Hardcore operations man. Soft-spoken and genteel in the Lakhnavi mould. Team leader. And
curiously, chain-smoker of India Kings cigarettes. These are some of the appellations colleagues use for Sayed Asif Ibrahim, an IPS officer of the 1977 batch who takes over on December 31 as chief of the Intelligence Bureau. He’s the first Muslim to head an agency that’s at the centre of India’s security establishment. It fills a gap that has been long felt. It comes, however, at a politically loaded juncture—the UPA-II is going into election mode, with less than 18 months left for its normal schedule to play out. The appointment is being seen as a counter to the impression that Muslims don’t make it to key posts in intelligence. But it cannot subtract from Ibrahim’s track record, during which he handled key responsibilities like the Kashmir desk and the cyber security cell.
Ibrahim has had direct experience in anti-terror operations. He had zeroed in on jehadi leaders like Maulana Masood Azhar, who founded Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Omar Sheikh, of Daniel Pearl infamy—even playing a role in the latter’s arrest. Much before Azhar’s arrest and the exchange drama that followed, Ibrahim is said to have written to his seniors that Azhar “was the key to crucial anti-India developments in Pakistan”. And an officer of Delhi police’s special cell says, “At a time none of us were aware of the Indian Mujahideen, I remember Ibrahim telling us, ‘Don’t look to Pakistan after every terror attack. Look within too.’”
Another area of Ibrahim’s expertise, say colleagues, is psy-ops. One close associate says, “In Kashmir, he gradually started supplying editing and publishing software like QuarkXPress to Urdu newspapers with an anti-India stance. He even organised training sessions for their journalists and design staff. Slowly but surely, these publications ended up softening their anti-India stance. He turned the tables on them in one masterstroke.”
Ibrahim has seen rough times too: as police chief of Gwalior district, he came under scrutiny when a rival gang attacked a police convoy and killed Munna Singh, a dacoit it was ferrying. Perhaps the only other awkward blip on his career scan occurred in 1993, after the Mumbai blasts: it turned out that convicted film star Sanjay Dutt had procured his general arms licence from Gwalior during the time Ibrahim was the police chief of the district. A few years ago, he was still attending court hearings related to that case.
It is said the late Madhavrao Scindia, Congress leader and from the former ruling family of Gwalior—with whom Ibrahim was close during his time in the district—gave him a leg up by choosing him as OSD when he became a Union minister. He then became OSD to Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, and went on to join the Intelligence Bureau. There was no coming back to Madhya Pradesh. As one of his IPS batchmates from the state puts it, “He left Gwalior in 1986 and has never looked back. In any case, if you spend seven or more years with the Intelligence Bureau, you generally become part of that system.”
Apropos Sayed Asif Ibrahim being appointed IB chief (Smokin’ Abe, Dec 10), we can call ourselves secular only when we stop referring to an individual’s religion or caste when writing about him in a non-secular matter, as this is.
> Bonita Very well said
It would appear, there is no better espionage than internal security. We should not be in a position to say, that Pakistan causes bomb blasts in India, when the people there, feel, that they are acting in patriotism. If a state says, that another state sponsors terrorism, then govt.'s loose credibility, even the state who suspects. How can anyone brook the idea, that a state has sent civilians to wreck havoc, and the govt. had to acknoledge loss of life, property, and limb, of the very many, as a result, and consequence?
The greatest compliment anybody can pay an IB chief is to fail to recognise him. If the new IB chief works behind the scenes to ensure that ordinary people can live normal lives then the absence of lurid headlines will be the greatest proof of his competence.
Best wishes to Mr.Ibrahim. To paraphrase: "May you live in uninteresting times".
Psychology of Indian politicians, is that if a particular group of people is doing well, then it is fashionable to 'tame' them by reserving seats against them, and thus smearing all the hard work they have done through a life-time, with favoritism s**t.
Thus, for eg., ex-chief Raman wants a female to head the intelligence, and now, someone 'favoured' a minority member to head it.
Rubbishing talent for imagined 'equality'.
Subjective criteria is in play in any posting that requires one ( or a few ) persons own feelings, rather than expecting the candidates to objectively comapre their qualification for the job. In this kind of 'selection process', females stand a 'natural' advantage, as anybody who has a female competitor would know all too well.
I am sure all agree, that Gender is very powerful, and when the candidate is female and the boss is male ( or female, for that matter ), even traditionally powerful factors like religion and caste become secondary.
Objective assessment for any posting is important, and a systematic method of objectively analysing career achievments alone will ensure that real talent is not neglected and bureaucrats are not disadvantaged / demoralised.
We can call ourselves a secular country when we stop referring to an individual's religion or caste when writing about him. Until that day comes, we can keep fooling ourselves.
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