Altaf Hussain, the leader of Pakistan’s hugely powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), has been arrested in London on allegations of money laundering, according to a spokesperson for the party.
The 60-year-old, who is a British citizen and has lived in the capital since 1991, was detained after authorities searched his property in northwest London on Tuesday. MQM spokesperson Nadeem Nusrat confirmed that Hussain had been arrested, while urging his supporters to "maintain peace".
"The police arrived with a search warrant and wanted to question Mr Hussain regarding allegations of money laundering," said Nusrat in a statement, adding that the MQM chief had been unwell and was preparing for a trip to hospital when the police arrived. Hussain was reportedly later escorted to the hospital by police.
The MQM is the dominant political force in Karachi, with Hussein’s arrest likely to lead to demonstrations at possibly violence in Pakistan’s largest city. According to the BBC, many businesses in Karachi closed early on Tuesday fearful of a violent backlash.
Hussain has proved a controversial figure both in Pakistan and the UK. In May 2013, British police launched a probe into the politician after complaints that he had threatened violence in Pakistan when addressing a crowd of supporters in London.
A second investigation surrounds the murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq, who was killed outside his London house in 2010. No one has been formally charged with Farooq's murder.