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Is Dawood running underworld empire in Karachi?

ISLAMABAD SEPT. 21. Is the underworld don and main accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, Dawood Ibrahim, present in the port city of Karachi? Has he also developed a major network there?

According to an investigative article in the Pakistani English monthly, Herald, while there is ambiguity about the don's presence, there is no doubt that he has developed an extensive underworld network in the city. The magazine has based its assertion reportedly on the basis of statements by two senior functionaries of the Sindh provincial government.

However, Senior Adviser to the Sindh Home Ministry and Muttahida Quami Movement leader, Aftab Sheikh, has accused the magazine of "misquoting" him. Mr. Sheikh told The Hindu over phone from Karachi that he never talked about either the alleged properties or the presence of Ibrahim.

In connection with the investigation of two bomb blasts the Sindh police were trying to ascertain the ownership of a particular plaza that was the target of a bomb blast. Mr. Sheikh did concede that till date the Government had not been able to come to a conclusion about the true owner of the building.

In its report, Herald said the provincial authorities gave the first statement about Ibrahim after a recent bomb blast at a Karachi business centre, the Kawish Crown Plaza.

The Inspector-General of Sindh police said it was "ostensibly owned by one Ahmed Jamal... but actually belonged to Dawood Ibrahim.

"The IGP's statement was backed the same day by the de facto Sindh Home Minister, Aftab Sheikh, who told reporters that the Mumbai mafioso had a "network from Mumbai to Karachi and was working in both countries," the report said.

"This was the first public admission from senior government functionaries that the Mumbai crime king, Dawood Ibrahim of the infamous D-company, may have acquired substantial interests in Pakistan's business capital," it said.

According to the magazine, Sindh police suspected "growing friction between two international cartels" to have been behind the blast. Prior to this, Pakistan had been maintaining that no such person was present or operating in Pakistan "either directly or through his proxies".

The report quoting Pakistani intelligence sources said the CBI had forwarded a detailed report to Pakistan, which said that Ibrahim had acquired a new identity of Iqbal Seth alias Amer Sahib in that city. Chhota Shakeel was Haji Mohammed, while Tiger Memon was operating as Ahmed Jamil, according to the CBI report.

It is not for the first time that news about the presence and operations of Ibrahim in Karachi has appeared in the Pakistani press. In the later half of 2000, another Pakistani English monthly, Newsline, published purported photographs of the house where Ibrahim was supposed to be living with State security.

Just before the Agra summit, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, had asked the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, to hand over Ibrahim when the latter talked about possible co-operation between India and Pakistan on the issue of extradition of criminals wanted by each other.

However, Gen. Musharraf denied his presence in Pakistan. Islamabad took the same line when New Delhi submitted the list of 20 wanted criminals after the December 13 Parliament attack.

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