Why Dawood (and Others) Remain Free

In the wake of the cancellation of NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan, in part due to Indian insistence that terrorism be the only issue on the agenda, a TV news channel decided to take matters into its own hands and track down India’s infamous don. On Saturday, an anchor for Times Now called a number believed to be Dawood Ibrahim’s land line and a woman answered confirming that she was in Karachi, was Ibrahim’s wife, and the don himself was there asleep. Beyond adding fuel to the fire of Indo-Pakistani tensions and amplifying the voices against Pakistani sheltering of terrorists, this phone call merely provided new affirmation of rather old news. Yet Dawood is hardly alone in living under the protection of the Pakistani state. Notorious Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) members Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed also find a safe haven in Pakistan. Unless the Pakistani government decides to cooperate with Indian efforts  to extradite and prosecute these and other wanted individuals, justice will remain unattainable.

Upon the opening of a new session of Parliament last month, India once again renewed its efforts to extradite high profile terrorists from Pakistan. Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval requested an updated, comprehensive dossier on Dawood Ibrahim, 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, and co-conspirator and chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (a LeT front) Hafiz Saeed. Doval was expected to present this document to his Pakistani counterpart during NSA-level talks in New Delhi scheduled for August 23rd-24th, before the talks were called off. Indian news outlets have reported that the dossier, which exceeds 100 pages, contains evidence that Ibrahim is conducting operations from Pakistan. Details include call records obtained in the past four months, numbers of various passports used by the don, and four new safe houses addresses located in Karachi and near Islamabad.

NSA Doval’s request for this document on the three fugitives came just a week after what has been called a “U-turn” by Pakistan in regards to earlier cooperation on the 2008 Mumbai attacks case. Since Lakhvi’s initial arrest in Pakistan in December 2008, India’s requests for his extradition have all been denied. In December 2014, a mere two days after the Peshawar school massacre in which 132 children lost their lives, Lakhvi was granted bail—prompting outrage from India. This bail was initially rejected, but Lakhvi was ultimately released on April 10, 2015. While investigators in Pakistan had spent four years pursuing samples of Lakhvi’s voice for comparison with recorded communications from the 2008 attacks, on July 18th, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency claimed that there is no Pakistani law under which an accused can be forced to provide voice samples. This assertion was seen as backtracking from the joint statement by Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif at their July 10th bilateral meeting in Ufa, Russia, in which they agreed to expedite the 2008 Mumbai case trial—which has been pending since 2009. Meanwhile, Lakhvi remains free on bail in Pakistan.

Although he spent nearly seven years incarcerated, reports indicate that Lakhvi received special treatment while in a maximum security facility in Rawalpindi. Journalists have claimed that Lakhvi retained access to his cell phone, internet, and television, and was allowed to receive guests (including Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives). Abu Jundal, the highest-ranking Indian in LeT, also alleged that members of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, demolished a control room in Karachi that was used during the 26/11 attacks after Lakhvi’s December 2008 arrest, presumably to destroy evidence against him.

For his part in the same attacks, Hafiz Saeed was placed under house arrest by Pakistani authorities only a handful of times between 2008 and 2009, when Pakistan came under pressure from the international community. Despite India’s attempts at extradition and the US placing a $10 million bounty on him, Saeed moves and preaches freely within Pakistan. He even launched a successful case recently to stop the Indian film “Phantom”—which depicts his assassination, from showing in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Dawood Ibrahim has continued to accumulate investments and assets while avoiding extradition. It is estimated that his criminal syndicate D Company owns 50 properties in 10 different countries, including the UK, the UAE, and India. Further, informants have claimed that Dawood is in contact with the ISI and operates from safe houses in Pakistan protected by ISI guards—an idea that has gained even more popular support after the Times Now phone call.

Despite all this, there has been some optimism in India surrounding the Modi government’s attempts to stand up to terrorism. India’s fresh dossier in the cases against Ibrahim, Lakhvi, and Saeed has generated hype for details concerning Dawood Ibrahim, a scathing assessment of faults in Pakistan’s 26/11 investigation, and an expanded list of Pakistani-harbored fugitives. Under Modi, India was also able to ensure that the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering will monitor Pakistan’s work against terrorist financing and report to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), despite strong opposition from China and the fact that Pakistan is not a member of the FATF. Finally, on July 30, 2015, an Indian court executed Yakub Memon, a middleman in the 1993 bombing attacks on Mumbai, making him the third man executed in India on charges of terrorism in the last 15 years. While this may have been an attempt at signaling India’s hard stance on terrorism Supreme Court and public opinion were divided on this result.

Still, in the years since the 1993 and 2008 attacks, a pattern has emerged of Pakistani government actors providing privileges to fugitives wanted by India and even actively thwarting Indian efforts to prosecute them. The abrupt shift on the Lakhvi voice samples is just the latest example of this. While the Modi government has attempted to pressure Pakistan to give up fugitives, expedite the 26/11 trials, and signal its hard stance on terrorism, these efforts are likely to yield more of the same hollow commitments from the Pakistani side and little substantive progress.