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Dawood Is A Dubious Real Estate Player In Karachi: Dawn CEO

Dawn newspaper group chief Hamid Haroon says Pakistani readers and TV viewers are not so interested in Dawood 'as there are much larger and influential criminals impacting Pakistani society'

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International gangster Dawood Ibrahim is not a resident of Karachi or Pakistan but often visited the country. Making this interesting assertion in a discussion on the location and role of the wanted criminal, Hamid Haroon, CEO of Pakistan's Dawn Media Group, also revealed that Dawood Ibrahim was an active player in the Karachi real estate market albeit with a dubious record.

Speaking at the Mumbai Press Club on Thursday India-Pakistan relations, Haroon said if the Indian government was looking for Dawood, instead of Karachi, it should be searching for him in South Africa or Dubai. He conceded that Dawood should be pursued as he was a criminal and murderer, "as we should pursue other such criminals in Pakistan who are even worse," he added.

"I think of Dawood as a singularly unpleasant chap, though I have never seen him," he added.

Answering queries of his business operations in Karachi, the Group CEO of Dawn said he was known to be a real estate operator and was responsible for evicting residents of the Parsi Colony in Karachi as well as the destruction of similar older settlements. "A government regulator Hamid Makhan who tried to stop the Parsi Colony evacuation lost his job. There are those in government obviously close to Dawood," he said.

To another question whether Dawood attracted as much media attention in Pakistan as in India, Hamid Haroon answered in the negative, saying Pakistani readers and viewers were not so interested, "as there are much larger and influential criminals impacting Pakistani society."

In his main presentation to journalists at an event organised by the Mumbai Press Club and the Observer Research foundation (ORF), Hamid Haroon said that centuries of maritime trade and cultural interaction had created a separate region which he called the 'Indian Ocean Rim'. This included Karachi and the southern coastline of Pakistan and the western Indian coast upto the Malabar. These regions and communities were distant from both Islamabad and Delhi.

"These areas are peripheral to rulers in Delhi and Islamabad, whose understanding and origins of history are tied to the Mughul rule era," he said. On the other hand, the political separation of India and Pakistan and hostility that has followed in recent decades had cut off a thriving maritime community from each other and damaged their cultural and social roots. "The famous 'Bombil' or 'Bombay Duck' is no more available in Karachi's fish markets. Instead we have to do with a hideous fish called the 'Aal'," he complained.

By denying access to each other's fish harvesting zones, the two countries had starved and killed the fishermen communities in both countries, and denied the rich variety of fish available in the Indian Ocean areas to the coastal markets. "Instead they have flooded our markets with tasteless, inedible frozen Basa from Vietnam," Haroon said.

Haroon's answer to the neglect of the Indian Ocean Rim communities was to unleash a movement for allowing maritime trade and commerce and interaction of people from both the sides of the border. "India-Pakistan relations need change. In this era of globalisation, you can't leave things to civil servants in Delhi and Islamabad," he said. Taking a swipe at the Pakistan Army, he said the conservative power in the cantonments had also become a bulwark against change.

Tracing the strong roots of Sind and Mumbai on account of the Bombay Presidency under pre-1947 British rule, Haroon said even the civil architecture in Karachi and Mumbai is similar. But it goes even further right to the Indus Valley Civilisation with its seat in Mehergarh, Sind to the period between 7,500 B.C. and 1,500 B.C. "It is not a one-river but a two-river civilisation - the Hakda and the Indus - that disappear and reappear in India as the Saraswati, and Ghagar and Luney in Rajasthan."

The two countries need to mount joint archaeological expeditions to explore the thousands of years of common history, but political compulsions were working against this common cause, he said.

Answering questions, he said a coastal movement was necessary too for the restoration of the rights of fishermen of the two countries. Referring to the constant arrest of fisher folk who strayed into each other's territorial waters around the Sir Creek area, Haroon said it was the "unabashed display of power to apprehend the poorest of the other side, and put them away for years; and then follow it up with a display of munificence by the periodical release of these fishermen."

"There is very little of substance; and nothing that can't be sorted out," the Dawn CEO said, adding, "Unfortunately these fishermen have become the slaves of our anger."