July 24: Did Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most wanted man who is also listed as an international terrorist by the US, attend a wedding reception of his daughter held in Dubai on Saturday' Indian intelligence agencies were frantically seeking the elusive answer to this question on Sunday. If the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which had despatched a team to Dubai looking for Dawood, has the answer, the agency is not talking.
If Dawood was present in Dubai and met some of his close friends in the Indian entertainment industry at a different place and time on the same day, the whole operation was executed with high precision. And he thumbed his nose at Indian law enforcement and intelligence again. Equally significantly, perhaps, he also hoodwinked US intelligence.
At the same time, an independent intelligence source said the FBI was “not exactly screaming for Dawood’s head”. “Dawood is not on the FBI’s priority list, but the agency would not mind if he drops into its lap,” said the source. “They (FBI) are not going to do India’s job for India.”
“They were here, keeping an eye out for Dawood and registering the information away for future references,” said the source. “There is no hard and fast rule that the agency should share the information with their Indian counterparts.”
As far as anyone, including Indian intelligence agents, knew, Dawood was not spotted at a reception held at Dubai’s Grand Hyatt Hotel on Saturday where his daughter Mahrukh and her husband Junaid, son of former Pakistan criketer Javed Miandad, received well-wishers and treated them to a lavish dinner. The event ' where the newlyweds arrived at 10.45 pm, though they were scheduled to be there at 9.30 pm ' lasted until around 1 am.
Did the couple pass by any separate event purportedly attended by Dawood prior to coming to the Grand Hyatt' Or did they go to that “top-secret” event after the Grand Hyatt reception'
Sources said a dummy booking was made at Burj Al Arab, the region’s most expensive hotel and it was as if an event was taking place there. But, again, there was no indication that Dawood was present there either.
Other sources said a “party” was scheduled to be held at the Emirates Tower hotel, which is a 10-minute drive from the Grand Hyatt. Several cars were seen proceeding from the Grand Hyatt towards the Emirates Towers area some one hour into the reception at the Grand Hyatt. It could not be established that they entered Emirates Towers. Some 300 to 350 people are believed to have attended the reception at the Grand Hyatt’s ornate Baniyas ballroom. The hotel was told to expect 500 guests and was paid for that many.
The ballroom was decked out in fresh flowers with candles flickering all around as soft Hindi music ' mostly popular film songs ' entertained the guests.
Security personnel, of the hotel and the private agency Vanguard Security Service hired by Miandad, kept the media and other unwanted guests away from the ballroom. A Dubai Police sniffer dog stood by.It was clear that intelligence agents from several countries were present among the media personnel but all of them had credentials to prove their affiliation to one or another newspaper, radio or television team.
The hosts ' the Miandad family and a few unidentified members of the Dawood Ibrahim family (none of them appearing on India’s most wanted list) ' had checked into the hotel several days in advance.
Some invitees who attended the reception said they were closely scrutinised before they entered the ballroom and were told not to take any pictures. Those with cameraphones were told to leave them outside the hall.
Javed Miandad, dressed in a formal black suit, and his wife, draped in a silver-coloured sari, received the guests. More than half the guests were single males.
No high-profile guests, except former Pakistan cricket captain Asif Iqbal, were seen among the guests, those who attended the event said.“It was an impressive candle-lit dinner,” said one Pakistani guest. “There were flowers everywhere.”
Strategically placed giant television screens showed the arrival of guests. Private guards were in control of the cameras which filmed the event.
Dinner was an elaborate affair of some 15 vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and a large array of salads and desserts.
The dais for the newlyweds was an all-white affair except for a green sofa where the couple sat as guests ' gifts not allowed ' went up to greet them.A few of the guests had arrived several hours before the reception as was evident since they had baggage with them.
Mehrukh and Junaid met in London where both are studying and fell in love. The families approved the union and the nikaah was solemnised on July 9.
Miandad has announced he would hold a grand reception in Karachi on August 4. He had said he was hosting the Dubai event to facilitate the attendance of many of his Indian and other friends who might have difficulty travelling to Pakistan.
Sources said the bride's father paid for the entire Dubai episode of the marriage, but no costestimate was available. However, a safe bet would be Rs 2,500 per head for Saturday’s dinner alone.