Media reports indicate that police in London have arrested the leader of Pakistan’s MQM party, Altaf Hussain, on money-laundering charges.
Officers are searching a residential address in north-west London, where a 60-year-old man was detained.
Mr Hussain has lived in the UK since 1991, saying his life would be at risk if he returned to Pakistan.
Police in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, which the MQM controls, have been put on alert amid reports of violence. Shootings have been reported from some parts of the city.
Traffic jams are reported in Karachi and other cities in Sindh province as businesses start to close and people head home fearing violence. Security is being tightened around the British mission in the city and other buildings.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party leaders are holding an emergency meeting at their headquarters in Karachi. The city has been wracked by violence – much of it politically motivated.
Following his arrest George Galloway MP, who has campaigned for Hussain’s detention, wrote: “Today after a lot of hard work and some courage and determination the London based gangster Altaf Hussain is under arrest. I take my hat off to the Metropolitan Police and denounce the British political class who remained silent and complicit with the murder mayhem crime and extortion organised from London by the Godfather of Edgware and Karachi. Long live Pakistan Pakistan Zindebad!”
Hussain was born in Karachi and founded and leads the Karachi-based Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).
He says he founded the party to defend the interests of the muhajir community, the Urdu-speaking descendants of Muslims who moved from India to Pakistan when the countries became independent from Britain in 1947.
The MQM’s political strongholds are urban Karachi and Hyderabad, Sindh. As of 2014 MQM was the fourth largest political party in the National Assembly of Pakistan.
A controversial figure at the least, critics claim that Hussain and his party showed a readiness to use violence to fight for power. He and his party have long been accused of having an illegal armed wing intimately involved in Karachi’s criminal economy of drugs, extortion and land theft.
On 20 May 2013, Pakistani politician Imran Khan accused Hussain of being directly involved in the murder of his party leader Zahra Shahid Hussain.
Hussain also faced allegations of murder of his party leader Imran Farooq, money laundering and hate speech; the case is under investigation by police in the UK.
Hussain denies all these allegations.
Talking about his party MQM, Hussain has stated that: “We stand for equal rights and opportunities for all irrespective of colour, creed, cast, sect, gender, ethnicity or religion. We strive tirelessly for tolerance, religious or otherwise and oppose fanaticism, terrorism and violence in all their manifestations.”
From 2004 Hussain warned against the growing influence of the Taliban in Karachi. Hussain stated that the “advocates of Jihad, a medieval concept to tame the infidel, are wantonly killing followers of the faith as they level places of worship.”
In 2008, he stated that a “well planned conspiracy to intensify sectarian violence in the city, was being hatched.”
Hussain has stated on numerous occasions that the division of the subcontinent was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind and Nehru and Abdul Kalam Azad are responsible for it because they rejected greater autonomy for Muslims in India.