Will India ever mount an operation to capture Dawood Ibrahim?

By Anas Abbas

Ten years ago on a balmy, sunny day in Karachi, my father asked me to accompany him to a great seth’s house. People in Karachi sometimes gather at houses of major industrialists’ to see their impressive sacrificial animals, purchased for Bakra Eid.

I was only too eager to go to one such grand place which turned out to be at a distance of just two kilometres from my house. When we arrived, we found crowds of people gawking at expensive animals. As I took in the sights and sounds, the owner of the house came out, flanked by his guards and kids.

Will India ever mount an operation to capture Dawood Ibrahim?

A file photo of gangster Dawood Ibrahim.

I wondered aloud who this intriguing man could be, my father chuckled: “He has many names. In India, he’s the most wanted man. And here some know him as Ibrahim Mushtaq and others call him Tiger Memon!”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given my age, this didn't mean a whole lot to me at that time. But it would soon change.

Not long after I left Pakistan, in pursuit of university education, I began studying the historic conflicts across the world, and became deeply interested in counter-terrorism and history, and started scrutinising various conflicts around the world.

Dawood soon crept back into my life. While debating politics with my cousin one day, I was shocked to discover that Tiger Memon’s son was his friend. They had studied together, it turned out, at Karachi’s prominent City School.

Indian terrorists, it became clear to me, had integrated well in Pakistan’s society.

When I went to Karachi next, I tried conducting my own investigation. I knew Tiger Memon’s house and had seen the state patronage he was living under, but I was more interested in the even bigger fish who was also said to be living in Karachi, and was the main accused in the 1993 Bombay blasts.

It didn’t take a lot of finding-out. Dawood Ibrahim, who featured among the top in Forbes list of most wanted dreaded criminals, was living openly in Clifton, Block 4, Karachi, near Café Flo, known as an elite hang-out. Last year when I visited Karachi, I asked my friends where Dawood Ibrahim lived and I was told time and again the same location.

When I went to that particular area, I observed containers had been put-up and the street was blockaded. People were frisked and IDs checked before one could be granted entry into the mansion. Pakistan Army Rangers patrolled the road.

I realised that Pakistani journalists weren't very keen to chase up this fantastic story because they did not want to suffer the same fate as Daniel Pearl, Saleem Shehzad and Ghulam Hasnain.

Ghulam Hasnain wrote a wonderfully detailed account of Dawood’s lavish lifestyle in Karachi and Lahore. Subsequently, he was kidnapped and when he returned, he had suffered several fractures on his body.

American journalists do not write about him either, because they are not interested in Dawood Ibrahim. Also, America needs Pakistan to buttress its Afghan policy and support a peace deal with the Taliban. It is for this reason that the American government and media do not feel the need to pressurise Pakistan to stop supporting Dawood Ibrahim.

If India has any intentions of ever capturing Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon—or other top terrorists, Maulana Masood Azhar and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed—it needs, first, to rid itself of the illusion that Pakistan’s criminal justice will help.

Take the example of Hafiz Saeed: Known throughout the world as a terrorist, at home he’s a television celebrity, represented as a pious man. Back in 2009, Saeed was acquitted of several terrorism-related charges by the Lahore High Court. The prosecution lawyer, Latif Khosa, convinced the judge that Saeed had links to al Qaeda. But the judge still ruled in Saeed's favour, since having connections with al Qaeda was no offence under Pakistani law.

Imagine that a country which has lost over 50,000 of its citizens to al Qaeda supported militants, and has suffered a $70 billion economic loss, is still unable to pass a legislation banning al Qaeda. This goes to show what Pakistan's priorities are.

The conversation that I had with my father when I first visited Tiger Memon’s house reverberated in my mind when I saw the mind blowing Indian movie D-Day. Irfan Khan sees the Don Dawood Ibrahim for the first time at the mosque, and is told by his Pakistani friend: “He has many names. Some call him Saleem Pathan and others know him as Iqbal Seth.”

The Pakistan government’s only strategy is denial. Will India eventually mount an operation to get Dawood Ibrahim, as shown in D Day, akin to the one America mounted against Osama bin Laden? Or will India keep on waiting endlessly for Pakistan to punish those terrorists who are causing mayhem in India and inciting violence from across the border?

Only time will tell.

Anas Abbas is an investigative Counter Terrorism Analyst. He blogs at aacounterterror.wordpress.com and tweets at @Anas_Abbas1.

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Updated Date: Jul 29, 2013 15:33:31 IST

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