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Pakistan: Key leader of religious party arrested

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistani authorities on Sunday arrested a key leader of a mainstream religious party in the capital Islamabad, officials and his party said.

Mufti Kifayatullah, a firebrand religious leader belonging to the opposition Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party, was arrested just an hour before the opposition parties were set to launch an anti-government protest.

According to the deputy commissioner of the northwestern Mansehra district -- Kifayatullah's hometown -- he was arrested for 30 days.

"He has posed constant threats to law and order which may disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the district," said Aurangzeb Haider Khan.

For the last several days, Kifayatullah made several appearances on local TV channels criticizing retired army officers for commenting on national politics on current affairs shows.

In another significant development, the government revoked the citizenship of Hafiz Hamdullah, a former senator and vocal JUI-F official.

The state-run Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has directed all television channels to refrain from inviting Hamdullah to appear on their talks shows.

"NADRA [National Database & Registration Authority] has conveyed that Senator Hafiz Hamdullah Saboor is confirmed Alien as he is not a citizen of Pakistan," PEMRA said in a letter to television channels.

The JUI-F condemned the government actions as “illegal” and “part of political victimization.”

"We reject such illegal actions of arresting our leaders before a peaceful march and revoking the citizenship of a leader who remained senator and health minister for 11 years," Maulana Jalil Jan, spokesman for JUI-F in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told Anadolu Agency.

He noted that Hamdullah's son is serving as an officer in the Pakistan army and his father has served as teacher in the education department of the southwestern Balochistan province.

"How could a person who has served as a member of the parliament, his son is an army officer, and his father served and retired as a government teacher become a foreigner?" Jan asked.

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