End of the road for Dawood Ibrahim? Maybe not!
While India still hopes that the end could be in sight for fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim, there are indications that the going may not be so tough for the man who still has friends in high places in the Pakistani establishment, reports eminent Pakistani journalist Amir Mir.
Some recent reports in Indian and Pakistani media have kicked off a fresh controversy about the health and the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim, one of India's most wanted terrorists-cum-underworld don who runs a vast illegal business empire, known as 'D-Company', and allegedly operates from Pakistan under the shield of the country's all-powerful intelligence establishment.
Dawood is one of the most intriguing figures in the world of international terrorism, a billionaire gangster and a criminal mastermind linked to everyone -- from Al Qaeda to Bollywood starlets to the East African drug cartels.
From Mumbai to Dubai to Kuala Lumpur to Karachi, the stories associated with Dawood and his war with his underworld rivals can beat the best Bollywood thrillers.
It is the nature of the crimes attributed to Dawood that place him at the top of India's most wanted wish list. Dawood figures in a list of 20 fugitives that India wants Pakistan to hand over and is suspected to be the prime player used by Pakistani intelligence to foment cross-border terrorism in India.
An impoverished street toughie from Mumbai who grew up to possess international influence, Dawood formed the infamous D-Company being one of the most feared international crime organisations.
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Image: File image of fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim
US chargesheet against Dawood has embarrassed Pak
A colourful mobster with powerful friends in the Pakistani intelligence establishment, his alleged crimes include murders, kidnappings, drug-smuggling and involvement in terrorist activities.
Dawood is the prime accused in the March 12, 1993 Mumbai serial blasts when 12 car-bombs killed almost 250 innocent people and injured over a thousand more.
Until the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the 1993 Mumbai serial bombing was the single most destructive terrorist act committed in modern history.
Currently on the most wanted list of the International Police (Interpol) for his involvement in organised crime and counterfeiting and ranking No. 4 on the Forbes list of the World's Top 10 most dreaded criminals, Dawood had been declared a specially designated global terrorist by the United States State Department in October 2003 due to his alleged Al Qaeda links.
According to the US Treasury Department's charge-sheet, Dawood maintained close links with Osama bin Laden. Much to Islamabad's embarrassment, the US Treasury Department amongst its reasons for naming Dawood in the list of the world's worst terrorists, cited intelligence reports of his connection with Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
The US fact sheet stated: Dawood Ibrahim, son of a police constable, has financially supported Islamic militant groups working against India such as Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
Image: File picture of a damaged building in the 1993 Mumbai blasts
Photographs: Rediif archives
'Dawood shifted out of Pak just before Osama's elimination'
Information as recent as fall 2002 indicates that Dawood had been helping finance terrorist attacks in the Indian state of Gujarat by Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the armed wing of (the Pakistan-based) Markaz Dawatul Irshad an anti-US Sunni missionary organisation which was formed (by Hafiz Saeed) in 1989.
Dawood, who was born as Sheikh Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar on December 26, 1955 in Mumbai, became India's most wanted terrorist for allegedly organising and financing the 1993 serial bomb blasts in the Indian commercial capital.
The 1993 serial bombings were believed to be carried out in revenge for the deaths of hundreds of Muslims in the 1992 anti-Muslim riots following the demolition of Babri Mosque which were blamed on India's right-wing Shiv Sena party.
Dawood subsequently abandoned India and, according to the Central Bureau of Investigation, he is hiding in Pakistan, which Islamabad vigorously denies.
The fresh controversy about the possible whereabouts of Dawood started with a report in the Times of India newspaper.
The June 19 report stated that the fugitive don may have temporarily shifted out of Pakistan fearing for his safety. The report stated: Dawood's move is in line with the overall sense of paranoia palpable among Indians figuring in the list of most wanted and hiding in Pakistan.
Indian intelligence officials say those hiding in Pakistan are now worried about their personal security since the May 2 killing of bin Laden in a US Special Forces operation.
There are a host of reasons why they are paranoid. They are not sure how far the US could go in fighting terror. Then, they are afraid of India carrying out similar operations against them.
Finally, they are unsure if Pakistan would sacrifice them to avoid becoming an international pariah in the war against terror.
Yet another news report published by Daily Bhaskar on September 16 stated that the fugitive don, his family members and close associates had shifted their base from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia on May 1, 2011, hardly 24 hours before the killing of Osama bin Laden in an American commando action in Abbottabad.
The Bhaskar report stated: The Inter Services Intelligence was aware that the American Central Investigation Agency had located and cordoned bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan and after the elimination of the 9/11 mastermind, India would definitely pressurise the United Nations and the Pakistan government to hand over the fugitive gangster.
Image: Pakistani securitymen walk near Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad after the Al Qaeda chief was killed in a US operation
'Dawood looking for a burial spot near Mumbai'
The story added: Anticipating the demand, Dawood and his family were immediately asked to vacate his palace near the Saudi mosque at the Clifton area in Karachi and shift his base on the dark night of May 1, when the operation against bin Laden was about to be executed.
Dawood and his family travelled over 670 miles in 15 hours through the express road route from Karachi to Kabul in Afghanistan, accompanied by his personal security and a caravan of six bullet proof Range Rovers vehicles.
The don and his family then boarded a private jet from the Rawash airport in Kabul to Bahrain.
Though Dawood recently underwent an open heart surgery, the don had to take a calculative risk to travel via road route, which was safe in view of ISI officials.
His last location was Bahrain airport after which the intelligence agencies lost contact with the fugitive don.
However, yet another news report released by the Headlines Today on September 28 refuted the earlier media reports and claimed that Dawood was still living in Karachi and playing host at his son's wedding in Pakistan's commercial capital.
In a telephonic conversation, Dawood's closest aides -- Chhota Shakeel and brother, Anees Ibrahim -- confirmed to Headlines Today that he was present in Karachi.
Shakeel made it clear that Dawood was not in hiding, but playing host at his son Moeen Ibrahim's grand wedding. The report said that for the son of a man in hiding, the wedding between Moeen and Saniya was a rather grand affair.
Another news report published by the Mumbai Mirror, claimed on November 10 that an ailing Dawood is still in Karachi and looking for a burial spot for himself in and around Mumbai.
While quoting highly-placed sources in the Indian Crime Branch, which has spent millions keeping track of his movements over the years, the newspaper reported that the don has asked his men to look for a final resting place for him in Mumbai or Khed, his native town, around 218 km from Mumbai.
'The going may not be so tough for Dawood'
Confirming Dawood's desire to be buried in Mumbai where he was born and cut teeth in gangland, the Mumbai Crime Branch chief Himanshu Roy said, they are aware of Dawood's instructions to his men to find a place for his burial. The newspaper claimed that Dawood, 56, has had two heart attacks and his movements are now restricted by the doctors in Karachi, where he is currently holed up.
Dawood advanced the date of his younger daughter's wedding a year ago after the second heart attack, the report concluded.
But hardly three days later, a front page news report published by a Pakistani English daily, Pakistan Today, (on November 14) claimed that Dawood was under treatment at a hospital in the United Arab Emirates.
Quoting Mubashir Ahmed, a UAE-based close relative of the fugitive don, the newspaper rejected as 'baseless' all reports about of Dawood's presence in Karachi
"He has survived two heart attacks and is now under treatment in critical condition at a UAE hospital. But he will be better soon," said Mubashir while refusing to name the hospital.
Asked about Dawood's wish to be buried in India (as reported by the Indian media), Mubashir Ahmed replied: Such talk is premature right now.
Since Dawood's branding as a global terrorist by the United States, the Pakistani intelligence establishment has been under intense pressure and feels extremely uneasy at persistent media reports about his presence in Pakistan.
While New Delhi still hopes that the end could be in sight for Dawood, there are indications that the going may not be so tough for the man who still has friends in high places in the Pakistani establishment.
Image: Muslims hold placards and shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi demanding that Pakistan must handover Dawood Ibrahim
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters