Why one of India’s most wanted criminals Dawood Ibrahim continues to be a fugitive since 1984Updated: Oct 17, 2020, 00:15 IST
In 1984, Dawood Ibrahim, one of India’s most wanted criminals for his role in several terror attacks, including the 1993 Mumbai blasts, then 29, escaped the Indian law enforcement agencies. The gangster, now aged 65, still remains a fugitive in the Indian records.
For over three decades, why did the law enforcement agencies fail to dismantle the criminal syndicate and rein in the gangster’s flourishing illegal business, now spread across the globe, despite Ibrahim being designated a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2003? Security experts blame the “toothless” UNSC and Interpol, maintaining there are difficulties on various levels.
Last month, the Pakistan foreign ministry issued a Statutory Regulatory Order, taking note of the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which directed an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo against certain individuals. The list included Ibrahim’s name. While India claimed this was the first time a Pakistani official document mentioned the fugitive gangster was in Pakistani territory, Islamabad responded saying the listing was “routine”.
“Two factors are the most significant in ensuring the survival of the D-Company network. The first and obvious is the safe haven and state support he receives from Pakistan. However, if there was concerted action against the network on Indian soil, its defeat would be inevitable. The second factor, then, is a collusive network within India which includes significant elements in the power structure here, including influential elements within the political leadership, bureaucracy and police,” said Ajay Sahni, executive director of Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.
Sahni’s explanation was similar to the findings of the NN Vohra Committee, set up to study the criminalisation of politics, in 1993. The only tangible action, according to experts, against Dawood Ibrahim in all these years has been confiscation and auction of five of his properties in Mumbai worth about ₹14 crore. “As long as this collusive network is not smashed, the crime network will continue to flourish. This is the essence of successful organised crime – it does not confront or directly challenge the state’s power structures, but subverts and co-opts elements within them,” said Sahni.
Arvind Gupta, former deputy national security advisor, has a different viewpoint. “Pakistani help and shelter play a major role, because Dawood is running the network from there and have wide connections. As he is in the safe shelter of Pakistan, it becomes tough for the agencies to react,” said Gupta, adding, “We are talking about a syndicate, a network, whose big players are outside, so it’s difficult to cause harm to it, with its masterminds operating from outside. Dawood’s name is on the UN’s list. But the UN works on the basis of the co-operation it gets from the member countries. In Dawood’s case, he is being helped and sheltered by all top agencies of the state. So how would any agency take on the syndicate?”
The scope of the syndicate, too, is part of the problem, said Gupta. “When we work with the Interpol, we work with several national security agencies, where cooperation and co-ordination are key. This becomes tough as some government agencies co-operate, while some don’t.”
Another issue is the power bestowed in these agencies. “Global anti-crime agencies have no teeth. The Interpol has often been described as a post office. It takes details of particular criminals from one country and sends these as ‘red corner notices’ to the country where these criminals are purportedly hiding. It is the local enforcement agencies in the latter country who have to actually have to ‘execute’ the notice. If a collusive country chooses to protect such criminals and, as Pakistan does, officially declares that the wanted man is not present on its soil, despite evidence to the contrary, there is very little that Interpol can do,” said Gupta.
Agencies such as the Financial Action Task Force have some coercive powers, such as blacklisting, which brings into play a range of crippling international sanctions. “But FATF is a politicised agency and has never been able to secure the necessary consensus to blacklist Pakistan,” said Sahni. The UNSC can designate individuals as terrorists, but has no instruments to secure their custody, or punish them, according to him. “One of the major issues with the UNSC listing is that it does not possibly list all the aliases of Dawood Ibrahim, enabling him to operate under various aliases. Also, Pakistan communicates to terrorist leaders and organisations about the impending freezing of accounts which enable them to withdraw in bulk and transfer it to other accounts under different names,” said a senior IPS officer.
“Alternately, a superpower like the US can ‘take out’ targets on Pakistani soil, as it did with Osama bin Laden and scores of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, with or without legal sanction,” said Sahni. However, Ibrahim is not that high on the US’s priorities, claimed sources. “Also, this would be quite difficult given the levels of protection he is provided. But no state with that profile of covert capabilities has attempted such an action,” said Sahni.
G Parthasarthy, former High Commissioner to Pakistan, said, “Why do we have to rely on Interpol or any other international law enforcement agencies, if we are capable enough to deal with it? Their paths are limited. India will have to look at it in innovative ways and use all its assets and powers abroad to eliminate its enemies. There are weaknesses and disunity in Pakistan’s state structure which can be used by India. The US has done it, Israel does it regularly, we should learn from them.”