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Scared Dawood gets new face surgically?

Sources reveal that Dawood is undergoing surgery to alter his looks. Graphics: Dawood's new look

india Updated: Feb 18, 2004 12:00 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt

Dawood Ibrahim, who is reportedly living in the VIP area of Islamabad under heavy security comparable to senior most generals and ISI chief, has been undergoing plastic surgery to alter his looks ever since October last year when the US declared that he was linked to the money-laundering of Al-Qaeda funds, according to Pak sources based in London.

The US Treasury Department has found that he was funnelling funds for Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist organisations including Lashkar-e-Taiba. It also found that Dawood had struck a deal with Osama bin Laden to use his wide network to acquire funds from various charitable organisations.

The Treasury Department with the approval of the UN declared Dawood, in mid-October last year as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist".

"Just like in the case of Dr Khan, most in authority in Islamabad thus cannot afford to let Dawood out of the country and made to talk. He has surely been used by the ISI in Afghanistan or has at least enjoyed its benevolence."

Dawood would have also realised that the Americans could ask for fuller inquiry and his interrogation. Islamabad would have then been unable to resist the American pressure as it could that of India's and get away by stating that he was not in Pakistan. An altered appearance could help in again iterating that he had left the country.

This is why the sources said there has been utter secrecy over the surgery. "The rumours have nevertheless persisted although there is no way to confirm."

According to reports he was last seen quite a few months ago at a wedding but since then he has not been spotted in public.

But, according to recent reports Dawood has been more worried for his safety since the start last November of investigations into Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan's selling of nuclear weapons technology and his nexus with the underworld for acquiring N-material and laundering his ill-gotten wealth.

"The report that Dr Khan was in critical condition after a sudden heart attack or even the amended report that he was in very bad health must have made the ever suspicious Dawood even more concerned."

There is one report that like Dr Khan who possibly sent out of Pakistan through his daughter Dina, documents and a taped statement incriminating General including President Musharraf in his proliferation activities to ensure his own safety, Dawood has done the same. He has kept papers with his trusted men outside Pakistan.

The name of Dawood has not so far been mentioned as one of the underworld links of Dr Khan but the fact that Dubai was the main channel for leaking the N-technology and for sending out and receiving material surfaced quite early in the investigations about Dr Khan's activities.

Dawood's network in Dubai is well-known and it is now being said that his set-up with its wide-reach and large number of trusted operatives "came in handy" for the surreptitious proliferation and money-laundering. "It could have possibly won him passage to Pakistan through Dr Khan and his sympathisers in power."

Dawood was, it is alleged, part of the group of people linked with Dr Khan's proliferation and money-laundering activities. It included one known as bullion king, a major player in the Pak Stock and Exchange, a big gold dealer in Dubai and two army officers, a colonel and a major, both of whom were conduits for transfer of N-technology to Libya.

The recent exposure of a Malaysian company that shipped a cargo of N-material to Dubai and specially the arrest of a Pak businessman Aizaz Jafri, alleged to be the frontman for Dr Khan could have alarmed Dawood more. Jafri was the middleman for Khan in the international black market network in the nuclear materials set up by the disgraced scientist.

The chains of hotels and restaurants owned fully or partially by Dr Khan were also managed by Jafri. Notably, Jafri made frequent trips to Dubai when Dawood was there. Intelligence agrees, that Dawood could fear exposure from persons like Jafri and several other businessmen who have been arrested. Worse his links in the ISI would fear too the likelihood of suspicion falling on him, for that would expose them.

Dawood is currently under 24-hour security, albeit for his own safety just like Dr Khan. He would very much wish he disappears with changed appearance rather than be caught in the Khan storm, particularly after hearing that the scientist's health has suddenly deteriorated.

First Published: Feb 18, 2004 12:00 IST