Nawab Malik's arrest by ED: The latest episode in Center versus State drama in Maharashtra

Malik faced heavy backlash from BJP for his continued onslaught on Centre for misuse of central agencies. BJP leader Kirit Somaiya had even hinted that Malik would soon find himself in ED’s crosshairs

Nawab Malik's arrest by ED: The latest episode in Center versus State drama in Maharashtra

Gautam S Mengle

The latest episode in the Center versus State drama in Maharashtra politics unfolded on Wednesday, with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arresting Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik.

Officials from the ED reached Malik’s residence at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday and left with him at around 7:30 a.m. Malik was taken to the office in South Mumbai. After over seven hours of questioning, Malik was arrested and charged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

It is the ED’s contention that Malik is linked to a case involving Iqbal Kaskar, brother of wanted terror accused Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar. Iqbal was taken into custody by the ED earlier this month in connection with his criminal activities on behalf of Dawood.

The ED’s action sparked off furious protests by NCP party members who gathered in large numbers outside the ED office within hours, and the Mumbai Police subsequently imposed strict bandobast at the spot as well as around it. MVA leaders and ministers were quick to condemn the move saying that the Center was using central agencies for its own agenda once again.

Malik has been engaged in a bitter battle with central agencies since last year, particularly the Narcotics Control Bureau, ever since the drug enforcement agency arrested his son-in-law Sameer in January 2021.

The same year, immediately after the arrest of Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Malik launched a series of attacks against the NCB and its zonal director Sameer Wankhede. Malik has accused Wankhede of a string of serious misdemeanors, including framing innocent people in drug cases, lying about his caste while taking up his government job and obtaining a bar licence despite not being of legal age.

Wankhede recently received a clean chit in connection with the cast allegations while on Wednesday even as Malik was being questioned by the ED, Wankhede visited the Kopri police station in Thane for enquiries regarding the bar licence issue.

As expected, Malik has faced heavy backlash from the BJP for his continued onslaught and BJP leader Kirit Somaiya had earlier hinted that Malik would soon find himself in the ED’s crosshairs. The very next day, the ED started conducting raids at Waqf Board properties in Maharashtra.

Interestingly, the FIR which makes up the basis of the ED’s action against Iqbal as well as Malik is itself mired in controversy. In 2017, the anti extortion cell of the Thane Police had arrested Iqbal from Mumbai charging him with extortion and criminal intimidation. Iqbal was alleged to have forcibly taken over residential flats as well as extorted money from builders Jewelers and Businessman based in Thane. He was arrested by former encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma who was at the time leading the Thane Anti-Extortion Cell (AEC).

The same Pradeep Sharma is currently in judicial custody after being arrested by the National Investigation Agency in connection with the Antilla explosive case. Sharma is alleged to have been part of the plot which involved planting an explosive Laden vehicle outside Businessman Mukesh Ambani's residence and staged encounter of certain people who were to be accused of the crime. The entire plan was allegedly masterminded by Sachin Waze and Thane resident Mansukh Hiren was allegedly murdered to prevent the truth from being made public.

Ever since Waze, and later Sharma, were arrested by the NIA, the BJP has lost no opportunity to use the case to criticise the MVA government in Maharashtra. Sharma had also contested the Recent assembly elections in Maharashtra on a Shiv Sena ticket, a party that is currently locked in bitter battle with the BJP. Further, Sharma and his fellow officers at the Thane AEC are also facing several other allegations of misconduct including misuse of power to intimidate and extort civilians, something that the BJP has fully used to create the “vasooli sarkar” narrative against the MVA government.

This same FIR, filed by Sharma in 2017, was used as the basis by the ED, to start its own investigations against Iqbal and take him into custody. The ED has also based its probe on another FIR, registered by the NIA, against Dawood, which accuses the wanted terrorist of orchestrating terrorist activities in India.

On Wednesday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said that using Dawood’s name was a favourite tactic of the BJP, which had also been used against him 25 years ago. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also used Dawood’s name as a promise in his free election campaigning saying that if elected he would bring back Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar to India and make him answer for his crimes, a promise that we are yet to see fulfilled even as the country enters the third year of his second term as prime minister.

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