Syed Asif Ibrahim, the next director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), relishes telling tales. One is particularly symptomatic of the mechanical way the country’s police work. It is from Jaipur where he headed the Intelligence Bureau state unit. Wife of a prominent jeweler was kidnapped in Jaipur and the state police brass sought help from the IB to track calls the kidnappers might make to seek ransom. The IB sleuths traced a call of a kidnaper in Sri Ganganagar that was made from a public telephone booth. The state police was duly informed. The IB sleuths asked for record of calls made or received from the booth as the kidnapper could have called his accomplices after making calling the jeweler’s family. That way the kidnapper gang could have been identified.
But instead of the call records, a truck reached the IB office next morning. Ibrahim was told that the Sri Ganganagar police was wary touching the booth machine to take out call records as they might erase all data accidentally. Therefore they packed the booth altogether in a truck to Jaipur and the state police duly sent to the local IB office!
For Ibrahim, 59, these true accounts accumulated into a wealth of experience that made him an officer to look for practical and out of box solutions. A 1977 batch IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, Ibrahim was handpicked by the then chief minister Arjun Singh for anti-dacoity operations. He was instrumental in surrender of dreaded dacoit Malkhan Singh as a young superintendent of police in Bhind-Morena belt of the state.
In the IB, he handled the Kashmir desk when the situation in the valley exploded in Delhi’s face. He also handled the arrest of British terrorist Saeed Omar Shiekh in 1994 from Sahibabad in the Uttar Pradesh who was later set free from prison in 1999 along with Maulana Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar to secure release of IC-814 passengers in Kandhahar, Afghanistan. Here is another tale. The Uttar Pradesh police raided the hideout of Omar Sheikh and secured release of kidnapped foreigners. Omar Sheikh got injured in the operation. When Ibrahim with his officers reached the hospital where Omar Shiekh was taken to, he was surprised to see the royal treatment being given to the dreaded terrorist. He was not even handcuffed. Apparently, due to his impeccable English with proper accent, the police officials were under the impression that Omar was one of foreingers who got kidnapped!
Later in his career, as a joint director he headed the subsidiary intelligence bureau (SIB), as the state level units of the IB are called, in Delhi. Afterwards, he went to London and joined the Indian high commission there as a minister (coordination). After a three-year-stint in London, he came back to joint the IB as a special director looking after security.
“Religion will never be a criterion in the selection of the chief. Always the most deserving, networked and politically well-connected officer gets the top job,” said a senior IB officer when Ibrahim’s name was being discussed as a possible chief. The same is very true with Syed Asif Ibrahim. It is just another matter that he is Muslim and will be heading an organisation that till very late into the country’s independence didn’t admit Muslims in its ranks.