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Gala India-Pakistan concert called off

A star-studded concert featuring Shah Rukh Khan and AR Rahman to celebrate the neighbouring countries'60th Independence Day is called off due to security reasons.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2007 12:53 IST

A star-studded concert - featuring the likes of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, composer AR Rahman and Pakistani Sufi singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan - to mark 60 years of India's independence and the birth of Pakistan has been called off due to security concerns.

The unifying concert - Dil se Dil (Heart to Heart) - was supposed to be held close to the fenced international border between both countries with film stars and artistes from the two countries performing on their respective sides.

The concert was to start 11 pm on Aug 14 - Pakistan's formation day - and go into wee hours of Aug 15 - which is India's Independence Day.

Punjab's Inspector General of Police (border range) RC Meena confirmed that no concert was taking place at the border - though the organisers claimed that both the Pakistani and Indian governments had given their permission.

The organisers - South Asian NGO Routes 2 Roots and the US-based Friends without Borders - had planned the "historic" event to make people from both countries celebrate their independence jointly for the first time in 60 years.

"The concert stands cancelled for now. We will re-work that to a later date and seek permissions all over again. There were some security issues involved," Rakesh Gupta of Routes 2 Roots told IANS from New Delhi.

At one stage, the organisers were expecting a crowd of nearly 150,000 people on both sides of the border to watch the concert. The event was also to be broadcast live on one of the TV channels in India and Pakistan with the use of advanced broadcast technology.

"The concert will provide a larger platform to spread the message of universal humanity and oneness to people across the world. We are thrilled to be organising such a historic event and with the kind of cooperation we have received from the authorities of both the countries, the concert is sure to meet its purpose," Gupta had announced Aug 7 in New Delhi.

The event - sponsored by mobile giant Nokia - was to be held in such a way that live performances, alternating from one stage to the other, were to be made visible to the entire live audience, no matter which side of the border they were sitting.

The expected crowd of so many people right at the border was a security issue with police in India, Border Security Force (BSF) and intelligence agencies.

"What if all the 150,000 people, in the frenzy of the event, decide to break the man-made fence at the international border and try to cross it? This could be a catastrophe," a senior Punjab police official told IANS.

Sources in the BSF - which guards the 600-km international border with Pakistan - vehemently denied that there was any move to organise the event right at the border itself.

"How can we risk so many people in the night right at the international border? We have heard of the concert but no permission has been granted from our side. We allow only a few midnight candlelight vigil activists to go up to the zero line on the border.

"We have faced a problem one before when hordes of candlelight vigil activists came right up to the border and wanted to cross to the other side," a BSF official said.

On the Indian side, the stars expected were Shah Rukh Khan, A.R. Rahman and actress Juhi Chawla. From Pakistan, the names included Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, cricketer Wasim Akram, singers Ali Azmat and Shaqfat Amanat Ali and TV star Shaiyanne Malik.