|Dawood: 'War on terror' takes a strange
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - The recent announcement by United
States authorities declaring an Indian underworld don a
"holy warrior" indicates that perhaps the "war on
terror" and crackdown on al-Qaeda are running short of
A US Treasury Department
announcement on October 16 designated Dawood Ibrahim as
a "specially designated global terrorist under Executive
Order 13224", which means that he joins Osama bin Laden
and 320 others who hold a similar distinction.
Dawood Ibrahim, alias Sheikh Dawood Hassan, a
notorious character who hails from the Indian city of
Mumbai, is known to have lived in Dubai in the United
Arab Emirates, as well as the major port city of
Pakistan, Karachi. He is also an accused in the 1993
Mumbai serial bomb blasts in which at least 257 people
lost their lives.
The Treasury designation
freezes any assets belonging to Dawood within the US and
prohibits transactions with US nationals. The US is also
shortly expected to request that the United Nations put
him on its list of terrorists as well. A UN listing will
require that all its member states take similar action.
A fact sheet issued with the October 16
notification says that Dawood, the son of a police
constable, has reigned as one of the preeminent
criminals in the Indian underworld for most of the past
two decades. Dawood's syndicate, it says, is involved in
large-scale shipments of narcotics in the United Kingdom
and Western Europe.
The syndicate's smuggling
routes, the fact sheet says, from South Asia, the Middle
East and Africa are shared with Osama bin Laden and his
terrorist network. "Successful routes established over
recent years by Ibrahim's [Dawood's] syndicate have been
subsequently utilized by bin Laden. A financial
arrangement was reportedly brokered to facilitate the
latter's usage of these routes. In the late 1990s,
Ibrahim traveled in Afghanistan under the protection of
"Ibrahim's syndicate has
consistently aimed to destabilize the Indian government
through inciting riots, acts of terrorism and civil
disobedience. He is currently wanted by India for the
March 12, 1993 Bombay Exchange bombings, which killed
hundreds of Indians and injured over a thousand more.
Information, from as recent as Fall 2002, indicates that
Ibrahim has financially supported Islamic militant
groups working against India, such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba
[LeT]. For example, this information indicates that
Ibrahim has been helping finance increasing attacks in
Gujarat by LeT.
"Lashkar-e-Tayyiba [Army of the
Righteous - Lashkar-i-Taiba, LeT] is the armed wing of
Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irsha [MDI] - a Sunni anti-US
missionary organization formed in 1989. The United
States added LeT to the list of designated terrorists in
October 2001. The group was banned by the Pakistani
government, and its assets frozen, in January 2002," the
fact sheet reported.
The US information also
included the number of a Pakistani passport (G869537)
said to be used by Dawood, and listed his residence as
What is surprising about all of this
information just now released by US authorities is that
it contains nothing new. Elements of it have regularly
appeared in the Indian media (including the passport
number and his alleged telephone numbers).
Pakistani authorities, as they have done to the
latest US release, have denied that Dawood, or any other
people wanted by India, are on "Pakistani soil".
Certainly, Dawood has not been sighted in
Karachi or Dubai for some time, but while he was
flitting between these two cities his activities must
have been well known to the US Central Intelligence
While in Karachi, Dawood, known as
David or Bhai (brother), earned a reputation in the
city's underworld for his religious beliefs, passion,
and his network was well known.
In earlier days,
religion was not a major issue for Dawood. But after
moving to Karachi his interaction with members of the
former Mumbai community (Memons, Kathiawaris, Gujratis
and Kokanis)who had settled in the city before and after
the partition of British India in 1947, introduced him
to some business-cum-religious-cum-political figures,
such as Haji Hanif Tayyab and Amin Pardesi.
entire circle, including Dawood, is Barelvi, a religious
sect to which Muslims of the India-Pakistan region
belong and which is diametrically different from the
Wahhabi (Salafi) and Deobandi schools of thought that
characterize religious militancy. The Barelvi school
places emphasis on paying respect to tombs and shrines,
and it believes that the bodies in shrines can bestow
blessings on those who visit them. The Barelvi school
does not deal much with the issues of vice and virtue,
and jihad has never been a part of this sect.
Conversely, the Wahhabi and Deobandi schools do
not believe in shrines, indeed, they would like to see
them all demolished, and they preach that only Allah can
bestow blessings if one prays to him. They are also very
strict on matters of vice and virtue, and jihad is one
of the most emphasized chapters of their teachings.
When Maulana Masood Azhar (founder of the banned
militant Sunni Islamic group Jaish-i-Mohammed) was
detained in India, somebody asked Dawood to use his
contacts to have him released. Dawood's straight
response was: "Impossible, he is a Deobandi."
The Lashkar-i-Taiba, another militant group that
is active in Jammu and Kashmir, is even more extremist
compared to the Deobandis. It does not even accept
clean-shaven people into its organization. Before any
military training, members have to undertake a course
lasting several months to ensue that the recruit is
compatible with the set standards of vice and virtue.
These facts could not be unknown to intelligence
quarters, including the CIA.
And it was not as
if Dawood made much effort to keep a low profile.
Whether in Dubai or Karachi, he was courted by top South
Asian cricketers for his cricket betting activities.
Similarly, with regard to Bollywood, hardly a film could
be produced in India without investment from Dawood.
Dawood's guests were always lavishly entertained, and
the best Scotch whiskies flowed, even in a dry country.
Dawood's underworld connects are extensive, and
he "sublets" his name in Pakistan, Thailand, South
Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United Arab
Emirates, among other countries, to "franchises" in the
fields of drug trafficking and gambling dens.
Dawood took a turn from his "normal" activities
in the early 1990s when Bombay (as Mumbai was then
known) was stricken with communal violence, with Muslims
in particular badly victimized at the hands of Hindu
extremists, culminating in the series of deadly blasts
in 1993. Dawood is widely linked to these, and has been
a wanted man in India ever since.
At this time,
one of his juniors, Chota Rajan, a Hindu, turned against
Dawood, and was cultivated by India's Research and
Analysis intelligence wing. In turn, Dawood became the
Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence's "Bombay
Chota Rajan has tried on several
occasions to attack Dawood's interests in Bangkok and in
Karachi, but only in the absence of Dawood as his
presence anywhere reportedly still horrifies Rajan.
Attacks earlier this year on the Kawish Crown Plaza in
Karachi - a building owned by Dawood - were only made
because there has been no trace of Dawood in the city
for a long time.
In the past two years, not a
single member of D-Company, as Dawood's gang is known,
has been caught in connection with any plot against the
US. Had D-company been engaged in a terror campaign
against the US it could have found many "soft bellies"
in the Asia-Pacific region and in South Africa, where it
is strong enough to carry out small-scale attacks, such
as planting bombs or trafficking al-Qaeda members to
carry out attacks.
Dawood had three prominent
operators in Karachi - Shoaib Khan, Ibrahaim Bholo and
Shahanshah Khalid. Initially, all three worked well
together, but in time they began to feud. Bholo was
kidnapped and killed, according to some reports by
Shoaib Khan over differences over a drug deal in South
Africa. Khalid and Khan continue their gang warfare.
Khan's political leanings are well known - he
worked as a mercenary killer for the Muttahida Quami
Movement, an ethnocentric party whose leader has been in
exile in London for a decade, as well as for the
People's Students Federation, a wing of the Pakistani
People's Party (PPP) led by former premier Benazir
Bhutto. Khalid is also a member of the PPP and contested
last October's general election on its ticket. Like his
"associates", Dawood has not been linked to any jihad or
extremist political organization.
There are many
other big mafia gangs in Thailand, Hong Kong and South
Africa, and compared to them, D-Company is nothing. Yet
now Dawood is portrayed by US authorities as a terror
ring leader under Pakistan's protection.
doubt India is delighted, but as a shot in the "war on
terror", this one seems wide of the mark.
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