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Surrender cloud on Dubai ‘deportation’

Mumbai, Feb. 20: There seemed to be confusion about whether Ejaz Pathan, an accused in the Bombay bomb blasts case, and Iqbal Sheikh, Dawood Ibrahim’s brother, had been “deported” after all.

Pathan and Iqbal, who were remanded in police custody today, said they had come to India to surrender. Pathan, who has been handed over to the CBI, will be in custody till February 27 and Iqbal till March 6.

Pathan, produced before the Tada court today, was wanted in connection with the Bombay bomb blasts and had helped to supply arms that were used in the explosions, CBI said. He also helped in the landing of arms in coastal Raigarh district in February 1993, it added.

CBI counsel A.S. Kulaye wanted 30 days’ remand for Pathan, but judge P.D. Khode allowed the agency seven days.

Pathan was a trusted aide of Ibrahim till they fell out five years ago.

The court had earlier issued a non-bailable warrant against him, but Pathan, who had fled to Dubai before the blasts with other accused, did not appear before the court. Asked why he was absconding, Pathan said he was afraid and that he was not much involved in the case.

Pathan’s counsel, Abbas Kazmi, told the court that his client had come to India on his own to surrender. He was arrested by the CBI mid-way at the airport.

The CBI’s statement did not contradict Pathan’s. “On a tip-off that Ejaz Pathan would come here by an Air-India flight from Dubai, a watch was kept at the airport and he was arrested on his arrival,” Kulaye said.

Dawood’s younger brother Iqbal, produced before additional chief metropolitan magistrate V.K. Sharma, has been charged with the murder of a customs informer, Ravindra Singh, killed on September 21, 1998. Iqbal has been charged under Sections 302 and 120 (b) of the IPC.

Iqbal also denied that he has been extradited from Dubai. His counsel Shyam Keswani claimed that Iqbal came to India on his own after Dubai asked him to leave as he did not have a valid passport.

Iqbal said he was fighting a case at the high court here after authorities cancelled his Indian passport. He has not sought the passport from any other country, his counsel said.

According to a police source, this fits in with the theory that the deported gangsters would like to settle down here. It has been suggested that Iqbal has been sent over with the approval of Dawood, as the don wants somebody to take over the business in Mumbai. Pathan’s extradition also hasn’t rattled Dawood because they are not on the same side now.

The murder of Sharad Shetty, Dawood’s man who looked after his betting business, in a Dubai hotel by Chhota Rajan’s men apparently set off this chain reaction.

Shetty’s murder, which happened on the eve of the World Cup, was a setback to Dawood, and on the eve of the Dubai Shopping Festival, a setback to UAE authorities, which, eager to promote Dubai as another Singapore, felt embarrassed.

It was also reacting to Indian and US pressure to deport Indian criminals. So first came the two Ghatkopar blast accused, and now Pathan and Iqbal.

Salem extradition

The government today asserted that underworld don Abu Salem, one of the main accused in the Bombay blasts case and currently behind bars in Portugal, will be handed over to India, adds our correspondent from Delhi.

“Members are aware we do not not have an extradition treaty with Portugal. But Portugal has been kind enough....they readily agreed that they will hand over Abu Salem to us,” minister of state for external affairs Digvijay Singh told the Rajya Sabha.

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