U Turn: Indian govt says “No idea where Dawood Ibrahim is”

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New Delhi: The Indian government caught itself in an embarrassing situation as it contradicted its own position on the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim, one of India’s most-wanted men for masterminding the 1993 blasts in Mumbai. Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary told Lok Sabha on Tuesday, 5 May that India has no idea where the mob-boss is but that the “Extradition process with regard to Dawood Ibrahim would be initiated once the subject is located.”

Successive Indian governments have asserted over the past two decades that the most wanted terrorist is in Pakistan. 

Last December, after reports suggested that a Western intelligence agency had traced Ibrahim to the port city of Karachi by intercepting his phone calls, home minister Rajnath Singh said New Delhi had asked Islamabad to hand him over. “We have repeatedly asked Pakistan to hand over Dawood Ibrahim. Let’s be patient, action will be taken soon,” Singh had said.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju also said at the time that the reported intercepts would strengthen India’s stand. “Evidence of Dawood residing in Pakistan was always there. We have repeatedly asked Pakistan to hand over him. This latest evidence has made our case stronger,” Rijiju had said.

India had handed over to Pakistan several dossiers on India’s most wanted fugitive, giving details about where he is staying. The Indian government has for long said that Ibrahim has been living in Pakistan with the backing of that country’s security and intelligence establishment. Dawood Ibrahim is reported to be at number 8 on a list of 50 most wanted terrorists that India handed over to Pakistan in 2011. Then Home Minister P Chidambaram had said that India was “aware of the street on which he lives.”

Former home secretary G K Pillai had been quoted as saying that Ibrahim is in Pakistan. “As long as he has the blessings of the Pakistan government and the ISI, he is unlikely to be brought to justice even though he has been declared an international terrorist,” he told Hindustan Times.

Despite this, in reply to a question by a BJP MP on the gangster’s extradition, the Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in the Lok Sabha (Lower House), that “The subject has not been located so far. Extradition process with regard to Dawood Ibrahim would be initiated once the subject is located.”

As the situation snowballed into a controversy, the junior minister Chaudhury told reporters, “I presented what I was told.”

Home ministry officials have reportedly gone into a huddle, trying to investigate what is being seen as a major blunder. Observers say the reply to a written question in Parliament was framed by the ministry’s internal security unit. It raises two possibilities- one that, what Mr Chaudhury said in the house is true. If that is the case, it would mean Dawood Ibrahim is off the Indian intelligence radar and cannot be located any more. But if the minister’s Parliament reply is incorrect, then many are hoping it is only the result of a drafting error. 

Chaudhary informed Parliament that India has made requests in respect of other fugitives wanted by Indian authorities in terror cases namely Willy Naruenartwanch to Thailand, Usman Ghani Khan to Saudi Arabia, Abdul Wahid Siddibapa to the UAE, Velu alias Boopalan to the UK and Mohammad Hanif Tiger to the UK for expeditious extradition of these fugitives. 

When President Barack Obama visited New Delhi in January, India and the US agreed to make “concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company and the Haqqani Network”. D company is the name given by India to Ibrahim’s criminal and terrorist network.

 

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