Zubina Zareen aka Mehjabeen Sheikh answered her phone at home, greeted the caller politely and when he asked to speak with her husband, she said “he is asleep”.
A perfectly innocuous conversation.
Except Mehjabeen’s husband happens to be Dawood Ibrahim, the most wanted man in India.
Times Now reporters made six calls to the number mentioned on a phone bill which was part of the documented evidence India was planning to hand over to Pakistan during the NSA-level talks scheduled for August 23rd.
The dreaded don’s wife answered, confirmed she was in Karachi and that her husband was at home, asleep.
Is it really that easy to contact an underworld don? How do crime reporters usually go about contacting sources in the underworld?
Policemen, Punters and Other Usual Sources
“The mafia in Delhi is less organised and much more accessible,” says a senior crime reporter with a leading news channel. The police themselves often provide access to their informers who, in turn, have a line to crime bosses.
Then, there are government dossiers, long documents that go into hundreds of pages. If a reporter has the patience to comb through the document, he or she may get lucky.
In Delhi, criminal bosses are willing to talk face-to-face, but the Mumbai underworld is far more careful.
These dons are usually available through their conduits who they trust and who can vouch for a reporter’s credibility. It can be a junior cop, an informant, a lawyer, an arrested gang member anyone...
— Toral Varia, Senior Journalist
It’s also a question of the individual don’s personality, quirks and how much they crave the media limelight. Dawood Ibrahim, for example, is usually difficult to get in touch with.
Chhota Shakeel doesn’t talk to journalists till he has broken his fast (iftaar) during the month of Ramzaan. ‘Hindu Don’ Ravi Pujari on the other hand loves publicity. He will pick his phone himself and gladly give a quote.
– Senior Crime Reporter for a Leading News Channel
Times Now Newsbreak: A Bit of Luck and Quick Thinking
Reliable sources in Times Now told The Quint that the documented evidence India was about to hand over to Pakistan did indeed contain Dawood’s Karachi number. However, the last three digits of the number were blurred.
The government neglected to omit Dawood’s Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PCTL) customer ID though. With the customer ID, the number was easily obtained from the PCTL website.
We didn’t expect that the number would work. When it began to ring, we were taken by surprise. Luckily, someone had the presence of mind to quickly start recording the conversation.
— Source within Times Now
The real surprise though is how easily and clumsily Mehjabeen let slip her husband’s location.
(With inputs from Abhishek Narendra Singh)