Criminalising Owais Raheel: What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

Published: October 11, 2015

Owais Raheel’s reputation has been significantly tarnished and now he has to convince not only the authorities but also the general public that he is not a hateful terrorist. PHOTO: OWAIS RAHEEL FACEBOOK PAGE

Shocking headlines flashed across several news channels on Wednesday, regarding the arrest of a lecturer named Owais Raheel from Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST). Owais Raheel holds a BE from NED University of Engineering and Technology and an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA).

The news clip on the Geo News website read,

“Another highly educated terror suspect arrested in Karachi’s Clifton”.

Samaa TV reported,

“Karachi professor booked for terror-ties”.

ARY News read,

“IBA graduate-turned-terrorist arrested in Karachi.”

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) has arrested Owais Raheel under section 11EEEE (1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which will investigate charges against him for at least three months and then decide in the court of law, whether he is guilty of the alleged crime or not.

Let us step back and analyse these news stories through the lens of the common man. This person has been proclaimed a terrorist even though nothing has been proven in the court of law. The media has defamed him with the utmost negligence, just for the sake of sensationalism and ratings.

The news details affirm that the only evidence against him is certain questionable pamphlets and his alleged involvement in campaigning for Hizbut Tahrir (HuT). Interestingly, he was not found killing people, or carrying guns or grenades, or advocating sectarian hatred or having any involvement in any kind of terrorist activity.

Let us look at the group he is allegedly associated with associated – HuT. Several of their members have been arrested earlier for their radical views regarding the existing democratic structure and the political and military leadership of Pakistan. However, SSP Amir Farooqi of the CTD said regarding the arrest,

“We have not yet found their history of terrorism.”

The interviews of his students by The Express Tribune revealed that he was a gentleman.

“I once went to him to get my concepts cleared on another supply chain course and he was so helpful. I really liked him as a teacher,” said a student.

Another student added,

“We had no idea that he was from the HuT. He always denounced radicalism and was against violence.”

Considering the testimonies of his students, I believe that Owais Raheel might be set free soon enough because it is not illegal to have political and intellectual discussions in Pakistan.

Owais Raheel, according to his family, has been missing since last month. His family filed a petition in court and held a press conference to raise awareness earlier, but they were denied any information. The CTD reports that they picked Owais Raheel on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. The SZABIST administration said that he was suspended for missing classes without notice last month.

Is this how we treat our citizens?

Chairperson Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP), Zohra Yusuf, in relation to the operations in Karachi, said that,

“HRCP has many concerns with regard to due process amid a perceptible rise in suspects’ killings in encounters in Karachi, as is obvious from official figures also. We cannot stress enough the need for transparency in security operations, and unequivocally state that people being picked up and their whereabouts remaining unknown for days is utterly unacceptable.”

For the common man, Owais Raheel is a terrorist who kills children and bombs mosques because of the way that the media has formulated the news story. He has been shown to be connected somehow to the case of Saad Aziz, the Safoora bus attack and Sheeba Ahmed on a prime TV show.

It’s as if the entire Saad Aziz scenario is being repeated over again. Saad, who was incarcerated for the murder of Sabeen Mahmud, was picked up by the authorities based on a video of him attending a meeting at T2F. Where is the transparency in their methods?

These incidents illustrate that people are being prosecuted without evidence. Why isn’t the law protecting them? Where are the fruits of the National Action Plan, the sanctuary of the Pakistan Protection Ordinance and the integrity of the Anti-Terrorism Act?

Our laws are failing us. And we’re not doing anything about it.

Owais Raheel’s reputation has been significantly tarnished and now he has to convince not only the authorities but also the general public that he is not a hateful terrorist. This is just one example of how the media has abused its power to discredit people and parties. Certain terms that are used by the media are not only vague they also project ideas that are far from the truth.

Headlines these days read “So and so suspected terrorists killed”. But who is a suspected terrorist? Why are people being killed on mere suspicion? Is conjecture enough to hand out a death sentence? What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

Why do people in Pakistan have to bear the burden of assumed guilt? Why do they have to go through an arduous struggle to prove that they are innocent?

Today you might be a teacher, a doctor or a businessman. Tomorrow, the state and media could make you out to be a terrorist. We are quick to believe the charges of terrorism because we’re afraid to speak out. We are so concerned about coming off as defenders of terrorism that we have abandoned defending justice.

It is imperative that we consider the fate of people like Owais Raheel after they are released by the authorities. They carry the blemish of false charges for the rest of their lives. They are never able to wash off this suspicion from their skins. The families carry the shame wherever they go.

The courts might not convict them but public opinion does. We frown, we whisper, we shake our heads with pursed lips and we convince ourselves that we are distinctly different from them.

But the truth is that we are not. The truth is that the smallest of things could be labelled as incriminating and we could be picked up by security agencies at the mosque, the supermarket or the golf course. We need to exercise our intellectual faculties and question things. We need to stop regurgitating the lies we have been forced to swallow and use our own judgement to decide what we believe. The next Owais Raheel could be your uncle, your cousin, your friend. The next Owais Raheel could be you.

Umair Arif

Umair Arif

The author is an Electrical Engineer from NED and a PhD Scholar in Computer Vision from NUST. He is currently working as an Assistant Professor at Bahria University. He tweets as @1Umair7 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • JunosTiK

    Media in Pakistan needs to be taught a lesson, not violence but financial. I hope any person who has been labeled as terrorist are found innocent should sue all the media houses for every penny they have and hopefully this will teach them not to jump the gun and add professionalism into news and stop the bloody screaming news anchorsRecommend

  • Sami

    Mr Umair Asif according to your tweets you do not even recognize democracy but at the same time dictating us with democratic norms?. Interestingly when Hizb ut Tehrir started a Hashtag #khilfah4Pak then your twitter handle posts with the same hashtag!!!. Pure coincidence?
    Kindly accept that democracy is the only system that can prevail in the future. It is pretty alarming that highly educated individuals especially from Karachi are mocking democracy and want this system to be replaced with some system that remain untested in the last 1000 years.Recommend

  • Arshad Mahmood

    Excellent blog Umair. Thank you for writing it. We are facing the death of reason in this country. Keep it up.Recommend


    If the rangers or the agencies have arrested Owais only Allah can help him as they consider themselves super righteous and super nationalists and cannot do any wrong. This attitude of midnight raids leads to creation of terrorism. If the establishment has evidence please go to a court of law so that it is presented and justice is done…………….But who cares for justice in Pakistan……The establishment has decided………….and that matters only……What sort of democracy we have where people are lifted in broad daylight and then his media trial is done and then……..May Allah protect Owais…..Thanks Umair for shaking the conscience of Pakistan….but I think it is already numb…….if not dead…..Recommend

  • Unknown for fear of Rangers

    Is a shame. The law enforcers are not following the laws. Judge, jury & executioner all rolled into one and cheered by brainless citizens charged by the over zealous media. The bhatta-baz are replaced by a new force. Thank god my children are out of there.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    Author of this article is foolish or just plain ignorant.

    CTD, IB, MI and the ISI are basically all integrated organizations, that do massive intelligence sharing. This is the way the system works.

    CTD cannot go out and randomly pick up people from the streets. A lot of operators of al queda, islamic state, taliban etc are known to intelligence agencies but they only watch them to gather information about other operatives.

    Only when they feel the person is useless or about to commit an act of terrorism, is when they go in and nab the guy.

    Unfortunately, al queda and taliban thinking has already penetrated a lot of state universities in Pakistan.

    You have hardcore molvi cum jihadist professors who are teaching subjects like mathematics and physics.

    You also have problem of taliban affiliated student organizations keeping the management of the universities hostage.Recommend

  • Ahsan

    While I agree that media should be careful about reporting, I beg to differ from your assertion that Owais is innocent and will be released if hes found distributing pamphlets of HuT. The last I know, HuT is a banned organization because they do not believe in system of democracy and want to impose their own version of Khilafat. ISIS also wants to implement their version of Khilafat. Taliban want their version of Shariah. Why not allow them to speak as well and present their opinion by handing out flyers? Yes HuT is different from the other two as HuT is not killing people (yet). But convincing people to stand against democracy and for Khilafat does come under radicalization if not terrorism. And as we know, radicalization is first step on the path of terrorism.

    I am sure when contacted, the mullah who gave sermon against Salman Taseer and eventually encouraged Mumtaz Qadri to take law in his own hand, would claim hes innocent because he was just preaching his ideas, not killing people.Recommend

  • Pak Politics AJ

    During the dark ages in Europe the intellectuals were persecuted for questioning or challenging the church & monarchy.

    The same is happening to intellectuals & thinkers in Pakistan who question or challenge secular democracy.Recommend

  • onlineyourself

    Very Sad, Criticising on Brihamans Monarch is a crime then i am one of the biggest terrorist.Recommend

  • pk

    If you visit his Facebook page, you will come to know that he is dangerous for the society. When a person so detached from reality that world on the other side looks more real than real . Such mind games can provoke people he preaches. He is not different then pious Mullahs preaching young Taliban suicide bombers in Madarasa. Only difference is, he uses sophisticated language.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    I would agree with the writer only if he had written similar blogs and raised his voice for missing people of Baluchistan, MQM and other groups. The problem is that we have no principals as an individual and as a nation. When our opponent is picked up illegally we rejoice and give full credit to our agencies, but when our own is picked up, we curse same agencies.Recommend

  • Syed Talha Tariq

    Excellent Blog, you cannot just arrest someone on distributing
    pamphlets? I mean what was he even doing to spread terror? making balls
    from pamphlets and throwing on people who are leaving the mosque?Recommend

  • Nick

    This is how media is corrupting our brains.. Anyone who is beard and promoting Shariya is termed as terrorist… They have banned literature that promotes shariya… Soon they will ban Quran by calling it “material against the state and democracy”. We demand one thing… Make the pamphlet available to public… We want to see what was in it?
    P.S. We are expecting something like “How to cook plutonium-239 for Nuclear suicide Jackets in your kitchen” in the pamphlet found from Owais…Recommend

  • salman

    Is there any evidence that he encourages people towards violence? And you know there isn’t, then you are no better than the media maniacs that distort the truth for fulfilling the corrupt government and military leadershi of PakistanRecommend

  • salman

    The organisation he is from does not promote violence. They are dead against militarist methods. Therefore, if you think they are lying, face them in a public debate and let the eople decide.

    But the Raheel-Nawaz coward US stooge regime could never face the honest and sincere Muslims of PakistanRecommend

  • Abdullah Umer Khan Lodhi

    Hats off for your courage.Recommend

  • junaid

    Dear, just by visiting the facebook page one intellectual cant
    make a complete opinion about a certain person, and label him with a certain

  • Abdullah Umer Khan Lodhi

    Before democracy,’throneship’ was also the only system that prevailed in many regions.Recommend

  • junaid

    Dear Sami, the reality is that khilafah has ruled the world
    for 1300 years in which around 700 years it remained the soul superpower
    providing protection, diginity and progress to the whole humanity. While this
    democracy has not even completed its 100 years after abolition of khilfah in
    1924 and we have seen so much destruction till now.Recommend

  • Tariq

    To all the Proponents of Democracy; don’t you guys think you are going against your very ideals that you believe in? Why do you guys feel so insecure, I mean if you think Democracy is strong and universal why not confidently defend it with counter arguments and ideas? How could you support the arrest of someone who purely relies on the strength of his ideas and present it to people peacefully? Do you think its fine for the agencies etc to kidnap people, just because the ideas they are advocating are banned and that you guys disagree with them? This is quite Un-Democratic, isnt it?Recommend

  • Nadeem

    He may have been very helpful to the students but supporting a terrorist organization is a serious crime. How can you defend campaigning for a banned organization?
    And fruits of National Action Plan are pretty evident to us as reflected by a dramatic reduction in the terrorist attacks in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Nadeem

    and where were these human rights champions when there were suicide blasts every other day in our country. Didn’t they see any violation of human rights then?Recommend

  • Kashif Chaudhry

    //Considering the testimonies of his students, I believe that Owais Raheel might be set free soon enough because it is not illegal to have political and intellectual discussions in Pakistan.//

    Can I call myself a Muslim in Pakistan? Sincerely, An Ahmadi Muslim.Recommend

  • Parvez

    An age old adage says ‘ Prevention is better than cure ‘…..and that is what is being practiced now is cases such as this. If we had followed this saying years back…today we would not be in the mess that we are.Recommend

  • shahid

    khilafah was present till 1924 ?
    is it crime to have a different opinion of ruling system ?Recommend

  • shahid

    calling for democracy is right but calling for caliphate is wrong ?
    where have u buried down the so called fundamental concept of democray(freedom of speech) ?Recommend


    Yeah the bhatta mafia is replaced by another mafia in Karachi that is answerable to none and considers it above all and self-righteous. Difficult days ahead for us………..Recommend

  • raj

    First media people made him terrorist and now trying to make him hero. Pakistan politics is full of lies be it in any field or institute I think that is why no one in the world wants to believe us.Recommend

  • MAyOr

    HuT operates freely from many western countries without any prejudice and if it is a terrorist organization how come it has been given free hand in UK and USA !
    Police department in Sindh is trying so hard to prove their importance of existence by drawing their hands on Organizations like HuT which only denounces the Political Set up of country without any terror or violence. Police should stop demonizing the people and Rangers to hide their ugly face.Recommend

  • Banana

    Well written article.. He must face a fair trial.. if proven guilty should be sentenced, if innocent should be released, but can all this happen at the banana state of Pakistan?Recommend

  • Ahsan

    Do you agree with Freedom of Speech exercised by Charlie Hebdo? Will you allow TTP, ISIS to hand out flyers in Pakistan? Speak for Khilafat as much as you want, but dont ask people to stand up against democracy. At least not till you have implemented the Khilafat system.Recommend

  • Hassan Wali

    His Facebook page is quoting what the international media is spreading… in that case the international media should be abducted instead of him. btw his page also mentions “the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allaah will hold him accountable (on the Day of Judgment).” What do you say abt this???Recommend

  • Hassan Wali

    Welldone Umair. Keep it up!Recommend

  • Qasim Neyaz


    In a country made in the name of Islam, intellectuals get abducted and framed because they want to be ruled by the law of Allah.Recommend

  • Faraz – Revival of Islam

    Arresting people on will…??
    I donot understand that these believers of democracy donot even follow its core fundamental principle of freedom of speech but preach world to follow it. If one is not allowed to have difference of opinion just on the basis that a few people suspect that the other MAY become terorrrist therefore call / treat him a Terorrist TODAY?

    Let us take an example that someone advocating secular ideas has a likelyhood of having affiliation with India (as is the case of some MQM members). So should we start jailing all seculars on the basis of suspicion as India is our fiercest of enemy??

    Secondly who are you to judge not based on what he is but what he will become? Do you know the Ghaib??

    Is Calling for ideas of khilafah without any armed struggle a crime?? If Khaleefah Abu Bakr, Umer, Usman, Ali (RA Ajmaeen) be living today then they would have also been arrested by the thugs of this Police State.

    Ideas are like bouncing balls the more you press the more it will bounce back. Quraish gradual suppression/torture of Sahaba led to the curiosity for rest of the Arab which ultimately turned into sympathy for Arabs (even for many of Quresh).


  • Faraz – Revival of Ummah

    Debate should have been that can a person be detained because his ideas differs with ruling elite. this means If i come to power in this system, use the same law against you because you differ with me??

    If you think you have stronger ideas then let both parties have a discussion, let people make up their mind. Why suppressing only an idea? Recommend

  • faizan

    Truly agree with the authors blog ! innocent people are being charged with terrorism , while the terrorist roam freely.

    There is no transparency in the current operations that the security teams conduct . We should Immediately release Owais , Unless he is being pinned purposely.Recommend

  • M. Umair Arif

    I had written articles for atrocities in Baluchistan especially on the case of Missing persons. Unfortunately it was not published.Recommend

  • aliasadadm

    Superb, then define “Khilafa” first, then make it acceptable to all the factions who want to implement “Khilafa”, once done then come up with your common plan….otherwise this whole ” Khilafa” mentality is as bogus as Zia Ul Haq referendum.
    Mr. Umair is seemingly defending & taking side of brother suspected terrorist following same school of thoughts.Recommend

  • pk

    This fancy line is much old and lost its charm . You turn the page and killing of non believer is justified. Taliban is also floating this line after killing hundreds in suicide bombings. Believing something which is not yet in experience can be very dangerous thing. Recommend

  • shahid

    i do not believe on freedom of speech nor i believe killing any human being just like ISIS and TTP Do.(which is terrorism)
    one should be banned on the content he/she is distributing outside the mosque
    will u point out in any thing outside the fold of islam in HUt’s leaflets ??Recommend

  • Brain Think

    The “non-violent” sub-sections of “brand alqueda” are more dangerous than their actual operational staff.

    Brainwashing does not begin on the tip of the gun nozzle. The pro jihad anti-logic propaganda machine of these al queda type orgs are much more powerful and destructive.Recommend

  • Sam

    Criminalising Owais Raheel: What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’.? In Pakistan its guilty until proven innocent e.g those accused under the blasphemy law.Recommend

  • Usman Ali Khan Tahir

    Brilliant Blog Umair…Lets keep abducting all innocent people, and lets keep releasing criminals like Ayaan Ali and others (And you know who they are)
    What a beautiful dystopian world we live in.Recommend

  • Sam

    oh so there is a peaceful way of implementing the HuT agenda of Caliphate in the country. Please share how that is possible without revolving against the state institutes?Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Best piece so far on Owais Raheel issue.Recommend

  • Amir

    Ye khilafat kia aasman se mann o salwa ki tarah utray gi?? The best of this ummah have spent their lives working for the establishment of khilafah. And asking people to stand up against democracy IS ALSO DEMOCRACY. if the people vote it out, it should be out, no?Recommend

  • Justice Hunter

    Under this democracy; everybody is guilty until proven innocent. Jeyey Nawaz Sharif Jeyey PAK army.Recommend

  • Saleem

    The extreme situation requires extreme measures. Your arguments are very valid for a stable country but highly illogical for Pakistan. This can be agreed if you can convince the terrorists to follow the rules of the game. When they are killing judges or playing football with heads or simply blowing up then THIS requires extreme measures to eradicate the curse from its roots. In hundreds that I know amongs friends / family , I have not come across a single law person leading life as normal and suddenly abducted by law enforcement. The onus of proving innocence is on the guilty.Recommend

  • Nile

    Tough times needs tough majors. Why are you even advocating this when we know there has been a significant drop in the crime rate of Karachi. Let rangers do what they’re doing, so far it has been working well for us so no harm in its continuation. Furthermore, where were the “concerns” of these human right groups when people died everyday in Karachi? Its a time for a drastic actions to improve our city life. Please let it be.Recommend

  • Malik Usman

    HuT is banned in Pakistan. Anyone who promotes its agenda should be arrested and prosecuted. This propaganda would not get your friend out. Most of those who are agreeing with author clearly seem to be HuT members. You must start obeying the law of the land. If you want to work for a islamic system, then join a legal entity in Pakistan, which is working close to your ideology. Get out of this rhetoric that all are wrong except HuT. The law enforcement agencies in Pakistan must also follow the law and produce arrested people in a court of law in the prescribed time limit. There should be no missing persons in a democratic country.Recommend

  • Jayman

    So anyone can distribute incendiary pamphlets that exhorts people to become terrorists without consequences?Recommend

  • Malik Usman

    Dear HuT members, This blogging will not get your member out. HuT is banned in PK, and spreading its agenda is therefore a crime. Ask yourselves and your elders a simple question : do you have any peaceful and workable plan to get your goals? Why HuT thinks that everyone except them is wrong? Radicalisation is first step towards violence. HuT alienates its members from their family and friends, and through repeated guilt mantra, you produce people who can commit extreme acts.Recommend

  • Malik Usman

    Even more strange is the fact that in a country created through a political democratic struggle, certain people keep criticising the same democracy, and want to impose their version of the law of Allah using some non-democratic means.Recommend

  • Malik Usman

    This comment of yours on khilafah ruling for 1300 years speaks volumes about your understanding on the subject. After the first four caliphs (plus Umar bin Abdul Aziz), it was monarchies of Ummayads or Abbassis in the arab world. Beyond arab world there were other Monarchies like Ottomans in Turkey. and you label all of them as Khilafah?Recommend

  • Syed Talha Tariq

    Oh so you think people who read are fool to read and become terrorist & you are smart so you don’t read? If people are agreeing to what they say they might have some reasons behind it. The intellectual discussion is necessary for the nation to progress. If you keep on arresting the intellectuals of the society, we will be in this misery forever where we are in Now. This misery is not our fate which we have accepted by heart that we cannot get out of this mess. We have the ability to be at the top, to be the superpower, why it eventually becomes wrong when the idea of the revival is based on ‘Islam’?

    People have not become “terrorist” because of the idea or thoughts. But it is just a reaction to what US has done to them in the past. Ofcourse this doesn’t mean that they are right. This War on terror and this terrorism is just a misunderstanding or the actions of few black sheeps of the society on both sides who have lit the fire and started an ongoing wars between the muslims. Once it was the war of US. Now it is our war. Whenever a man die a muslim dies a Pakistani dies. The loss is ours no matter who dies. The nation is weakening, the actual plan of US to shift this war with in a nation while US itself sits behind and fund both sides.Recommend

  • qazi

    its astonishing to read that a liberal is escaping away from facing fundamentalists in an open debate :DRecommend

  • Jayman

    How do you think indoctrination occurs? The kids are not fools, they are turned into fools by these so-called “learned” men who, after gaining the confidence of the youth indoctrinate them for their own cockamamie agenda. These chameleon-type people who are one thing by day and quite another by night are the most dangerous sort. He happens to be in a position where he can influence the youth into turning towards the path of terrorism. Even a mullah might be forgiven.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    There is no debate. All these guys promote a specific saudi version of islam upon a billion other people.

    Debating in Saudi version of Islam is “You better listen to me or I will slit your throat.”

    ISIS is coming to take over pakistan, whether us liberals like it or not.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Young kids are more susceptible to brainwashing. Those kids are not “fools”. But when their teacher, who has earned their confidence, tells them about something, they are all ears. This act is more insidious than somebody distributing leaflets on the street.Recommend

  • Irfan Ullah Khan

    This country was made in the name of “Islam” not in the name of democracy!Recommend

  • Irfan Ullah Khan

    Alhumdu lillah, Owais Raheel is out. Has reached home. So supposedly, all the propaganda against him is proven to be wrong!Recommend

  • Irfan Ullah Khan

    If another dictator comes in Pakistan tomorrow, and bans PPP, will you support that ban? Saying that legally PPP is banned, so anyone who promotes PPP and its agenda should be arrested and prosecuted!!!! Where is your brains? Is every act of the rulers legitimate by itself? If the rulers have banned Hizbut Tahreer, is it by default legitimate? Can someone not question an act of a ruler? Can a ruler not make a mistake? So we consider that Hizb ut Tahreer has been wrongly banned, and this ban should be lifted immediately! Recommend

  • M.Naveed

    CTD department doing same illegal tactics here in Punjab too. They kidnapping innocent people. Treat them inhumanly. Looting personal belongings from homes of those people (money,gold,laptop, mobiles). Taking bribes too in order to release them. Typically 3rd class police attitude.

    At the end without any sorry or feeling guilty declared them clear. Ruining the carrier of those people.Recommend