Rahat’s interrogation continues, Pakistan seeks his release (Second Lead)

Monday, February 14, 2011

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD - A day after he was detained at the Delhi airport on charges of carrying undisclosed foreign currency, Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Monday continued to be interrogated by Indian investigating authorities even as Islamabad worked up diplomatic channels to free him.

Rahat was detained at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport Sunday night on his way back to Pakistan after attending concerts and award functions in India. More than $100,000 was recovered from the 15-member troupe.

“We are only questioning him. We will be shortly taking a decision (on the next steps),” Vijaylakshmi Sharma, Director General of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, told reporters in Delhi.

“He is still being questioned and senior officials from the Pakistan High Commission have already visited our office,” an official of DRI, who did not wish to be named, added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan initiated diplomatic communications to secure the release of the popular singer.

Government sources in New Delhi Monday said India’s external affairs ministry has been in touch with Pakistan’s foreign office over the issue. Pakistan is understood to have sought consular access to the iconic singer.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir called Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Sharat Sabharwal and discussed the matter around midnight Sunday. He requested the Indian envoy to ensure that “no official should misbehave with Rahat during interrogation”.

Bashir also called up Pakistani High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik and directed him to “take immediate steps for securing release of Rahat”.

“The matter should be taken up formally with the Indian foreign office,” he said, adding that “contact with Indian authorities for updates in the case must be maintained throughout”.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik called Shahid Malik and directed him “to provide necessary legal and other consular help to Rahat”.

“Regular updates should be given to authorities in Pakistan regarding efforts to resolve the case,” he stressed.

Rahat’s brother-in-law, Asim Raza, told Dunya TV that they “received information from the media and were feeling concerned about it”. “We are yet to establish any proper contact with the authorities in India although Rahat talked briefly with his wife and asked her to remain hopeful of a positive outcome”.

Rahat, the nephew of legendary singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, is popular both in India and Pakistan. Several of his hit songs from Indian films are a rage on both sides of the border, for which he has won several awards, including the recent Filmfare award for “Dil to Bacha Hai Ji”.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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