A few weeks ago, when the Raymond Davis saga had gripped the public imagination, I had humbly suggested, on a TV show, that this issue was not going to be resolved either through street protests, or by invoking the absurd ‘national honour’ discourse. There was only one solution: Recourse to the laws (international and domestic). The ghairat brigade had a field day for at least a month by flogging the useless anti-Americanism horse and short-sighted elected politicians, such as a former foreign minister, also risked their political careers by exposing whom they were actually reporting to.
Other than the usual suspects crying foul over Americans having coerced 18 members of Davis’s victims’ families to accept a blood money settlement, the saga has ended rather swiftly indicating that when Pakistan’s security establishment wants to do something, it achieves the objective rather quickly. The families have accepted a hefty settlement and reportedly relocated. Ironically, the settlement is in accordance with the Pakistani laws imposed by Zia’s political descendents. Luckily, no dangerous precedents were set by the Foreign Office (under pressure), declaring that Raymond Davis did not have diplomatic immunity. This settlement also helped the national punching bag, President Zardari and his tottering government, of appearing as US lackeys by certifying Davis’s immunity. Most importantly, the Punjab government, controlled by the biggest opposition party and the security establishment, have been fully onboard. In short, the quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy worked out well, saving us from the brink of an unnecessary collision with a world power whom we love to hate, but zealously served since 1947.
International and local punditry, on the breakdown of the ISI-CIA relationship, also proved to be a bogey, as the two organisations continued to engage and find a solution. Whether such a solution was desirable, strictly on the canons of international law, is a different subject altogether. The most important lesson that we may note for our future misadventures is not to whip public emotion against law, reason and civilised norms of diplomacy. As it is, we have misinformed the public, packed lies into textbooks and allowed the mullahs and media mujahideen to spread hate at will. All of this is definitely not in our national interest or national dignity. We can only be protecting our honour if we appear as a law-abiding, civilised polity and not a jingoistic state, full of armed lunatics in the public domain.
We were told that Zardari’s goose would be cooked if he were to let Raymond Davis go through the Foreign Office channels. It appears that Zardari, even after his deft handling of the political game in Pakistan, continues to be underestimated. Questions about his ethics and legitimacy aside, he has yet again established his skill in averting and negotiating several crises. Of course, the Pakistani right is going to portray him as a villain even after their favorite diyat and qisas laws have been applied in the Davis affair.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the guardians of national honour, despite their loud proclamations, could only muster a few thousand rupees to look after the families of Davis’ victims. Media reports suggested that the right wing religious parties had made generous offers to the victims’ families, should they reject the diyat package from the evil US. This also reminds one of the Aafia Siddiqui case, where, reportedly, her brother could only raise $10,000 from the Pakistani/Muslim community in the US and that’s why the Pakistani government had to intervene to defray Aafia’s legal defence costs totaling $2 million!
Honour-obsessed TV anchors and analysts have not liked the outcome of this saga and some are loudly claiming that qisas and diyat laws were not applicable in this particular case. Or the families have been pressurised and that Pakistan has not protected its sovereignty. Quite frankly, they will have to swallow the propaganda they have churned out and, for a change, answer for their ignorance of laws, international politics and history. Pakistan needs to strengthen its economy, undertake major social reform and only then it can think of dictating to the world with augmented bargaining power. Nuclear prowess alone cannot please the gods. Simple.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2011.
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