Monday, February 14, 2011

Rahat escapes arrest amid Indo-Pak thaw

New Delhi: Authorities on Monday dropped their plan to arrest Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Pakistani singing icon and Bollywood’s blockbuster voice, after sustained diplomatic pressure from Pakistan on MEA.

The decision not to arrest the singer was influenced by the government’s fresh peace process between India and Pakistan started only a week ago.

Rahat and his nephew Maroof Ali were freed after 24 hours of questioning by investigators from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), but their passports have been retained. “He will appear again for questioning and will remain in the country until investigations are complete,” said R K Sharma, additional director-general of DRI. He clarified that no case had been registered against Rahat yet. “Only after investigations, relevant provisions of Customs Act and FEMA rules will be invoked against them,” he said. Rahat and Maroof were caught carrying over $142,600 (Rs 64 lakh) at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday night.

Both Customs Act and FEMA have provisions for arrest that could certainly have been invoked against an Indian caught in the same circumstance as Rahat. But with Pakistan seeking to turn his detention into a test case of India’s desire for revival of dialogue, Rahat and others detained with him may get away by paying penalty provided for under the relevant laws. In Mumbai, DRI sleuths raided the event management company responsible for Rahat’s musical events and some hawala dealers believed to have exchanged dollars for him illegally.

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