- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — From his prison cell, a senior Pakistani officer accused of plotting with a shadowy Islamist group to take over the military released his political manifesto: His call was for the army to sever its anti-terror alliance with the United States, which he contends is forcing Pakistan to fight its own people.

“This may help us redeem some of our lost dignity and we badly need that,” Brig. Ali Khan writes in the six-page document obtained by the Associated Press.

The U.S., he says, might retaliate by cutting military and economic aid, but “do they not always do this at will? … Our fears that the heavens will fall must be laid to rest.”

The manifesto reveals the ideological underpinnings of the most senior Pakistani military officer detained for alleged ties to Islamist extremists.

The accusations against Brig. Khan go to the heart of a major Western fear about Pakistan: that its army could tilt toward Islamic extremism or that a cabal of hard-line officers could seize the country’s most powerful institution, possibly with the help of al Qaeda or associated groups like the Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistani leaders dismiss such fears as unfounded.

Details of the case, made public for the first time by the AP, point to efforts by some Islamist groups to recruit within Pakistan’s military, though their success appears mixed.

The details also provide a rare look into the discontent among some in the military about the rocky relationship with the United States, currently on hold after U.S. airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani border troops in November.

Brig. Khan, who was arrested a year ago, faces charges of conspiring with four other officers and a British member of Hizb ut-Tahrir to recruit officers to the group including the commander of the army’s 111 Brigade, which covers the capital and has been historically linked to army coups.

One witness at his ongoing court-martial said Brig. Khan discussed sending an F-16 jet crashing into the army headquarters, though that allegation has been withdrawn, according to Khan’s lawyer Inam-ul-Rahiem.

Pakistan’s army declined to comment on the trial, which is supposed to be secret.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Pakistan and several other Muslim countries, professes nonviolence and is not connected to terrorist groups like the Pakistani Taliban or al Qaeda.

But the outfit makes no secret of its desire to penetrate the armies of Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan, and foment an “Islamic coup” to establish a global “caliphate.”

In interviews, Brig. Khan’s family and two of his army colleagues insisted he was not guilty and has been targeted because of a falling out with senior officers and his political views - particularly his stance against the alliance with the U.S.

Brig. Khan’s lawyer has denied the charges and said no substantial evidence has been presented at the trial.

But one of the colleagues said Brig. Khan did meet with members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and tried to enlist other officers, though the colleague played down the importance of the contacts.

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