Washington, Oct. 17: A drive by US treasury secretary John Snow, launched on Wednesday with sanctions against a Karachi-based charity, widened yesterday with the designation of underworld king Dawood Ibrahim as a “global terrorist” with links to “al Qaida”.
A notice posted on the treasury department’s website following the naming of Dawood gives his location as Karachi and identifies him by his Pakistani passport bearing the number G869537. The notice lists Dawood’s Karachi phone number as 021-5892038.
Irrespective of the implications of yesterday’s US action on the mafia don’s transcontinental criminal operations, it puts President Pervez Musharraf in a spot.
Musharraf has denied that Dawood is in Pakistan and has never acknowledged that he holds a passport issued by Pakistani authorities.
The treasury department’s notice represents slow, but steady progress for deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani’s persistent pursuit of a demand, sometimes found irksome by Americans, that Musharraf should acknowledge the presence of Indian criminals in Pakistan and hand them over to New Delhi.
Juan Zarate, deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said yesterday that “this designation signals our commitment to identifying and attacking the financial ties between the criminal underworld and terrorism”.
He said: “We are calling on the international community to stop the flow of dirty money that kills. For the Ibrahim syndicate, the business of terrorism forms part of their larger criminal enterprise, which must be dismantled”.
The naming of Dawood by the Americans may have been a case of the mafia don overplaying his hand. As long as his illegal activities were only criminal in nature or spilled over into terrorism affecting India alone, Washington was content to obey Interpol alerts on Dawood or treat him merely as the leader of an underworld ring wanted in India.
But details provided during Dawood’s designation yesterday suggest that he may have crossed that line and helped al Qaida and, thereby, hurt US interests.
A fact sheet issued by the treasury department on Dawood’s activities said his crime syndicate has been involved in shipping drugs to the UK and Western Europe.
However, the syndicate’s smuggling routes from South Asia, West Asia and Africa are now shared with Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.
“Successful routes established over recent years by Ibrahim’s syndicate have been subsequently utilised by bin Laden. A financial arrangement was reportedly brokered to facilitate the latter’s usage of these routes,” the fact sheet asserted.
The Americans now have evidence, obviously gathered from interrogating captured Taliban and al Qaida members, that in the late 1990s, Dawood “travelled in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban”.
In an assertion that should please chief minister Narendra Modi, the treasury department said they have information that Dawood has been helping to finance “increasing attacks in Gujarat” by the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba.
On Wednesday, when Snow sanctioned Al Akhtar Trust, a Pakistani charity, any mention of India was carefully avoided, though the trust was closely linked to Lashkar, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and other outfits engaged in cross-border terrorism against India.
But in naming Dawood, Snow’s aides said the don’s syndicate has “consistently aimed to destabilise the Indian government through inciting riots, acts of terrorism, and civil disobedience”.
“Information, from as recent as fall 2002, indicates that Ibrahim has financially supported Islamic militant groups working against India”, such as Lashkar.
The fact sheet also referred to Dawood’s role in the 1993 Bombay blasts. For 10 years, India has tried to convince successive US administrations about Pakistan’s role in the 1993 bombings and the shelter provided to those — including Dawood — who conspired in the bombings.
The treasury department also announced its intention to ask the UN to follow Washington’s lead in naming Dawood as a global terrorist.
Yesterday’s action freezes any assets that Dawood may have in the US and prohibits transactions between him and American citizens.
Once the UN lists Dawood as a terrorist, all UN member states will be required to do so as well. That includes Pakistan.