Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)-London leader Saleem Shahzad was arrested at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport upon his return to Pakistan on Monday after 24 years away from the country, Senior Superintendent Police Malir Rao Anwar confirmed to DawnNews.
Shahzad, a founding member of the MQM, had been living in London since 1992 and announced his return on Twitter on Sunday. He returned to Pakistan on a flight from Dubai.
Arrest warrants were issued for Shahzad in 2016 for the 10th time by an Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi in a case related to providing treatment and shelter to alleged terrorists.
Upon Shahzad's arrival at Karachi airport, the Federal Investigation Agency contacted the police regarding the matter of his involvement in the Dr Asim case, airport sources told DawnNews, after which the SSP Malir confirmed that he had been taken into custody.
Speaking to Geo News before departing from Dubai, Shahzad had said he would announce his next political move after arriving in Karachi and following consultation with friends and family.
He said various circles in Karachi were sending him threats of arrest but he was not afraid.
"I have not committed any crime, I am not afraid of getting arrested," he told Geo News.
In 2014, Shahzad had spoken about "a corrupt lobby in the Muttahida [Qaumi Movement] which is against ideological workers."
"These elements are involved in extortion, murder, smuggling and other illegal activities," the London-based leader of the party had said.
Speaking to DawnNews about his current political affiliation, Shahzad denied having ties with the MQM-London faction.
"On August 22, I raised the slogan of 'Pakistan zindabad'. Since then, I have severed all ties with MQM-London," he said.
When asked whether he had come to "unite everyone", Shahzad replied, "That is the plan."
The MQM has been in the throes of a power struggle since August 2016, with the Dr Farooq Sattar-led MQM-Pakistan dissociating itself from party chief Altaf Hussain.
The Sattar-led group removed Hussain's name from the party's constitution and flag and expelled the London-based convener Nadeem Nusrat and other key leaders.
Sattar sidelined the MQM supremo after Hussain delivered an anti-Pakistan speech, which was followed by a mob attack on the offices of ARY News.
In October, Sattar appointed himself convener of the MQM-Pakistan coordination committee. The MQM’s London leadership has, however, rejected the minus-Altaf formula, asserting that Altaf is still the party’s uncontested chief.
Shahzad's political career
Saleem Shahzad entered politics as a member of the Mohajir Student Organisation in 1979 while he was a student at Urdu Science College, Karachi.
He became vice chairman of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement when it was formed in 1984. Three years later, he was elected a councillor in the local body polls. Shahzad was also the finance committee chairman of the Karachi Municipal Committee during this time.
He became a member of the National Assembly in 1988 and was re-elected as an MNA in 1990.
Like many other MQM leaders, he left the country when an operation against the political party was launched in 1992.
Since then, remained a part of the MQM Coordination Committee and held office within the party until 2010, after which he was sidelined following differences with MQM leader Altaf Hussain.
Shahzad also wrote a book in 2006 called Shahoor Ka Safar on the creation and growth of MQM from June 11, 1978 to June 19, 1992.
In 2014, the MQM revoked Shahzad's party membership.
Multiple cases have been registered against Shahzad at various police stations in Karachi.
With additional reporting by Azfar ul Ashfaq