LAHORE - Hours before the announcement of the federal budget for the fiscal 2014-15, reports coming in from London dominated the TV screens.

Correspondents reported that MQM chief Altaf Hussain has been arrested by the London police for his alleged involvement in money laundering.

The MQM leaders insisted that Mr Hussain was at his home, a claim repeatedly challenged by journalists. Ultimately, it was established that Mr Hussain was with the police and investigations against him were in progress.

Immediately after the arrest reports, Karachi markets shut down and there were protests at some places. The MQM workers also held a sit-in in the cosmopolitan city to express solidarity with their leader. Later in the day some protests were held in other provinces as well.

Months ago the police had recovered 250,000 pounds from Mr Altaf’s residence. After initial investigations, his banks accounts have also been frozen.

The money laundering allegation against the MQM chief may or may not be well-founded. But there is just no justification for the party to create tensions in Karachi or any other part of Pakistan. If at all the MQM people think there’s a need for protest, they should stage the same in London, the place of occurrence. The MQM leaders hold emergency meetings in London to discuss happenings in Karachi. But now that the arrest of Mr Altaf Hussain has been made in London, it should be the venue of protests or any other action aimed to convey his supporters’ feelings to the British authorities.

It is now for the British police to determine whether Mr Altaf Hussain was involved in money laundering or not. And the MQM chief should trust that a country that first gave him asylum in 1992 and then gave him its nationality would fairly investigate the charges.

The British high commissioner in Pakistan has been quoted by some TV channels as saying that his government could not influence the police investigations. This assertion should satisfy the MQM leadership that the British police were not like Pakistani police that buckle under political pressures and give the rulers the kind of findings that suit their interests.

The writer is of the considered opinion that investigation of the money laundering charge against the MQM leadership is in the interest of Mr Hussain as well his party. Many believe that Mr Hussain was not involved in money laundering. And if the British police also reached the same conclusion, the party would be vindicated and its public image would improve.

At present, opponents allege that the MQM is involved in extortion in Karachi and the money collected through this corrupt practice is sent to London to enable Mr Altaf Hussain to lead a comfortable life there. The party secretariat there needs a lot of money every month to be able to meet its expenses.

The MQM leaders have been claiming that the money recovered from the MQM leader’s house or secretariat had come from donations, for which the party could produce receipts. And this is precisely the controversy that has to be settled as a result of investigations.

Once the allegation is proved baseless, the party’s popularity graph would shoot up, silencing all its adversaries. Such a clean chit would also improve the party’s standing in other parts of the country, where many people regard the MQM as a mafia and are opposed to its plans to spread their organizational network.

It would have been appreciable if the MQM chief had voluntarily presented himself for the investigations to prove his innocence. Being a political leader, he is supposed to be the role model for others.