Indians say Pakistanis have him, Pakistanis say they don’t. This has been the most consistent aspect of India-Pakistan relationship for nearly two decades now. Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most-wanted terrorist, grabbed headlines this week as he became part of the ‘esteemed’ list of 88 terrorists proscribed by Pakistan. Many people, on both sides of the border, took it as Pakistan’s acceptance of Dawood being on its soil. But no, that wasn’t the case.
Several years and thousands of breaking news later, Indians think that Pakistanis know the don’s whereabouts, but the truth is that they only wonder: Dawood, tu hai ki nahin? In the eyes of an average Indian, a common Pakistani knows what Dawood eats in breakfast, lunch and dinner, what he binge-watches or where he goes for shopping. But no. Pakistani people don’t know what Dawood Ibrahim eats or binge-watches. For Pakistanis, Dawood Ibrahim is like Osama bin Laden. He is Pakistan’s Schrödinger cat. Is he there, is he not? Also, Dawood Ibrahim is no Hafiz Saeed or Masood Azhar. Or even an Osama bin Laden. Not that anyone knew where Laden was till he was where he shouldn’t have been. Ladens and Azhars are icons, not Dawood. And who is to be blamed for it? India.
Dawood ka makaan, Dawood ki car
Now, of things we know or at least keep hearing, about the mysterious Dawood. He is someone whose chasma number hasn’t changed. That’s why he has been seen in the same specs ever since the British left India. He is a part-time driver in Karachi who owns a worn out taxi. He was once caught watching dirty picture from a local internet café. His palace in Clifton is called White House and his neighbours are powerful—coincidence or not, but just another similarity between him and Osama bin Laden. With great power comes great neighbourhood. Once, India told us that Dawood shared his house address with that of Maleeha Lodhi, who was then Pakistan’s representative at the UN. Such grave misinformation only added to our ‘knowledge’ about Dawood.
Dawood likes afternoon naps. In a rather shocking sting operation by an Indian TV channel Times Now, it was revealed that Dawood owned a landline number in Pakistan. That was awkward. The don is said to own houses and he can’t have a landline in Pakistan? On a Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd number, the wife of the terrorist told an emotionally charged correspondent that she was Mehjabeen and that her husband was sleeping. Now, why Mrs Ibrahim wasn’t sleeping was not investigated. But rest assured, the world hasn’t been the same ever since this revelation.
Dawood is dead, Dawood is alive
Only in June this year, Dawood became the new Mullah Omar of being dead. No mean achievement though. We were told that Dawood was infected with Covid-19 and passed away. Just like in 2016 when he was declared almost dead and again in 2017 it seemed Dawood was after his own heart when he had a heart attack and was critical. It seems in 2018 and 2019, he escaped death-by-media.
The don keeps changing his location. Sometimes, his address changes to Murree, a hill station. Now who doesn’t want to spend summers in a cool place? Since Dawood’s daughter is married to the son of former Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad, his invisible ‘presence’ in Pakistan becomes all the more special. On behalf of Miandad, sometimes he also likes to take up fights. That’s why Shahid Afridi was once asked by Dawood to stop talking against Miandad or else—you know the fugitive gangster used to do in Mumbai till nearly three decades ago. Dawood and Miandad are like Sholay’s Gabbar and his sidekick Sambha. And all friends have to, at times, pay the price for their friendship—Miandad had to pay after India denied him a visa in 2013. Although in Pakistan, there is no shortage of opportunities for Miandad. He has announced his entry into politics. He might one day become the next prime minister of Dawood-less Pakistan. Umeed pe duniya qaim hai (hope makes the world go round).
What do Pakistani leaders say about Dawood? Musharraf says there is no need to be decent to tell anything to India about Dawood—“Wo hoga yehi kahin, humay kya pata?” Imran Khan, before he became the prime minister, had said that he did not know where Dawood was, but if he came to power he shall know. But then, who knows about things that are unknown? There is no such thing as Dawood Ibrahim in Pakistan, just as there was no Osama bin Laden.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.