FOR a man whose estimated worth is a cool Rs 2,000 crore, Dawood Ibrahim, 42, leads a curiously unostentatious life in Karachi today. No reflected starlight from Bollywood reaches his world now; the archmafioso is out of that orbit.
Restricted from travelling freely across the globe—following the Interpol alert the Indian government placed for his involvement in the 1993 Bombay blasts—Dawood, according to intelligence records, has stepped out of Pakistan only once this year.
He went to Saudi Arabia in July for Umrah. So did brothers Noora and Mushtaqin, and wife Mehjebin—but they travelled on separate dates. He is reported to have visited Singapore and Mauritius last year too, but has not been to London, his favourite haunt in the heady '80s, for over three years now.
But even in Karachi—where, according to latest intelligence reports, he lives in a sprawling, fortified house in the upmarket Defence area—life isn't exactly tension-free. There are reports that the ISI has been demanding its pound of flesh for providing him a safe haven and he has been forced to pay up.
According to insiders, Dawood is now pumping money into the construction business in Karachi and has already built three huge shopping complexes and plazas.
Dubai sources say that apart from keeping in touch with his business partners, Dawood and his wife have kept contact with friends in the UAE. But this doesn't make it any easier for him to visit Dubai. "He just can't lead a normal life over there. Till recently, he used to go to Dubai at least twice a month but ever since the Gulshan Kumar killing, he's not taking any chances," says a friend. Life in Karachi, despite the wealth, is comparatively staid. And somewhat straitjacketed. Dawood is under constant surveillance of the Pakistan government.
But Dubai is still a safehouse for the D-Company; Dawood's own visa—valid till the year 2000—has been sponsored by Sheikh Sagar bin Abdullah Hamil al Gasni, who is connected to the royal family of Sharjah; that of his trusted aide, Mohamed Dossa, has been sponsored by the chief of immigrations in Ajman. In times of need, the UAE government has stood by him. Last year, for instance, when the Bahrain police arrested Anis—on an Interpol alert issued by India—it was Sheikh Gasni who bailed him out by filing a false case of cheating against him! As is the law in the UAE, the Bahrain police had to surrender Anis to the Sheikh on a petty fine of 1,000 dirhams. "There's no way we can get any of them back till they enjoy the government's support," says a CBI official. For the UAE, there's no reason to withdraw that support. Yet.