New Delhi: Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in India for a number of heinous crimes, is "hiding in plain sight" in Pakistan, a report has said.
In a report filed on July 26 (Sunday), the Sunday Guardian has quoted US experts in counter-terrorism activities as saying that just the way al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was before his assassination, Dawood is "hiding in plain sight" and in comfort, shuttling between homes in Peshawar, Hyderabad (Sindh) and Lahore.
The mafia don is in regular touch with family members in both Pakistan as well as India, the report added.
In a sensational claim, the sources have told the newspaper that Dawood Ibrahim, while travelling from the UAE in 2006 to South Africa, was sitting next to a senior politician and the duo were talking throughout the journey.
They claim that "up to 2008 (when the Mumbai attacks took place), at least two senior NDA leaders and four top UPA personalities were in direct and indirect contact" with India's most wanted, but "after 26/11, all but one of the six stopped further contact". The sixth leader "stopped contact with Dawood in 2011".
The sources also claim that "the 26/11 attack could not have succeeded the way it did but for longstanding contacts within the Mumbai Police and state political network of Dawood and his close associates".
They allege that "high-level politicians, afraid of being implicated through Dawood, ensured that the domestic angle was never seriously probed by the police following the blasts" and much of the attention was diverted to captured operative Ajmal Kasab and his contacts in Pakistan.
"It was as though the investigators were told not to believe that there was a network in India, which provided information to ISI proxies about the interior layout and work schedules of the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident hotels."
"At least two employees of Taj and another of Trident" gave details about the hotel to attack planners in Pakistan. But none of the three "were questioned by the police and in fact remained in service after the blasts", said the sources. Notably, police authorities in Mumbai have claimed that no hotel employee was involved in the 26/11 planning.
"It helped such a surmise of domestic non-involvement that handlers in Pakistan cut off all communications with their collaborators in India 16 days before the attack", these experts said.
The sources further claim that Dawood Ibrahim "was in March 2003 given a new identity and accompanying papers by the ISI, in order to reduce the chances of detection and to facilitate his travel to multiple locations across the globe, including South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Portugal and Dubai".
He was given a new identity following confirmation that the US would declare Dawood a Specially Designated International Terrorist.
The new identity enabled him to travel safely to multiple locations through use of the documents prepared for him by the ISI.
"During 2006-2011, (Dawood) sold much of his international businesses and relocated some assets to India and most to Pakistan", US-based sources claimed, adding that there was little effective countering of Dawood's operations in India during the period in office of both Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.
However, "the heat has increased after (Prime Minister) Modi took over in 2014". During Narendra Modi's visit to the US in September 2014, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval stayed an extra two days in Washington "mainly to work out ways of capturing or otherwise incapacitating Dawood". Doval had told his US interlocutors that he wanted to ensure success in hunting Dawood Ibrahim during his tenure in office as the NSA.
The mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts “retains his contacts with Bollywood and is working to ensure through his contacts that favourites of his be given meaty roles", the sources said.
According to counter-terrorism experts, Dawood's family is "almost totally unaware of the new identity of their internationally known relative as given in the travel documents". They further claim that since 2011, Dawood has reduced communicating directly through telephone. Since 2012, the don has confined travelling.
However, he is "still very much in charge of the operations of the companies he owns", as well as his traditional business of extracting money from businesspersons in India.
The sources claim that "a director-general of police and five inspectors-general of police and DIGs have worked for Dawood in the past". However, they add that since the new government took office in 2014, conditions have become more difficult.