and thinking for themselves rather than being led as sheep by dubious sheppards.

    Will the Sunni Muslim world unite behind a Caliph of Shia origin? How about different sects within the Sunnis including Wahabis, Deobandis, Barelvis and Sufis?
    Ground realities have changed and the sooner we recognise the better.

    With the present level of education, scientific acumen, ethics, economic strength of the Muslims, the idea that the West fears a possible rise of a Caliphate, in unfounded.

  • khan saheb  On July 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    And we thought that with Osama gone, it was all over. The genie was back in the lamp.

    The HuT movement, which obviously has been active for sometime, seems to have a found its vocal chords. They make Al-Qaeda look like a bunch of high school kids. Watch the link below. This is not the Tora Bora caves but out there around Buckingham Palace.

    What intrigues me is the anger on the faces of these guys….and all in the name of Islam, the religion of peace.


  • khan saheb  On July 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    It was Muslims who created Pakistan and now ironically, it is the Muslims who are hell bent in dividing and destroying it. They are being exploited by outside influence.

    They are unable to observe that only recently Muslims have brought peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, without extremism. Deep-rooted, iron-fisted rulers were running holding on to their pants and we don’t even know their whereabouts.


  • S U Turkman  On July 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Who says Caliphate does not work?
    Didn’t it work in Afghanistan for 5 years with the help of Pakistan Army disguised as Taliban?
    Why worry that Dollar would be worth Rs. 100,000 and too many of us would be starving to death?
    Why be afraid of dieing?
    We have to live for Life After, remember?

  • Azzam Abdo  On July 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Let us not be so Naive.

    The West Led by America (controlled by Israel) have certain goals to attain. they will use every name, act, party, etc to advance their goal. if one of these names, act, party,…etc is gone, 10 more will be created.

    The West Led by America (controlled by Israel) has a strategy and will not stop until it is fulfilled. I can assure you if and when it is fulfilled, it will not pretty for us in Pakistan or any where else.

    The Quran said many things and in many cases we chose not to believe or try to interpret things to fit our needs. but the message will not change no matter how hard we try. this what the Quran says about them and their strategy:

    ولن ترضى عنك اليهود ولا النصارى حتى تتبع ملتهم

    Best Regards;

    ‘Allah would never bring disgrace upon you for you maintain ties of kinship, bear people’s burdens, help the destitute, give hospitality to your guests, and help those who have been afflicted by calamities.’ KhadijaRAA

  • khan saheb  On July 7, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Perhaps we should be speaking more to Allah, rather than talking about Him.


  • M.N.Khalid Major  On July 8, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Dear Azzam Abdo sahib: It is good to support your concepts with Quraan but it seem injustice to paste portion of Ayat of Kitaab Allah:-

    [2:120] ولن ترضي عنك اليهود ولا النصاري حتي تتبع ملتهم قل ان هدي الله هو الهدي ولئن اتبعت اهواءهم بعد الذي جاءك من العلم ما لك من الله من ولي ولا نصير

    Never will Al-Yahood (not the Jews) or Al-Nasara not (the Christians) conform you! Unless you follow their Nation. Say: “The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance.” You should not follow their concepts after the knowledge has reached, No one for you from Allah from Wali neither Naseer (helper ).

    Dear Azzam Abdo sahib: If you want to recognize اليهود & النصاري then please search from Kitaab Allah through their habits, behavior & concepts you will be clear like a crystal. Ponder on this Ayat carefully :-

    [2:113] وقالت اليهود ليست النصاري علي شئ وقالت النصاري ليست اليهود علي شئ وهم يتلون الكتاب كذلك قال الذين لا يعلمون مثل قولهم فالله يحكم بينهم يوم القيامة فيما كانوا فيه يختلفون

    Al-Yahood say: ” Al-Nasara are not on anything; and Al-Nasara say: ” Al-Yahood are not on anything.” and they recite Al-Kitaab (The Book – Not books). like the same was said by who know nothing; but Allah will judge between them in their dispute on the Day of Judgment.

    اليهود & النصاري are around human being & challenging each other being, without Al-Kitaab & they have The Best.


    • S U Turkman  On July 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      This is wrong Satanic use of Qoraanic Verses Maj. Khalid.
      Even your father and grandfather have been raised on Charity of US Aid and Loans. Neither you nor them ever followed USA’s Religion or became Christian so, its not true that Christians would not help you until you follow their religion.

      If it was meant, ‘following them socially’, they did not force you to follow them at Gun Point (even, when Allah had made your their Slaves) in anything and forced you to start using whatever they invented since your Kerosene Lamp and Bull Cart days.
      Stop using Electricity and Tapped Water as a starter …!
      When USA was giving you Charity, you killed a million of your own Moslim Brothers in Afghanistan and none of your Mollaas all around the world were talking about these Verses because all were getting rich on CIA Money they were getting for recruiting so called ‘MojaahiDeen’. .
      Stop calling yourself Moslims, Satanic Mollaas because your religion is not Islam. Its hate, Savagery and Tribalism.

  • khan saheb  On July 8, 2011 at 8:14 am


    I was talking about US speaking to HIM, not the other way around.

    Islam in the present violent form that we see around us is very disturbing. We have to be first a good human, before we seek to become a good Muslim. It is alarming how many young Muslim folks are getting turned off by Islam. They feel ashamed to call themselves Muslims.


    • Major N. Khalid  On July 9, 2011 at 4:18 am

      Siraj Sahib, this is not new let them do what ever they feel like it totally depends upon home environment. If so call Muslim father & mother do all non-sense forbidden by Allah, how come then they trust Islam. Since garbage was in so garbage will come out.


      • Inam Khan  On July 9, 2011 at 4:18 am

        There are radicals in all religions whether be it Christianity,Judaism,Islam or Hinduism.Western media is over playing it.Muslims living in west due to repression they face in their daily lives are resorting to Jihad against other religions.In Pakistan, Caliphate Movement is harming the state of Pakistan.When Pakistan came into being,Pakistanis had misplaced notion that Pakistan is going to be a citadel of Islam.On this, western world turned against Pakistan and started plotting to destroy the nascent state.The circumstances have so far favoured us and we are surviving due to our good luck.We shd strongly believe in nationalism and that shd be our chosen path……………………………..Inam Khan

      • S U Turkman  On July 9, 2011 at 4:59 am

        I agree Maj. Khalid,
        It all depends on Environment and this is why I had sold my Bugalow in USA and moved my family back to Pakistan to keep my children Moslim. 5 years my Degrees remained useless I could not find a job and kept spending out of my Life Savings. Then, I realized, in USA my children were at least Humans. They were not Racist, they never lied, never stole etc. Now they were trying to be good in all that and actually become Killing Savages thanks to teachings of their Mollaa.
        Though Pakistan is a Moslim Country, its people are worse than, who Allah had called ‘Koffaar’ in Qoraan. So, I came back to USA to keep my children at least Humans. You can keep your Pakistan, where everybody steals Electricity, lies, cheats etc, etc and keep justifying your every Sin citizens of Hell on Earth …!

  • Nadeem  On July 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Dream on! This is a dream which has no possibility of reality in our life times. On the other hand, workings of its membership towards that end can cause a lot of damage and grief.


  • gh haider  On July 9, 2011 at 2:08 am

    This movement was neither started in the sub-continent nor it has been accepted in Pakistan. It’s leader is an obscure personality sitting somewhere in the middle East whom no body knows here and whose contributions if any to the good of the Umma are not known at all. It has also been told to us that the present Khalifa is the grand son of the first khalifa. Before this khalifa his father, son of the first khalifa, was on the throne. That shows it is a hereditary type of Khilafat, which is totally against the system and spirit of Khilafat. It seems to be some sort of Gaddi like many Gaddis in Pakistan. It is strange thing that it is being encouraged in Britain and USA. Smells rat……

  • Major N. Khalid  On July 9, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Inamullah Sahib, Concept of citadel was public by Jamat-e-Islami in 1953, but till 1977 it remain low voice slogan but after Tehreek it did spread & alarmed

  • S U Turkman  On July 9, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Inam, there are radicals in all religions but none of them bomb each others places of worship and none of them have been committed to so much Sneak Attack Terrorism like us. 16,000 Sneak Attacks all around the world since 9/11 and we are not the craziest people?
    What should Western Media do?
    Its not even publishing which religion a Criminal or Terrorist belonged to because our Mollaas had called it Western Bigotry against Moslims. Now just mention of name of Honor Killers, their Daughters, Sisters etc is enough to tell, they are Moslims. When people of no other religion commit so much Sneak Attack Terrorists, who should people in the West suspect someone else but us?
    Making Pakistan a Caliphate would not change anything because Caliphate can not change your characters. You have already tried you Caliphate in Afghanistan. It did not work. It only starved Moslims to death and a lot of them would have died if the West was sending $ 200 worth of Food as Charity every year. Talk some sense Mollaa Jee …!

  • Minhaj  On July 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    With this article it appears that we are looking at the revival of communism in shape of islamism
    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  • Inam Khan  On July 10, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Let this be a dream only otherwise it is not practical………..Inam Khan

  • Ute Joyne  On July 21, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Strange, your page shows up with a red hue to it, what color is the main color on your internet site?

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