ISLAMABAD – A banned outfit has strongly reacted to the sentencing of five army officers on charges of having linkages with it.

In a detailed statement sent to journalists on Saturday, Hizbut (HT) Tehrir criticised Army, blaming them for the imprisonment of five officers ‘including the highly decorated and widely respected Brigadier Ali Khan.’

Army’s Field General Court Martial (FGCM) on Friday handed five years rigorous imprisonment (RI) to Brigadier Ali Khan, three years RI to Major Sohail Akbar, two years to Major Jawad Baseer and 18 months RI each to Major Inayat Aziz and Major Iftikhar.  “All five accused have been convicted besides other on the charges of having links with a proscribed organisation,” a military statement had said referring to the reported linkages between HT and the five convicts.

The handout cites an article that, according to the statement, appeared in Washington Post in March 2009, quoting David Kilcullen, former Adviser to the then Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General David Petraeus, as having said, “Pakistan has 173 million people, 100 nuclear weapons, an army bigger than the US army… We’re now reaching the point (of)…an extremist takeover…that would dwarf everything we’ve seen in the war on terror on today.”

Commenting on the HT’s reaction, a senior official at Military Intelligence (MI) said, “It becomes clear from the way they have responded that all those five men convicted during court martial proceedings were directly connected to this banned organisation.” The official took on the HT terming the organisation as “a bunch of social dropouts who do crazy things to get noticed but through evil yet organised means.” The official cited what he stated were the confirmed intelligence reports suggestive to the HT’s pursuit of “an undercover and heinous terrorist agenda in Pakistan.”

“They want to turn this country into the land of extremists. We’re standing in their way. We would not let them succeed.”

The HT was banned during the rule of former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf amidst the reports that it was instrumental in planting life attempts on Musharraf for his decision to join hands with the US in war on terror against militancy.