Less than one week after one of Pakistan’s best known politicians was detained by police on suspicion of money laundering, the controversial character was released on bail pending further inquiries.
60-year-old Altaf Hussain, the exiled leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the most powerful political party in the Karachi state of Pakistan, was arrested on Tuesday by police from his London home.
Just four days later, he was released on police-imposed bail and must return to their custody next month for renewed questioning.
Speaking to supporters in Pakistan via a streamed speech online, Hussain declared his innocence, saying: “I respect British laws and the judicial system. My lawyers are studying my case in accordance with the British laws.
“Truth will prevail by the grace of Allah.”
Hussain’s arrest had caused widespread business disruption and sporadic violence in his movement’s power base in Karachi. His hold on Pakistan’s biggest city is so strong that he is capable of shutting down entire neighbourhoods of the area of 18million.
London’s Metropolitan Police say they are investigating the source of approximately £400,000 seized last year during searches of London properties linked to Hussain’s party, including his own home.
Following his arrest, Hussain spent three days in custody at a hospital receiving previously scheduled medical treatment, including an angiogram for suspected cardiovascular problems, his party said. Police finally questioned him on Friday.
Hussain’s party frequently has been accused of threatening and killing political opponents. His party denies this, even though Hussain himself has repeatedly targeted opponents and journalists with threats that they could end up in ‘body bags’.
In a London-issued statement, his party appealed to followers in Pakistan to remain calm. It described the ongoing police investigation as ‘completely normal behaviour in a democratic country’.