Pak arrests chief of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba group

Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi is detained under Maintenance of Public Order law.

Lahore: Pakistani authorities on Thursday arrested the chief of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba group at Jhang in Punjab province and took him away to an undisclosed location.

Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, who also heads the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, was first taken to the local circuit house from the Markaz, the secretariat of the Sipah-e-Sahaba, by some police officials on the pretext of holding discussions with him.

He was later arrested under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) law, which allows authorities to detain persons for up to 90 days without formally charging them.

A senior police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Ludhianvi had been detained under the MPO.

"Muharram is coming up and the government is concerned about maintaining law and order," the officer said.

While delivering a sermon after Friday prayers earlier in the day, Ludhianvi criticised the federal government for adopting what he described as a "weak stance" in the case of Pakistani national Aafia Siddiqui, who was on Wednesday sentenced to 86 years in prison by a US court following her conviction on terror charges.

He also suggested during the sermon that all minority sects should perform their religious rites within "walled premises to maintain peace”.

Ludhianvi`s organisation has been accused of links with elements from the Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan involved in targeting Shi’ites and other minorities in Punjab.

Ludhianvi campaigned with Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah for a by-election in Jhang earlier this year.

Both Shi’ite and Sunni leaders have demanded that the PML-N-led government in Punjab should sack Sanaullah for his links with Ludhianvi and the Sipah-e-Sahaba.