Karachi: The leader of Pakistan’s MQM party, Altaf Hussain, was arrested in London on suspicion of money laundering, reports said Tuesday, sparking panic in his home city of Karachi.
British police only said that a 60-year-old man had been detained at a residential address in northwest London and officers were searching the building.
Hussain fled Pakistan for Britain in 1992 after a military operation to end ethnic unrest in Karachi and has said his life could be in danger if he returns home.
Chaos gripped the Pakistani port city soon after local TV broadcast the reports, as people left their workplaces and rushed to stock up on groceries in an anticipation of a prolonged shutdown.
Karachi police beefed up the security at the diplomatic enclave in the upmarket area of Clifton, with a special focus on the British mission there.
Thousands of MQM members staged a sit-in in Karachi calling for his release. The MQM said it would block the city's main M.A. Jinnah thoroughfare until Hussain’s release.
The British High Commission’s Karachi consulate in Pakistan was shut down on Tuesday. A spokesman said the consulate has been “temporarily closed down”.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has its power base in the violence-wracked city of Karachi. The party was created to safeguard the rights of the Urdu-speaking community of the city who migrated from India in 1947.
For over two decades, Hussain has wielded control over Karachi from suburb, addressing supporters through a loudspeaker linked to his home telephone....