Dawood Ibrahim is not in Pakistan, says Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik. We must believe him. As the home minister, he speaks for the government. And governments don’t lie. They are not supposed to, since they represent a nation and its people. It’s matter of shame to be called a nation of liars.
India is convinced that the fugitive underworld don is in Pakistan. According to security agencies, Dawood has five addresses in Pakistan and is shifted from one safe house to another by his handlers in the ISI. His Clifton residence in Karachi is public knowledge. He also has safe houses in Islamabad. He is issued a new passport every time his location is exposed or is under the international scanner. India has put it across to Pakistan during the foreign secretary level talks many times. Obviously, there’s been no response. It’s possible Dawood is not in Pakistan.
Dawood is believed to be the shadowy mastermind behind all big assaults on India. But for an entire generation of Indians, the prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts exists only in the newspaper headlines. He fled India nearly two decades ago and has been largely invisible since then. Out of India, his criminal footprint has grown larger.
He has been branded a global terrorist by the US; he figures on the Interpol wanted list for organised crime and counterfeiting. He is believed to be worth $6–7 billion by conservative estimates, most of his wealth coming through his crime network straddling Asia, the Middle-East and Africa. He is close to the ISI and the Al Qaeda because of the resources at his command. With so much notoriety, he cannot be a fiction. He exists.
India wants to bring him to justice for his role in the 1993 blasts and several other crimes. Pakistan wants to use him in its war against India. His crime network in India is still strong and he remains vital to every terrorist design against India. Both are desperate to have him, for different reasons though. So he must be somewhere. He is not in India. It leaves Pakistan as the only possibility. The Gulf countries are not a good choice for a criminal of such profile. He needs to be under protection all the time. He’s too high value a person to be left alone.
Pakistan could be lying. It did in the case of Osama bin Laden. After the US operation it lies exposed. Denial of Dawood’s presence could be part of a strategy a double game strategy. But India cannot do a US. It lacks the financial leverage and technological prowess for a surgical operation against the gangster.
During the foreign secretary level talks in March, India handed over a list of 50 most wanted terrorists to Pakistan. Dawood figured on the list, along with Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Sayeed. But the exchange of lists has gone on long enough. India can use its clout with the US to get hold of the criminal.
Or, it could convey to Pakistan the futility of holding on to the fugitive. If they could sacrifice Osama, they could sacrifice Dawood too; even a dead Dawood would do. It would be a great PR exercise for its embattled leadership