Muhammad Shahbaz, 35, a member of the Pakistani delegation of artists and writers to India, had gone through the immigration process and completed all other official formalities, he realised there was more to come. As he approached the car parking stand, he saw around half a dozen individuals darting towards him. They were waving their hands, full of Indian currency notes spread symmetrically, in the air and offering him unbelievable currency exchange rates. Surprisingly, they belonged to all professions: they were porters, employees of customs clearing agencies, street vendors and what not.
Shahbaz ignored their calls, made at the full pitch of their voices, and struggled his way to the Reserve Bank of India's site office located in a badly-lit and worn-out corridor. Within minutes he returned with some Indian currency exchanged for US dollars and an official receipt confirming the transaction had taken place there. Earlier, he had faced a similar bunch of fellows who tried to sell him Indian currency through what one may call "forced marketing."
His fellow delegates who bought Indian currency from vendors felt Shahbaz had lost Rs 3 per dollar and sympathised with him but the latter felt quite comfortable with the deal. In his words, he had "bought peace of mind by paying extra" while others had taken a big risk.
The course taken by Shahbaz can be termed as wise given the relations between India and Pakistan. The Indian government and media regularly level allegations against Pakistan for printing counterfeit Indian currency in Pakistan and then trafficking it into India through Nepal and other countries. There have been cases where the Pakistanis travelling to India were sent behind bars for possessing fake Indian currency, regardless where they had bought it. The possessor is suspected of carrying it by design and any chance of him falling in trap or duped by an unscrupulous moneychanger is ruled out.
There are other offences as well which may be considered minor in other countries but are 'heinous' if committed by the nationals of India and Pakistan in each other's territories. For example, not sticking to visa requirements - for instance, visiting only the cities allowed to visit, not reporting to the police on entering and leaving a city in the case of the 'reporting visa' can have severe repercussions for the violator.
Similarly, not carrying visa papers along on travel to other city can create problems like what happened with the Pakistan-born Saba Shahzadi from UK. She travelled with her husband to Agra in December 2007 to celebrate her first birth anniversary and was arrested only to be released after two months.
Rao Abid Hamid, In-charge, Prisons Cell, HRCP, believes Pakistani visitors to India and vice versa must refrain from any irresponsible talks even with friends, strictly abide by the requirements of customs and baggage rules, buy currencies from responsible and certified dealers and carry only the amount that is entitled to them. If caught for violating any of these rules, they can be charged for spying, sabotage etc. and the onus would lie on them to prove their innocence.
Possession of more currency than what has been declared by the possessor is a punishable crime as well. Popular Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was taken in custody on the same allegations and released after prolonged investigations and fines. Any other individual, lacking the celebrity value and the media attention enjoyed by Rahat, would have had to go through a much longer and tougher ordeal.
Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Sunday, July 03, 2011
I guess every game has a Tiger of its own. Some found in the woods, some on the golf course.
And then there's the royal Tiger of cricket. .....more
(May 18, 2011, Aman ki Asha) with some fun suggestions
Fun Things You Can Do In Your Community to Make Pray for Peace Day .....more
Former Pakistan national security adviser (NSA) Mahmud Ali Durrani has dismissed claims that his country is involved in promoting infilt .....more
Tehreema Mitha likes choreographing dance numbers to compositions layered with instruments from around South Asia as well a .....more
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw