India's most wanted -- Dawood Ibrahim -- has been staying in Karachi, and he is playing host at his son's wedding in the Pakistani city. India has maintained for years that Dawood, aided by Pakistani authorities, has been living there, but Islamabad has always denied the charge vehemently. However, in a telephonic conversation, the don's closest aides -- Chhota Shakeel and Brother Anees Ibrahim -- confirmed news channel that Dawood was in Karachi at the time of wedding. The wedding between Moin and Saniya was a rather a grand affair. It was held at the don's palatial bungalow, aptly nicknamed the White House in Karachi's posh Clifton area. The guest list included the who's who of Pakistan's elite, including some senior members of its spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Sharpshooter Shakeel, who has been busy with the wedding preparations himself, gave some details about the marriage. This is not the first time that Dawood's Karachi connection has been confirmed. In 2003, a news report in Pakistan had suggested that Dawood was hiding in Karachi. Two years later, Dawood's daughter Mahrukh got married to former Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad's son Junaid, confirming the don's presence in that country.
Mahrukh's wedding took place at Dubai's Grand Hyatt hotel. Since the news of the wedding had already been made public, Dawood had to skip the function. However, with his son Moin, the don did not commit the same mistake. The wedding was kept under wraps and the date was not revealed. On the night of May 17, hours after two hit men had shot and killed the driver of Iqbal Kaskar in Mumbai, the Mumbai Police posted two constables at the door of Kaskar's home in Bhendi Bazaar. Kaskar, who has been the operating head of Dawood's multifaceted Indian business empire for nearly a decade, has a posse of security befitting an underworld don. His personal bodyguards carry unlicensed Smith and Wesson pistols. The murder of the driver, Arif Syed, stunned the underworld, as well as the police. No one had dared to raid the headquarters and heart of Dawood's operations, an unpretentious building in Pakmodia Street, ever before. The audacious killing was a signal from a rival gang that the fabled Dawood family and its "tiger den" were not beyond their bullets. Dawood himself, as is known, lives in Karachi under protection from the Pakistan authorities. Kaskar was deported from Dubai in 2003 along with gangster Ejaz Pathan. Dawood, under severe pressure after Osama bin Laden's killing, heard of the murder while planning the wedding of his son, Moin, in Nairobi. He stayed back in Karachi and sent his wife, Mehjabeen, 48, to handle the celebrations. He even cancelled a proposed video conference to bless the couple.
According to Indian intelligence, Dawood, who lives in Karachi along with his brother Anees and Lieutenants Chhota Shakeel, Tiger Memon, Aftab Batki, Edda Yakoob and Fahim Machmach, has been planning to shift base. He has shortlisted four African nations as possible destinations: Somalia, Zimbabwe, Congo and Sudan. Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials claim Dawood is trying to acquire vast tracts of land in Africa that can be sub-let for agricultural production. His operatives are in touch with tribal chieftains. Dawood's rivals, obviously, see this as a sign of weakness in a man who was once considered the "wallet" of the sub-continent's underworld. There is a feeling that Dawood is possibly making some moves under pressure. For Rajan, it was the perfect time to send a signal to his rival it would be wrong for anyone to presume Dawood would buckle under pressure. It all boils down to territorial control, in India and abroad. In India, Dawood runs a Rs. 10,000 crore plus operations that includes illegal mining, fake currency, betting syndicates, arms smuggling, real estate and commodities market investments and garments business in two-tier cities.
The don wants to collaborate with Maoists in mineral-rich states like Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh so that he has a larger grip on the Rs. 400 crore illegal mining rackets in the country's coal belt. "Last year, he paid Rs. 25 lakh to a Chhattisgarh operative but was conned. He is now trying to use the Maoists in Nepal to touch base with their counterparts in India and offer them arms and ammunition.
Besides coal, he wants to retain the lion's share of the $2.5 billion fake Indian currency note (FICN) market through Aftab Batki who, from Dubai, looks after the operation in India. Once he sent fake currency on ships meant to carry foodgrain. After Indian ports went on high alert, he began using the Nepal and Bangladesh routes. With the recent arrest of K.M. Abdullah, the Dubai-based channel for his India operations, in Kerala, Dawood is looking for new partners. Nepal has been the base for his currency operations for more than a decade. With tacit support from the Nepalese government, Dawood transport arms and fake currency from Pakistan to smuggle across India. Two years ago, he set up two arms-manufacturing units in western Nepal with the backing of the Maoists.
The don ventured into the garments business last year. He set up a manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Shanghai and Rs. 2,000 crore worth of supplies were flown to India illegally through the border towns of Nepalganj and Biratnagar. Indian Customs officials say the exchequer loses an estimated Rs. 500 crore in taxes every year but no action has been taken against the garment smugglers and traders.
Dawood, listed in Mumbai Police records as an "absconding accused" and charged-along with his brother Anees Ibrahim-with masterminding the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings, is trying hard to gain legitimacy in his businesses. In India, he has been working overtime to develop links with top realtors. Some of them, claims Mumbai Police, were in touch with the don and had sought funds for developing real estate across Maharashtra. In 2007, Mumbai-based builder Umesh Gandhi was arrested after Iqbal Attarwala, an aide of Dawood, named him in a land-grabbing case in Malad. The police got a clue of Dawood's real estate business after they arrested Karimullah Khan, an accused in the 1993 blasts, in 2008. Khan revealed details of Dawood's benami investments in real estate markets across India and legitimate investments in Karachi, along with his close associate Tiger Memon, the other mastermind of the 1993 blasts. There are also legitimate investments that come through proper channels. Sources at the Bombay Stock Exchange say funds from Dawood and his associates now come through the foreign institutional investor (FII) route. Dawood was recently involved in an effort to bail out the cash-starved Pakistan Railways. Early this year, ISI, which provides him protection in Karachi, had asked him to divert some of his cash to ensure smooth functioning of the railways. The request was made when, in a series of strange incidents, freight trains loaded with grain and cement ran out of fuel across the country. According to IB, the request came after senior ISI officials and some Pakistani politicians drew up a list of rich people with the capacity to invest. "His tobacco products, sold under the brand name Fire, are a rage in Russia, the Middle East and Afghanistan. He has investments in the Karachi stock market, construction companies, malls, cement companies and an oil company in the Gulf. His business turnover is over Rs. 20,000 crore.
His links with Mumbai film stars diminished after the 1993 blasts but Dawood has now acquired controlling interest in the Dubai-based Al-Mansoor Video and Karachi-based SADAF Trading Company, both known for selling pirated Indian films across Asia, Europe and the United States. SADAF's biggest market is India, where, due to lax anti-piracy laws, sales are relatively easy. SADAF, claim controls almost 70 per cent of India's $1 billion piracy market.
Dawood has been procuring his drug supplies from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan since 1998. Al Qaeda uses Dawood's channels to transport narcotics, money and terrorists from Afghanistan. In return, Dawood provides finance to Lashkar-e-Toiba for its anti-India activities. Dawood also used his Al Qaeda connections to enter Afghanistan's illegal Scotch whisky trade which uses mules to carry the spirit into Pakistan for bottling. The liquor is then taken in dhows to Dubai and other African destinations from Karachi port. With many of his foot soldiers and sharp-shooters eliminated in encounters, Dawood now recruits shooters from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Nepal on part-time basis so that the police cannot track such killers. What is still intact is his political support. In the early '90s, it was rumoured that around 75 politicians owed their entry to Parliament through Dawood though none could confirm his clout because there was nothing on paper. Politicians such as Bhai Thakur and Suresh alias Pappu Kalani were arrested for links with Dawood around the same time. Dawood is feeling the heat. The killing of Osama bin Laden has exposed once again Pakistan's duplicity in the protection of wanted terrorists. Dawood owes his freedom to ISI-and to India's lack of political will.