New Delhi: The detention of noted Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan here, in connection with the recovery of huge sums of undeclared foreign currency, has evoked sharp reaction from Pakistan, which has demanded the singer’s immediate release.
Rahat, the 37-year-old nephew of legendary Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, was detained at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday on the charge that he and two of his troupe members were carrying USD 124,000 (about Rs 60 lakh) in undeclared foreign currency.
In Islamabad, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir asked India to immediately end the "protective custody" of the singer. Bashir spoke with the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad and urged that the singer be released, state-run APP news agency reported.
"Our High Commissioner (in Delhi) spoke with Indian acting Foreign Secretary Vivek Katju this morning again, insisting the protective custody be lifted," APP quoted a statement from the Foreign Office as saying.
There was no official word from the Indian High Commission.
Rahat (37) and his entire troupe, numbering around 16, including his manager Maroof and event manager were detained at the airport by officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). The troupe was on in its way to Lahore via Dubai by an Emirates flight.
Following his detention, Rahat was taken to the DRI office and questioned at length. The questioning continued till today.
Taking note of the development, Pakistan High Commission officials today visited the DRI zonal office where Rahat was kept in detention.
It was, however, not immediately clear whether they had come to get access to the singer or meet DRI officials.
The Foreign Office is closely monitoring Khan`s case and the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi has set up a special team to liaise with the DRI.
According to the Foreign Office, Indian authorities have released 12 members of Khan`s team but three persons, including the singer, are still being detained, APP reported.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik had yesterday asked Pakistan`s High Commissioner to New Delhi Shahid Malik to inquire about Khan`s detention.
"The DRI officers found altogether USD 124,000 which is equivalent to about Rs 60 lakh. USD 24,000 were found from the baggage carried by Rahat while the remaining USD 50,000
each were found from the baggage of two troupe members," Central Board of Excise and Customs chairman S Dutt Majumdar said.
The recovered foreign currency included USD 10,000 and USD 8,600 in demand drafts, sources said.
Khan was intercepted by DRI personnel around 4.00 pm acting on some prior information, sources said.
As per norms, a foreign national cannot carry beyond USD 5,000 in cash and USD 5,000 in other instruments.
The person has to declare the amount if he is carrying more than this to the Customs Department.
According to sources, the payments by an event manager to Rahat were made in Indian currency and US dollars and these people were allegedly found converting the dollars to Indian rupees "through unauthorised channels".
Rahat is a top Bollywood playback singer and has several hit numbers to his credit. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer this year for `Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji` from the movie `Ishqiya`.
(With PTI inputs)