It is the growing friction between ethnic groups like the Mohajirs and the Dawood Ibrahim gang that perhaps lent credence to the recent rumour of his trusted aide, Chhota Shakeel, being bumped off in the streets of Karachi. Members of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (mqm) have of late been upset with Dawood for making inroads into many of the illegal activities that they considered their privilege. And so it was thought that they were hired by Chhota Shakeel's rivals to execute his killing.
On the evening of August 17, at 8.10 pm, a grenade was thrown from a moving car which killed a child and wounded seven in Karachi. This went unreported the next day in the Pakistani press although three days later The News from Islamabad talked of an encounter between two gangs—one from Mumbai and another from Karachi.
But Mumbai, by August 18, was abuzz with reports of mafioso Dawood's trusted lieutenant Chhota Shakeel being shot dead in Karachi. The details that followed said that he had apparently been shot in the head and stomach with a stengun while travelling in a car, and that one of his men was injured. Rival gangster Ejaz Pathan, who had exited the D-Company some years earlier, was believed to be behind the killing. The Pakistani press reported that Pathan and Chandaru Kalia had been seriously wounded.
What either side didn't confirm was whether the attack was on Chhota Shakeel. Tariq Jamil, dig Karachi, told the press that no one going by the name of Shakeel had been slain. He even denied the existence of anyone by that name in Karachi. Shakeel and Dawood themselves contradicted the reports on August 19. The Maharashtra government too denied the reports. But the rumour managed to stir panic in Mumbai about the possibility of reprisal killings between the gangs, close on the heels of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. Who started this well-orchestrated rumour and why?
"There is no doubt that the reports were deliberate," deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal told Outlook. While announcing a probe into the affair, minister of state for home Kripashankar Singh pointed out that forces wanting to create tensions in the city were most likely behind the false reports. Police commissioner M.N. Singh says his office had received a call from someone claiming to be a newspaper reporter the day before the rumours started. "The person asked if Dawood had been killed in Karachi. I said I had received no such information. The next day, rumours about Chhota Shakeel's death started doing the rounds," he says. The probe is expected to establish the identity of the reporter.
Police sources in Mumbai feel that the shooting in Karachi on that date may have been for real, but the rival Chhota Rajan gang and the Indian intelligence may have deliberately converted it into a rumour of Chhota Shakeel's death in an attempt to 'expose' Dawood's whereabouts and his aide. "The Pakistani president has consistently been denying that Dawood is in Pakistan and is being supported by the isi. By floating this rumour, they were trying to establish that Dawood and Shakeel were in Karachi," says the source.
While the Mumbai police confirm that both Dawood and Shakeel are indeed in Karachi, their Pakistani counterparts feign ignorance, even though it is an open secret that the two are well entrenched in Pakistan's commercial capital. In fact, Dawood's underworld activities are spilling out into the streets of the city.
Evidence of that came when two D-Company operatives who masterminded the failed plot to eliminate Chhota Rajan fell out with each other and one killed the other.Both Shoaib Khan alias Rummy Clubwala, and Ibrahim Bholoo, a former political activist and a businessman with shady deals had arranged a hit team from Pakistan last year to eliminate Rajan.
On January 8 this year, Bholoo visited Shoaib's Karachi residence, but never returned home. Police suspect he was murdered. But his disappearance led to armed men backing Shoaib and Bholoo fighting out their battles on the streets of Karachi.
For many weeks after Bholoo's disappearance, his family held several press conferences and sought police help to get Shoaib arrested but failed, courtesy Dawood's blocking. The matter was finally 'settled' in the premises of a city court, amidst a gunbattle between the two groups, in which one person died and many were wounded.
It was this shootout that forced Pakistan to send its operatives to Dawood to tell him to stop his support to Shoaib. "We told him that he cannot turn Karachi into Bombay," a government official told Outlook. "We told him Shoaib had killed a man who was also working for us and that we wanted him (Shoaib) and the body of our former informer. And he agreed. Otherwise, we would not have been able to arrest Shoaib."
It is just another indication of Dawood's growing clout in the city. More and more people are turning to him and his men to resolve monetary and business disputes and for sorting out bottlenecks in their dealing with the government. Not surprisingly, the D-Company's increasing association with the business class is infuriating Karachi's powerful political touts, who believe Dawood is robbing them of their livelihood. Says a well-known fixer in Karachi: "Earlier people used to come to us. Whether it was for the issue of an unauthorised and illegal multi-storey building or business disputes. But now everyone is going to Dawood."
No wonder there were celebrations in the Karachi underworld when a few weeks back Pervez Musharraf announced the regularisation of over 250 illegally constructed multi-storey buildings in Karachi. Several of these have been built through D-Company investments. And one of these—with a huge glass crown atop it on Karachi's main boulevard of Shatter Fail—is personally owned by Jam Memo or Tiger Memon, the man who triggered the Bombay blasts.
With clout and power of the kind that Dawood wields, it isn't exactly difficult for him to attract enemies. And with Chhota Shakeel controlling D-Company operations in Mumbai from Karachi, Chhota Shakeel too has earned recognition as Dawood's strongman and made enemies both in Mumbai and Karachi. Which is why people were more than willing to buy the news of his killing although it is not yet known if there was actually a plot to kill him.
And Priyanka Kakodkar
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