Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Arrest – Unnecessary Drama

Recent arrest of the famous Pakistani Singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is a good example of how to blow an issue out of proportion both in India as well as in Pakistan.

Rahat and his group members were caught at the Delhi Airport carrying USD 124K without declaring the same to Customs officials. As per the Indian Customs Act, one (Indian or foreigner) is allowed to carry not more than USD 5000 or equivalent in cash while travelling in or out of the country. You can carry an additional USD 5000 in Traveller’s Cheque or total USD 10,000 in TC. In fact, nothing prevents you from carrying cash more than these limits but then the source of the money, proof of tax payment and purpose of carrying cash will have to be declared and explained to the customs authorities. Rahat and his team declared only $700 and therefore got caught.

There is no doubt that Rahat is indeed guilty of violation of the Customs Act and possibly also Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). However, such a violation is not deemed to be a major crime as per the experts and would only attract some fine. A jail term is certainly not a possibility. The question therefore is, what was the need to question him for 27 hours under full media glare and then arrest him only to be released on the bail by the court. One wonders what came out of the recent IT raids conducted on a couple of top notch Bollywood actresses. There were subdued rumours about recovery of large quantities of cash but no one was arrested. To be fair, both amount the same nature of crime and therefore the treatment also should have been comparable.

The entire issue sparked off unnecessary debate and extreme reactions on both side of the border, mainly from people ignorant of the technicalities of the matter. While Indians, in general, went to one extreme by condemning all Pakistani artists, linking the issue with terrorism etc., the reaction from the other side of the border was equally radical with suspected conspiracies and other equally bizarre theories.

We need to behave maturely on all critical issues and refrain from passing loose comments without knowing the facts of the matter. In some ways, this issue could be compared to the Tri Valley University case in the US, where Indian media and internet community have gone overboard in terming it human rights violation. For the sake of our credibility, we can not afford to take such a hypocritical approach on case to case basis.

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