For many years, Indian and Western intelligence services have known that mob boss Dawood Ibrahim has been living in Pakistan, spending most of his time in the sprawling financial hub of Karachi.
Indian intelligence and security agencies have also gathered a lot of information about Ibrahim’s activities in Pakistan, including travels by him and his family, his large business empire and his interactions with accomplices. Much of this information has been gathered through technical surveillance.
As such, the news that a UN committee has found three of nine possible addresses listed for Ibrahim by Indian authorities to be incorrect and removed them from a sanctions list means very little. This appears to be part of a regular housekeeping exercise as several other corrections were made to Ibrahim’s entry in the list maintained by the UN committee that monitors sanctions under Resolution 1267.
There could have been some embarrassment in official circles that one of the incorrect addresses was similar to that of a residence of Pakistan’s envoy to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, but such things can happen since spycraft in a hostile country such as Pakistan is no easy matter.
Since Western intelligence agencies stepped up surveillance of individuals linked to al Qaeda in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it is believed Ibrahim has rarely travelled out of Pakistan. There was a time when he frequently travelled to Dubai but the leadership of the UAE has been taking steps to apprehend and hand over known terrorists in recent years.
Indian journalists who lived and worked in Pakistan were usually discretely warned not to make too many inquiries about Ibrahim if Pakistani authorities thought they were taking a lot of interest in the mob boss. There have been reports of visiting Indian journalists and even Pakistani reporters who got too close to his homes in the posh Defence and Clifton areas of Karachi being chased away by plainclothes personnel.
It is widely believed that some of the plainclothes personnel posted around these homes are from the Inter-Services Intelligence, which has for long been accused of sheltering Ibrahim.
In Islamabad circles, there were reports for long that Ibrahim had a safe house in the post Sector F-6/2, which is also home to India’s high commissioner and envoys and diplomats of several other countries.
Sanctions under Resolution 1267, which cover individuals believed to have links with al Qaeda and other groups such as the Islamic State (IS), require UN member states to prevent foreign travel, freeze assets and cut off access to weapons for such individuals.
It is has been clear for some time that Pakistan, which consistently denies Ibrahim’s presence in the country, will do nothing to enforce these sanctions. It has not acted in the case of several other individuals on the Resolution 1267 list, including Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.
Retired security officials can sometimes be heard making fanciful boasts on night-time TV talk shows about conducting covert operations to “get” Ibrahim but questions remain about India’s capabilities to conduct such operation, and their consequences.
However, measures such as the Resolution 1267 ensure that Pakistan at least keeps a firm check on the activities of individuals such as Ibrahim because it knows the world is watching.
(The views expressed by the writer are personal. He tweets as @rezhasan)