The arrest of Hizbut Tahrir spokesman Naveed Butt is not so worrisome as the failure to find out where he is. The Hizbut Tahrir is becoming used to this, for one of its members, Dr Abdul Qayyum of Rahim Yar Khan, spent nine months in the custody of an agency, and his arrest in the night, and the throwing on the roadside of his little daughter, is a sort of precedent for the arrest of Naveed Butt, with whom I have been acquainted now for several years. He was also arrested in front of his children. One can imagine a workshop for Pakistani agencies being held to teach participants that arrests should take place in front of children. Naveed Butt’s children, Dr Qayyum’s daughter, Dr Afia’s kids. Need more examples?
One would imagine that it would be dangerous to embrace members of the Hizb, considering that they were banned along with the Sipah-e-Sahaba and other such parties in the Musharraf era, but he like other members of the Hizb does not have a bomb tied to him. They do stand for the establishment of a Caliphate for all the Muslims, but they do not stand for its establishment through violence. Because of the nature of its main political demand, it has a presence in all Muslim countries, and is perhaps the only political party which can have activities throughout the Muslim world.
But enough of the party. Its Face in Pakistan is Naveed Butt, for he is the only figure interacting with the media, and not on behalf of the Amir, who is not known. The Hizb has been more in the news ever since the arrest, and now the court matrial, of Brigadier Ali Khan, who was arrested for plotting to overthrow the government and install the Hizb in power. Naveed Butt was thus a spokesman of a threat to democracy. Naveed Butt’s arrest 10 days ago was not just About the Hizb, but the restoration of the NATO supply line. So it seems that Naveed Butt has not just been arrested to preserve democracy, but also to help the nation accept the restoration.
The government is resolute in saying that there has been no restoration. These are the same people as say that they hold the Supreme Court in the highest degree of respect. If you ask them about Naveed Butt, they will probably say he wasn’t arrested. Well, on the last date of hearing, Naveed Butt was not produced. That is a sign of the value of judicial orders in the eyes of the executive, now that the Prime Minister has taken such a step as making sure that President Zardari goes to Chicago, and that no letters are written about him to Switzerland.
Under these circumstances, why should Naveed Butt remain un-arrested? More important, no one should know where he is. He must be forced by people in 1970s fashions and horrid haircuts to provide evidence against Brigadier Ali. Or maybe it is something deeper. The Hizb is virulent in criticisng the USA, and any participation in its War on Terror. It sees Naveed Butt’s arrest as part of the USA’s final bid to prevent the establishment of the Caliphate.
It might seem strange to say this, in the middle of a province about which the debate is whether it should be split into two or three, but there does not seem any intrinsic reason why a Caliphate cannot be established. It’s not as if Indonesians have horns on their heads, or Algerians breathe nitrogen instead of oxygen. We’ve had experience of living in a federation with other nationalities, so why can’t we have a Caliphate. Anyhow, be that as it may, even if the Caliphate comes very quickly, Naveed Butt can’t wait for it to be freed. And the immediate problem is not freeing him, but finding him. At present, the Islamabad High Court, which is dealing with the case, can’t release him even if it wanted to, because no one seems to know where he is.
However, we should also not forget that Naveed Butt has been arrested to further the War on Terror. Isn’t the War on Terror being fought to ensure that those who hate the USA because of its freedoms have the full protection of the law? The law does not mean that those opposing the USA should be allowed to do so. Nor does it mean that Naveed Butt’s location should be disclosed to anyone. After all, he is a terrorist. And now a missing person. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has no objection to persons going missing, so long as the law is followed. Is the law meant for those who are terrorists and against the state? Or is it also meant to cover contempt convicts. It seems that Naveed Butt will not be convicted, or else the agency holding him would have produced him. And anyhow, the War on Terror is not being fought for him, but for those who abide by the law. The law the Americans make, not Allah.