Rahat Fateh Ali freed
Source: THE NEWS

ISLAMABAD: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, after twenty five hours of detention, was finally allowed to leave conditionally, with the Indian government retaining his passport and asking him to reappear on February 17. A ‘Seizure Memo’ was issued, which is Pakistan’s High Commission’s guarantee letter to the Ministry of External Affairs that Rahat will not leave India until he is cleared.

The voice behind the captivating and hip swinging song of “Teri Mast Mast Do Nain” had thousands of South Asian ‘nain’ focused on him wondering at the ‘naivety’ of a well travelled singer for whom neither India nor Indian laws should be something new.

One diehard fan telephoned The News from Bannu with Pakhtun wisdom to say, “It is a simple case of mathematics. If there were 15 people, then you should divide the amount amongst them and they will not be seen as carrying more than the allowance. Give them the benefit of doubt.” But is the worst over for Rahat and if any serious action had to be taken then would it have been taken during the twenty-five hours that he was under detention?

“Yes, Mr Rahat is free for now from detention. He is not under arrest. He will now probably go to a hotel. Our team is on its way to meet him. He is free to move about but not leave the country. We had been insisting from the very beginning that Mr Rahat should be freed from detention. I had been in touch with South Block and spoken to the Indian acting Foreign Secretary Vivek Katju insisting that the protective custody be lifted. I had constituted a two-man task force which visited the Indian Department of Revenue Intelligence to meet Mr Rahat and pursue the matter but the meeting was not allowed even though they stayed there for over half an hour,” Shahid Malik, Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi told The News.

At the Foreign Office, the spokesman told The News after official confirmation was received that Rahat had been freed from detention, “We are looking forward to seeing him back home soon.”

This was State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms Hina Rabbani Khar’s first major challenge as she stepped into the Foreign Office and that too involving the Indian government. The Foreign Office had to intervene in the case of their citizen Rahat Fatheh Ali Khan, who was detained on Sunday, for what Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) Chairman S Dutt Majumdar said were “clear violations of excise laws.”

Rahat and two of his troupe members were caught allegedly carrying $1.24 lakh [about Rs (Indian) 60 lakh] in undeclared foreign currency, much above the limit.

While Ms Khar left Islamabad to accompany the prime minister to Kuwait, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, High Commissioner Shahid Malik and spokesman Mohammad Basit swung into action, leaving no stone unturned to ensure that Rahat’s ‘protective custody’ be lifted.

The spokesman said that, “Out of the 12 members three were detained. Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir spoke with the Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabhar and asked for immediate lifting of protective custody.”

Rahat’s case with his passport confiscated is a cruel reminder of the time when cricketer Shoaib Malik had his passport confiscated by Indian authorities because he had also broken Indian law. Aman ki Asha while bringing people together should nevertheless not be a license to break laws of any country.

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