Tuesday, March 2, 2010


By Manas Paul

(This article was written following arrest of Dawood Ibrahim's henchman Dawood Merchant in Bangladesh)

Dawood Ibrahim seems to have embarked on his own Look East policy as his Pakistan sojourn nowadays is under increasing USA pressure and a growing sense of uncertainty in Karachi establishments due to recent Talibani trouble appears not so comfortable for him. Dawood is already in the USA list of top ten wanted terrorists of the world and is being hunted by almost all the intelligence services that include CIA, RAW, Mossad, MI 6 etc -barring, of course, its mentor ISI.
And if a crime syndicate like that of D-Company which is groomed, helped and abetted by the ISI was seriously thinking to shift and expand its power base to the East which place could be the most favourable destination other than Bangladesh? After all, it is in the shadowy world of intelligence community and Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh that ISI had long been entrenched; to be precise since November 1977- the year Zia ur Rehman formed the Bangladesh military intelligence- DGFI- in the line of ISI.
For record, it was the then ISI chief Lt. General Ghulam Jillani Khan , the man behind Afghan Mujahideen war against the Russians, and the then CIA chief Michael Hayden who had visited Dhaka in October 1977 and guided Zia to shape the DGFI.
Incidentally, it was the same Lt Gen Khan who had been Zia’s commander in Pakistan army. He came to Dhaka from Islamabad while Hayden flew down with a special flight from Bangkok- the mission was formation of DGFI.1
Within months of ISI and CIA chiefs’ advice, officials from newly formed DGFI were sent to CIA training centre at Camp Peary and then Hartford and later to ISI’s Islamabad training centre. The DGFI marriage with ISI is as old as that.
In Pakistan ISI turned Islamic mostly during the time of General Zia Ul Haque and so in Bangladesh DGFI followed suit under successive military and anti-India forces in the power.
Of course, things have evidently changed in Bangladesh over the last two years or so. Bangla Bhai was hanged and HUJI-B that masterminded assassination attempts on Sheikh Hasina was being hunted and forced to lie low. With Awami League in power ISI and its hand picked men in the Bangladesh intelligence community, especially in the DGFI, are also not in a position to openly support the Islamic fundamentalists as well as anti-Indian elements there. The public reaction in the wake of recent BDR mutiny, which is suspected to have been instigated by some Islamic fundamentalists, also points to the general mood, much to the dismay of the ISI.
In this phase there came the sudden development: arrest of Dawood Ibrahim’s henchmen- Abdur Rouf Daud Merchant, Jahid Sheikh, Arif Hussain et al in Bangladesh and disclosure of D-Company’s terror network.

The D-Company Network
For the last few days Bangladesh authorities are regularly briefing the media- and that too in details- about the arrest as well as subsequent confessions made by Abdur Rouf Daud Merchant and other Dawood syndicate members who had taken shelter in their country.
The focal point of the briefings as disclosed by Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner AKM Sahidul Haque and several other officials in important positions can be summed up in one single line : Dawood Ibrahim presently sheltered in Karachi was planning to set up a terror syndicate in Bangladesh through his second in command Dubai based Chhota Shakeel and that he already had succeeded in creating the base of the network with 150 activists including 20 women. Some influential businessmen and politicians helped him in this design.2
The briefings and subsequent Bangladesh media reports came handy for us who report from this bordering town to our local and national newspapers.
But there are some disturbing elements in the reports that cannot be ignored, at least sitting here in North East India, especially in Agartala due to our geo-strategic location.
Any such terror network next door is bound to pose serious threat to the security of Tripura and the North East region in general. Dawood Ibrahim’s direct involvement in Cox Bazaar arms supply for North East militants-ULFA in particular- at the instance of ISI makes this threat evident.
Now, with the D-Company’s presence in Bangladesh being established beyond doubt and recent spurt of the crime syndicate activities in the country coming to fore some questions automatically arise : why Dawood Ibrahim would like to have his terror network revived right now in Bangladesh?

There could be three possibilities
1. Dawood Ibrahim wants to strengthen his arms smuggling racket in this region especially after the fall of LTTE that had once been actively involved in the trade with the help of Karikal Muslims. That Dawood had a strong presence in the South East Asian countries could be proved by the fact that it was his same sword-arm Chhota Shakeel who in September 2000 launched a daredevil attack on another gangster Chhota Rajan in Bangkok

2. Dawood Ibrahim at the behest of ISI is now hell bent to strengthen Islamic terror in Bangladesh that had got severe beatings in recent time first by the hanging of Bangla Bhai, second with Sheikh Hasina Led Awami League returning to Dhaka with overwhelming majority and a growing nationwide awareness about the HUJI-B’s hell bent designs.

3. One of the assumptions that might sound audacious but could not be ruled out altogether is that-Dawood Ibrahim gang was being used by Islamic terror network, ISI or even the BDR mutiny mastermind in a conspiracy to assassinate Sheikh Hasina.
Earlier in late 1990s besides Islamic terrorist attacks there were also several attempts to assassinate Hasina by hired mercenaries- once by Mujib assassins in the Netherlands using Palestinian hitman Abu Hamid and then by using an unnamed French mercenary. Both the conspiracy hatched in a hotel known as Breda in the South Netherlands failed. Later, again in 2000 the same group sought LTTE’s support to send three Human Bombs to take off Hasina in exchange of 10 million dollar and assurance of allowing LTTE to use two islands in the Bay of Bengal Qutubdia and Sonadia for arms dumping en route to Jaffna . Indian intelligence unearthed the plan following interrogation report of Manoj Srivastava- an ISI asset in Kathmandu and also from other foreign secret services that monitored the Netherlands meeting. And on their tip off three Tamil human bombs sent for the purpose were nabbed- Subhalakshmi was arrested in Kolkata airport, Thaslima and Mahua (pseudo name) were picked up in Khagracherri and Khulna respectively. Dawood Ibrahim’s gang can also be pulled in for the same purpose. 1A
A close study of Dawood and his mentor ISI’s previous activities clearly points to all the three possibilities-but more strongly at the arms smuggling angle.

Bangladesh being strategically located in South East Asia and with her porous border with India, Myanmar and easy access to the Bay of Bengal could be the preferred conduit for arms smuggling rackets and D-Company besides Hawala racket and other shady trades is actively involved in arms smuggling in this continent.
As in view of the increased American presence in, and international pressure being mounted on Pakistan, for Dawood- one of the USA’s top ten list of absconding terrorists- Karachi or Quetta- is becoming increasingly insecure. As sheer uncertainty despite having an elected government in Islamabad prevails in Pakistan with growing Talibani menace inside its territory D-Company is also facing tough time ahead. Dawood Ibrahim has several reasons to be jittery that would make him think to transfer his crime empire to some other country which would be less risky but favorable for his trades.
Dubai could have been the favourite destination for him but operating from there was also being extremely dangerous again due to American surveillance and presence of almost all other countries’ secret services there and that include Mossad as well as RAW. Other Muslim countries in the Gulf or Africa are also not in a mood to house an extra trouble called Dawood Ibrahim.
But Bangladesh is different-especially for ISI’s longstanding influence and a considerable anti-Indian sentiment at the establishment.
So, in the changed circumstances it could be assumed without running the risk of being excessively paranoid that the ISI (and their DGFI cohorts) might have also resorted to classical tradecraft of intelligence gathering tactic by using crime syndicate and underworld characters-here it is being called Dawood Ibrahim.
In this game Dawood would be playing the second fiddle in Bangladesh for the ISI. This means it would lessen direct participation from Karachi as well as Kachukhet (DGFI HQ in Bangladesh) and would also have complete deniability. In turn the ISI would help Dawood to run his arms smuggling which is a highly profitable business.
How profitable it is can be gauged from the fact that a Chinese automatic rifle which is sold to the smugglers $500 in eastern Myanmar would be re-sold at $2,500 to the North East Indian militants. In North East a brand new Chinese version of AK series rifle- T 56 -is sold at Rs 2.5-3 lakh and if it is second hand arms then the price would come down to Rs 1.5 lakh. Chinese M-20 pistol or .30 MARCOS pistol are sold at Rs 1-1.5 lakh each. The magazines are cheap and sold at Rs 100 a piece. 3

D-Company’s involvement in arms supply
Dawood Ibrahim had long been involved in arms smuggling with his clients spread through out South Asian region- right from ULFA to LTTE. A glaring example of Dawood Ibrahim’s arms smuggling at the behest of ISI and Bangladeshi intelligence apparatus for the anti Indian establishment outfits is the Cox Bazaar arms case. Bangladesh news media reported that investigation by the present Bangladesh government established beyond doubt that ISI had planned the Cox Bazaar arms supply in April 2004 with the help of Dawood Ibrahim syndicate for ULFA. ISI had taken active help from its accomplices in Bangladeshi Intelligence like former National Security Intelligence (NSI) Director General Brigadier General (Retd) Md Abdur Rahim and his junior former director (security) Wing Commander (Retd) Sahabuddin Ahmed. ISI arranged the financial support from ARY group of Dubai. The group is owned by a Pakistani Abdur Razzak Yaqoob- a close associate of ISI.
According to the statements given by the two NSI officials to the Bangladesh CID recently they had met with ISI official Brigadier Mogisuddin and Col Shahed Mahmud working in the Pakistan High Commission. Brig. Gen. Rahim had also met ISI Director General in London. Col. Sahabuddin in his confessional statements in the court and to the CID said, the ARY Group officials came to Dhaka and NSI DG Rahim held meeting with them at his personal Safe House. A meeting was also held at his residence. In that meeting Ulfa military chief Paresh Barua, two officials of ARY Group and officials of Pakistan High Commission were present.
A report said Dawood Ibrahim was also present in the meeting.
The involvement of Dawood Ibrahim in Bangladesh was deep rooted. Not only he was reported to have visited Khulna and Dhaka in 1995 but also held series of meetings with a highly influential businessman Tarique Rahman, his friend Giasuddin and the NSI head in April 2004 at Dubai hotel. ISI had arranged the meetings. 4
However, it was since early 2000 Dawood seemed to have strengthened its undercover syndicate in Bangladesh.
He had sent his own men to Bangladesh and created a network of his own some of whom are highly paid. The finance would be managed again by ARY group at the behest of ISI and money would flow via Western Union. Arrested Indian national Arif Hussain confessed that he had received Rs 1,5 000 taka from Dubai only a week before.
Bangladesh detectives are now readying to probe into the Western Union money transfer as well as some branches of National Bank role in the financial transactions.
Dawood’s clout in the Bangladesh politics extended far more than it was previously anticipated. Monirul Islam, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detective Branch), said, names of several political leaders and influential people surfaced during interrogation.( Daud Merchant, Jahid Sheik and Arif Hussain).. We suspect that influential people maintain close links with Dawood to get his support in expanding their businesses in Dubai”.
Recent fall of LTTE is also a factor that should be considered. LTTE had once been carrying out arms smuggling and reports said they had also helped ULFA at a point of time with weaponry.
It was in late 1980, wrote Subir Bhamik of BBC and an expert on South Asia issues, that one Capt Rajan of LTTE met ULFA Leader and introduced him to a ‘arms dealer of Tamil origin in Southeast Asia , so that the ULFA could access the thriving weapons blackmarket in Southeast Asia...Some of the top arms dealers in Southeast Asia are people of Tamil origin — the Karikal Muslims. Karikal like Pondicherry was a French colony until 1952 and its large Muslim population settled down in French Indo-China in large numbers . Those who settled down in Cambodia had strong connections with the Khmer Rouge — and Prabhakaran used them for securing a steady supply of weapons and ammunition when Delhi sent the IPKF to Sri Lanka. Some of these people were introduced to Paresh Barua and through them the ULFA got access to fresh supplies of Chinese arms by these arms traders from Karikal”.5
Now, with the elimination of LTTE and a 30-year long bloody and heavily armed conflict coming to an end in Sri Lanka a void in the region’s illegal arms movement across the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea has also been created.
Who could now take the charge of the illegal weapons that were already out of factory – in China and other places- that could be supplied to NE militants as well Islamic terrorists of Afghanistan or Pakistan or say in Malaysia or for that matter in the Philippines?
Who could be middle men worth billions of dollars and a strong network under his command to handle massive arms consignments?
Certainly the only name that comes in mind is Dawood Ibrahim who has all these credentials and above all blessings of an establishment like ISI.
And from where the arms would come? The answer is : traditional supply source China.

Chinese arms route
As far as the arms smuggling in this region is concerned China is certainly the storehouse even though its government is not directly involved.
According to intelligence reports the arms supply mostly meant for the North East militants and Islamic elements of Bangladesh comes from Yunan province of China through a syndicate called ‘Black House’. The Black House erases the Chinese markings from the weaponry and then sends the consignments to Myanmar and Thailand. In fact, some other reports indicated that Chinese arms supply had been intensified after 1998 May Pokhran nuclear test by India.
World’s most prestigious defence think tank Jane’s Intelligence Review said China has replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to insurgent groups in India’s Northeast and Myanmar.
It said, United Wa State Army (UWSA) rebel group in Myanmar acts as the middleman between Chinese arms manufacturers and insurgent groups in the Northeast, with most weapons routed through China’s Yunnan province.
This UWSA in eastern Myanmar, according to the JIR, receives the maximum volume of Chinese arms and has emerged as the principal supplier to Indian insurgent groups.
JIR pointed out that the arms seizure in 2001 in Myanmar at Tamu near Indian border revealed that the Chinese arms were meant for UNLF of Manipur and possibly other factions. 6
Assam’s IGP (Special Branch) Khagen Sarma had disclosed: Arms consignments through a strong smuggling network continue to come to the North-East from China. In 1997 a Chinese arms consignment was caught along the Bhutan border.
He then added: “There is no evidence of the direct involvement of the Chinese Government in the illegal arms trade even though some sort of support from the Government to the activities cannot be ruled out”. 7
The arms usually come from Yunnan to places where Kachin Independent Army guerrillas are active in Myanmar- mostly ‘at a place called Ruili’ 8 and from there it took no time to reach India or Bangladesh shores though on the way it crosses a route dominated by many other Burmese guerrillas.
It is, however, not only Myanmar but also Cambodia and Thailand that had remained traditional route for Chinese arms.

Most of the weapons that the NE militants once used were the firearms discarded by Khmer Rouge. Those arms were also mostly Chinese made. But after the fall of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge weapons getting older, Thailand and Myanmar became the favored routes for the arms smugglers.
A Union Home ministry report said: “Thailand has a flourishing clandestine arms bazaar located in the Three Pagodas Pass area opposite Burma’s Karen state and along the Ranong coast adjoining Tenasserim division along the country’s coastline.9
In all the places it so happened that the Chinese arms supplied by the mysterious Black House are routed through Thailand and Myanmar with the help of guerrillas belonging to various outfits to Indian border or to Bangladesh ports. While the Burmese guerrillas help transportation the arms supply are done by the criminal syndicates like D-Company or often by terrorist organization like LTTE.
Now, in absence of LTTE -as it appears -it would be Dawood Ibrahim who might like to get involved with more intensity in the trade with his ‘Eastern headquarters’ located somewhere in Bangladesh-may be Dhaka or Chittagong. After all he would have ready market for his wherewithal and hardware among the NE militants-ULFA, NSCN, PLA, UNLF , DHD, NLFT, ATTF etc Islamic Terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan and certainly those Bangladesh’s own Talibani elements.
One more point that cannot be ignored is how openly the Bangladesh authorities are giving away the details of the D Company arrests and confessions to the media. This is certainly not a usual practice especially in case of such a sensational matter. Is it an attempt on the part of the Bangladesh establishment to put the ISI and Dawood Ibrahim blueprint in wide open and jeopardize the entire game plan?

Source: 1A. Media reports from India and Bangladesh available in internet. 1.The Fulcrum Of Eastern Evil by M K Dhar, 2. The Daily Star and other Bangladeshi newspapers available in internet, 3.China emerging as main source of arms to N-E rebels: Jane’s Review By Manu Pubby, 4.Bangladesh: BNP- Jamaat Web -China Connection By Bhaskar Roy. 5. Paresh Baruah should learn from Prabhakaran’s death by Subir Bhaumik, 6.China emerging as main source of arms to N-E rebels: Jane’s Review By Manu Pubby, 7. The Sentinel,(November 9, 2006),
8.Insurgent groups in N-E getting help from China? By Indrani Bagchi.

Written on 11-06-2009

1 comment:

  1. Sir. Its really a astonishing facts about todays terrorism treats to our North East. I personally gone in depth of your writing.Some thing surely to be inflicting through this article.
    The way in which modern terrorism is going on, really becoming melancholy for the whole world. As our North East being the another gateway for our neighboring countries, the risk is quite wide.
    Though the current situation of Tripura shows much improvement in comparision with its dreaded terrorist attacks and happenings of pasts, It may be unfair not to think about the transmission of current situations which is going on in the other NE states as Tripura is now becoming the corridor for Bangladesh.
    The inflict of modern terrorism speaks and shows the nuisance in all its way.
    Though I am not so much authorized to tell in such a way but being as an independent young mind, I should say some effect of bluddy corruption is liable for this also.
    We can do all the thing what is necessary to stop terrorism, but some unknown corrupting mind still tries to prevail the evil.
    Many question arise when we see some failure to stop terrorism; so thinking should goes in other way.
    I don't know wheather m been able to express my little part of thought or not. but Your writing on this fact really helped me to think in another way..
    But Sir, again thanks to you to increase our knowledge...
    I expect your writing on current IPL mesa care and on Ajmal Kasab's fact.
    Hope to see nother interesting thoughts from you.
    Thanking again Sir, I must say great.. and awesome.