February 14, 2011

News reports early on Monday evening were reporting that Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was released by Indian police officials after being held for interrogation at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. The Pakistani singer who has legions of fans on both sides of the Indo-Pak border was stopped on Sunday and held overnight at the airport because of the legions of undeclared Benjamins craftily packed away in his belongings as he tried to board a plane on his way back to the land of the pure. But he wasn’t so foolish as to try to carry $100,000 across the border on his own. He enlisted the help and pockets of members of his 15-member troupe.

Hours of questioning that carried well into Monday by India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had officials in Pakistan concerned for the plump, baby-faced star, who is considered to be a national treasure, and even more so after making it big in Bollywood and on Indian TV. But it is likely that the Filmfare award Rahat Fateh Ali Khan recently nabbed wasn’t on anyone’s mind – except perhaps some conspiracy-loving Pakistanis who would like to think the Indians only stopped him because they saw the crooner as something akin to a Muslim invader leading a convoy of ‘stolen’ riches out of the country forever. Pakistani officials seemed seriously worried about the treatment of the musician, who up until this point had been a pristine beacon of pride for Pakistan. IBN Live reported that “Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir called Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Sharat Sabarwal and discussed the matter around midnight on Sunday. He requested the Indian envoy to ensure that ‘no official should misbehave with Rahat during interrogation’.” Foreign Secretary Bashir also reportedly pressed the Pakistani High Commissioner to India to urgently secure the release of the nephew of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

And it seems like he did.

But only sort of. The singer with the soaring voice is temporarily grounded: he can’t leave India. In another IBN report, sources said, “Rahat, along with two of his colleagues Maroof and Chitresh Shrivastava, have been asked to appear before the DRI on February 17,” and “Rahat was released after an assurance by the Pakistan High Commission that he will cooperate with the probe.” We know how Rahat Fateh Ali Khan makes his money (TV, soundtracks, concerts and singing at private functions like weddings), so he is probably not money laundering, but is it smart in this and age of crime, corruption and terrorism to knowingly break the law and try to smuggle cash across in your pockets and hand luggage. Briefcases full of cash never look legit. Like everyone else, he seems to really hate taxes.

In an interview with IBN, lawyer Majid Memon said that given that the entire troupe travelling with Rahat was around 15-people strong, the total monetary sum being transported, in theory, could be divided among all the heads in the group and thus bring the amount being carried by each person down below the permissible $10,000 limit.

What was surprising was not that the popular singer was trying to bring undeclared cash into Pakistan from India but that he tried to bring so much at one time and, worse still, that this is allegedly (but in no way confirmed) not the first time he has done it. Also, in the singer’s ensemble of assets, his cash section was reportedly accompanied by other financial instruments: demand drafts and traveller’s cheques.

It’s going to take more than a song and a dance to get Rahat Fateh Ali Khan out of this Indian jam.

In this video IBN Live reports on Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s predicament: