Altaf Hussain has been taken into custody on suspicion of money laundering.
London’s Metropolitan Police on Tuesday arrested Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain on suspicion of money laundering, according to media reports.
In a press release, police said a “60-year-old” man had been taken into custody and officers were searching his house in northwest London.
The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE-100 index) fell 780 points immediately after news broke of Hussain’s arrest but had recovered for the most part a few hours later. Shops and major commercial centers across Karachi and Hyderabad have shut down, fearing violence from enraged MQM supporters. In the hours following the shut down, several vehicles were torched in Karachi and crowds of protesters started pelting passersby with stones. At least six buses, five auto-rickshaws and one car were destroyed, according to officials.
Many rushed to stock up on groceries in anticipation of a prolonged shutdown while office workers left for home early, clogging up roads. “We don’t know for how long the shops will remain closed and I want to store as much groceries as I could,” Razia Begum, 45, said as she jostled for space in a packed shop.
A spokesman for Pakistan Railways told AFP that all trains leaving Karachi had been temporarily halted.
The British Deputy High Commission in Karachi was also closed to the public shortly after it was confirmed that Hussain had been taken into custody.
Meanwhile, senior MQM leaders have claimed to journalists that Hussain is not under arrest and has merely been summoned for questioning. There have also been reports that the MQM chief is unwell and has requested he be allowed to remain at home. The party’s Rabita Committee later told journalists that Hussain was still at home. It added that the MQM chief had not been charged with any crime yet but would not comment on whether he had been placed under arrest.
The MQM’s parliamentary leader inside Pakistan appealed to party workers to remain calm and pray for Hussain. “We should stay calm, we should not become impatient in any condition. The workers must be aware with the developments, keep in touch with the party office, stay united and also look around you,” said Dr Farooq Sattar. “We should act on the teachings of Altaf Hussain. We should pray for his health, we should say that he should be given medical treatment and his medical tests should be conducted,” he added.
Police in London have been investigating Hussain for several months. In an interview earlier this year, Hussain revealed that all his British bank accounts had been frozen. He also claimed that British authorities had conducted raids on his office and house as part of their investigation into the murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq.