After the government was left red-faced for its contradictory reply in Parliament on the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said the underworld don lives in Pakistan and the Centre would continue to pursue the case very seriously.
"Government's consistent stand is that he (Dawood) is in Pakistan and government of India has been providing information to Pakistan about his whereabouts and Pakistani agencies are not cooperating with Indian government. That is well known to everyone," he told reporters outside Parliament.
The minister said he could not say about the clarification to be given by the government in Parliament but requested everyone not to misconstrue a statement which is based on specific questions.
"So, if necessary, clarifications will be given but what I want to say is that please don't question the intention of the government, the government is very clear and government's job is well defined and it is pursuing the case very seriously," he said.
Though successive governments have asserted over the past two decades that the most wanted terrorist is in Pakistan, minister of state for home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary on Tuesday had told Lok Sabha that extradition proceedings could be initiated only when Ibrahim is located.
"The UN Security Council has also issued a special notice against him. The subject has not been located so far. Extradition process with regard to Dawood Ibrahim would be initiated once the subject is located," Chaudhary had said in a written reply.
Congress 'surprised and shocked'
Meanwhile, expressing "surprise and shock" at the Centre's stand that it was not aware of the location of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, Congress on Tuesday said Pakistan's ISI would have given a similar reply had it been asked the same question.
"This statement that the government does not know where Dawood Ibrahim is seems to replicate Pakistan's official position on him... It is almost as if the Indian government's reply is the same that the ISI themselves would have given had they been asked the same question. ISI must be thankful about it," Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi told reporters.
He said Congress is "surprised and shocked" over the stand taken by the BJP government in Parliament.
Insisting that the statement is shocking on two accounts, Gogoi said, "It is shocking because during the election campaign (Narendra) Modi had made a strong and vociferous pitch saying that once he becomes the Prime Minister, Dawood would be brought back to India."
Besides, it contradicted the position taken by minister of state for home Kiran Rijiju in December 2014 that the government was well aware of where Dawood Ibrahim is. Rijiju had also said that the BJP Government was speaking to the Pakistani government on this issue.
Gogoi said the move has put India's own global position on terrorism into a jeopardy because for the past many years the government had maintained that Pakistan harbours terrorism and those responsible for the attacks on Mumbai.
"Now for the Government to say that we do not know where he is has diluted our own position," he said, adding it also means that the government has eased its pressure on Pakistan, which previous governments for the past 20 years had been building on Pakistan to hand over Dawood.
In another reaction, former Mumbai police commissioner M N Singh expressed disappointment at the home ministry's "embarrassing" stand on the whereabouts of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and said the response was a "big mistake" on part of the government.
"Even our intelligence agencies have proved that Dawood Ibrahim is in the patronage of ISI.. hence saying that no idea where Dawood is... is absolutely a big mistake on behalf of the central government," Singh told PTI.
"It is also possible that ISI might have eliminated him, but the fact which cannot be denied is that he (Dawood) is, or was in Pakistan under the direct supervision of ISI," he further said.
Singh said that such a response would not only give Pakistan a chance to "backfire", but will also put a question mark over the list of "Most Wanted" which we have given to Pakistan with Dawood's name on top.