Once again, Pakistan is being subject to the usual US imperial arrogance — this time on the Raymond Davis case. We have had threats of all kinds simply to get a murderer released and even President Barack Obama has jumped into the fray, imperially claiming that Davis has diplomatic immunity! Of course US presidents, in recent times at least, have been known for their lies, with Bush commencing his Iraq war on the lie that it had weapons of mass destruction and Colin Powell brazenly lying to the UN Security Council about it. So Obama may be following yet another Bush tradition, after his exuberant adoption of his predecessor’s policy on drones. Such imperial hubris, reflected in the threats that aid will be cut off and planned meetings postponed, should be seen as an opportunity by the Pakistani state to re-evaluate its relationship with the US and restructure it more favourably. If the whole ‘strategic’ edifice is under threat over the issue of Raymond Davis, one really wonders whether there ever was a relationship to begin with. Take the example of our longstanding strategic ally China: Has this relationship ended despite the targeted killings of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan?
Perhaps if the US could see beyond its imperial arrogance, it would realise that right now its own interests would be damaged far more than the suffering the common man in Pakistan goes through — as opposed to the ruling elite — especially in terms of the so-called ‘war on terror’. But the US rarely sees reality beyond its blinkered vision and its contemptuous arrogance towards the Pakistani state is so immense that it has chosen not to have a lawyer represent Davis in the Lahore High Court!
It is also amusing and ironic to see the Obama administration, as well as US lawmakers, suddenly accuse Pakistan of not abiding by international law, given how the US not only flouts international law at every opportunity but also refuses to accept the International Criminal Court and any International Court of Justice advisory opinion that goes against it (remember the Nicaragua harbour mining case?) it is hardly in a position to adopt the high moral ground on international law. Only recently, the US violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it had put its signature to when it signed its nuclear deal with India. By agreeing to this deal, America contravened Articles I and III(2) of the NPT, which, amongst other restrictions, forbid transfer of sensitive and dual-use technology to states that have not signed the treaty.
However, what is the Pakistan government up to, with the ministry of foreign affairs seeking three more weeks to give a response to the rather straightforward issue of whether Raymond Davis has immunity? As if the absurd proclamations and retractions of PPP ministers and office-bearers were not folly enough, we have now had the Punjab chief minister state that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had informed him that the federal government was going to give Davis diplomatic immunity and would be informing the Lahore High Court (LHC) of the same. Clearly, that too did not happen on February 17 when the case got underway. The nation must be grateful for these small hiccups in the path of total subjugation to the will of the US. Unfortunately, the LHC has had to stay the proceedings till the federal government overcomes its habitual pusillanimity when confronted by the US and plucks up the courage to take a clear position on the immunity issue.
But why is the Pakistani political leadership so hesitant on taking a stand on the Davis case? Whichever legal perspective one takes, there is no ground on which Davis can claim diplomatic immunity. In view of the documents already in the public domain, including the ‘official visa’ — and there is a qualitative difference between his visa and a diplomatic visa — there is no ground on which Davis could be placed in the category of a diplomat. However, even if one were to concede the US argument of Davis being administrative and technical staff and thereby entitled to “diplomatic immunity” under the 1961 Vienna Convention, for such staff this “immunity” is not applicable to actions outside “official functions” under Articles 31:1c and 37:2.
In any case, with the material evidence, including photographs of sensitive military offices, recovered from Davis’s as well as his pay slip for the period beginning September 2010, he clearly falls into the category of being hired by the US State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and is in all probability a CIA ‘stringer’ intelligence agent. In fact, as the facts of Davis come to light, it appears he may have deliberately allowed the second car (which was sent by the US consulate to rescue him) to speed away as it may have had more covert operatives in it. Interestingly, in November 2009 and later in 2010, Davis was caught in restricted military locations in Peshawar and reportedly the Foreign Office verbally asked the US embassy to remove him from Peshawar. Proper interrogation of Davis is essential now for Pakistan to discover the linkages with a range of suspected US covert activities.
While we can sigh with relief over the halt in drone attacks since the arrest of Davis, the cause for this halt is probably the US fear that the location of other stringer agents may be revealed through these attacks. That brings up another interesting aspect of the Davis case: the possibility of charging him with espionage given the massive evidence already available and made public. After all, if the federal and provincial governments manage to persuade, through fair means or foul, the families of the victims to accept ‘blood money’, Davis still needs to be detained on espionage charges and tried for the same. This is one criminal who must not be allowed to get away with impunity.
Most importantly, though, the Davis case should persuade the Pakistani state to rein in the thousands of US operatives — both CIA and private security contractors — and rid the country of them as soon as possible so that there is no repeat of this lethal incident on our territory.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2011.