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Rehman Malik triggers storm with Shah Rukh comments, backtracks

Posted on Jan 29, 11:23PM | IANS

New Delhi/Islamabad/Mumbai, Jan 29 : Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik Tuesday

triggered controversy with his comment that India should provide Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan security, provoking a sharp rebuke from New Delhi. Malik later backtracked while the superstar noted he had never said he felt unsafe.

In a tweet posted in the evening, Malik said: "Shahrukh Khan is equally famous in Pakistan and India. I am sure that threats to Mr. S. Khan are being handled as per the relevant Indian law."

The Pakistani minister triggered a storm with his comment in Islamabad that the Indian government should provide security to Shah Rukh, whose comments on being a Muslim led to Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed saying the star could move to Pakistan.

Addressing reporters in Islamabad at a reception Monday evening hosted by the Indian High Commissioner, Malik added that people of both Pakistan and India love Shah Rukh, reported Geo TV Tuesday.

"He (Shah Rukh) is born Indian and he would like to remain Indian, but I will request the Indian government (to) please provide him security," Malik said.

India was quick to react.

Soon after Malik's remarks were reported in the media, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and Home Secretary R.K. Singh said Pakistan should worry about the state of affairs in its own country.

Both spoke in near identical terms to decry Malik's statement.

"Instead of introspection on how minorities in India are being treated, he (Malik) should contemplate how he can improve the condition of minorities in his country," Tewari told reporters.

R.k. Sing said: "We are quite capable of looking after security of our own citizens... let him (Malik) worry about security of his own."

Shah Rukh Khan said he had been misquoted. Addressing a press conference in Mumbai Tuesday evening, he said he did not need "unsolicited advice. I never said I felt unsafe in India. I'm an Indian first and always".

He also described the controversy centered around him as "nonsense" and said the article he had written titled "Being a Khan" was being misquoted.

"I implore you all that please read the article. Nowhere does it say that I feel unsafe in my country," he said.

"I wrote this article to state how Muslim artistes are sometimes troubled by narrow-minded people. But the same thing seems to have happened again," the actor said.

The Congress slammed Malik's remarks.

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said Malik should first take care of his own country's artistes and nationals.

"What to speak about security, they (Pakistan) even refused to allow ghazal singer Mehdi Hasan to come to India for treatment," Alvi told reporters, adding Shah Rukh does not need special security.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too hit out, saying that they don't need Malik's advice.

"Indians in India are more safe and secure than the Pakistanis in Pakistan. We don't need Mr Malik's advice," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

"If Indians feel insecure than it is from Mr Malik's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed. Let him first take care of them first," he added.

Shah Rukh, one of Bollywood's more articulate personalities, had written in Outlook Turning Points magazine, published in association with The New York Times: "I sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India."

"There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation rather than my own country - this even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for the freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return to what they refer to my original homeland," added the 47-year-old star.

He went on say that he became so sick of being mistaken for some crazed terrorist, "who co-incidentally carries the same name as mine that I made a film subtly titled 'My Name Is Khan' (and I am not a terrorist) to prove a point".

"Ironically, I was interrogated at the airport for hours about my last name when I was going to promote the film in America for the first time," he said.