Govt must explain stand on Dawood

The Indian government appears to have scored a self-goal by declaring in Parliament that it has no idea where high-value fugitive Dawood Ibrahim is. Ibrahim is wanted in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. The government’s admission has, in one stroke, dented India’s carefully-constructed case against Ibrahim and the demand that Pakistan extradite him for his suspected role in the serial blasts that killed around 250 people and injured over 700. Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary also told the Lok Sabha that extradition proceedings would be initiated once Ibrahim was located.

The statement has thrown up questions on the vera-city of India’s past claims that Ibrahim was in Karachi and that Pakistan should extradite him. In a list of wanted persons sent by the previous Indian government to Pakistan, Ibrahim’s name was reportedly the eighth. With the changed position, the government has a lot to answer for. The statement was not made at a media conference nor during an interview to a journalist but in Parliament which carries as much weight as a submission in court.  If it was a considered statement and was meant to be the government’s stance, it raises questions that even affect the credibility of the Indian government. For, there has never been any deviation until now in the government’s view that Ibrahim was very much in Pakistan and that he better be sent back to India. Not just that, in international forums India has used the issue to tell the world that it is confirmed that Pakistan harbours fugitives accused of terrorism. Now, if Delhi does a U-turn and says it does not know where he stays, the entire edifice of India’s argument collapses. Moreover, it vindicates Pakistan’s claim that Ibrahim is not there and, if it deems necessary, can use the statement to show how India makes baseless claims against it.

The issue also exposes India’s inadequacy when it comes to capturing fugitives wanted by it. In comparison, al-Qaeda chief Osama-bin-Laden who was holed up in Abbottabad in Pakistan was captured and shot in a stealthy move by the US. In that case too, Pakistan had consistently denied that bin-Laden was anywhere in Pakistan. It required a daring US raid to capture the terror group leader. This seriously compromised Pakistan’s standing in the international arena. In India’s case, Ibrahim has adopted a discreet profile since he fled Mumbai. India has been unable to crack the cocoon which guards him. It is clear, however, that it is in India’s interest to pursue Ibrahim rather than make a lame admission conceding failure to locate him.

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