Raymond Davis case: Three possible outcomes

Published: February 19, 2011
Activist holds a burning US flag during a protest against an alleged US employee in Karachi on February 11, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

Activist holds a burning US flag during a protest against an alleged US employee in Karachi on February 11, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

The arrest of Raymond Davis, an American man for killing two Pakistanis, has created the worst crisis in years between uneasy allies in Washington and Islamabad, threatening the war in Afghanistan and the stability of the Pakistani government.

US officials are putting heavy pressure on Pakistan to secure the release of Davis, a former special forces soldier who they say is a US consular employee with diplomatic immunity.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s government is reluctant to add fuel to a fiery anti-American mood in Pakistan and has said local courts must decide.

“The stakes here are huge. Pakistan is key to the war with al Qaeda and the war in Afghanistan,” said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst who led President Barack Obama’s review of US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009.

Here are several scenarios for how the Davis case could unfold and effect US-Pakistan ties:

Davis freed but at what price for Pakistan?

Analysts in the United States see little chance that Davis will be convicted and kept in Pakistani custody, saying a solution eventually will be found. Islamabad has good reason to want the problem to go away.

Pakistan is a major recipient of US military aid and the US has also provided it with aid to help recover from natural disasters and to battle widespread poverty.

Analysts therefore say that the Zardari government may lean hard on the Foreign Ministry to certify that Davis does have diplomatic immunity from prosecution in local courts.

The Lahore High Court, which has said it will follow the Foreign Ministry’s guidance, could then declare that Davis can be released, ending a threat to multibillion-dollar US aid. But the government could pay a heavy price if it is seen caving in to US pressure over the Davis case.

“If this happens then there will be a storm, everybody will be involved … but the most effective response will come from the Taliban and al Qaeda,” said Pakistani political analyst Khalid Ahmed. “This is a very good opportunity for them to increase their acceptance among the people.”

On Friday, protesters in Lahore and other cities demanded Davis be tried in Pakistan. Some of the demonstrators burned US flags. One US official said the Pakistani government’s reaction had been coloured by the anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and the fear that they could spread to Pakistan.

“None of this happens in a vacuum,” the official said. “Obviously, with every image from Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, this factors into the Pakistani calculus.”

Davis remains in jail, US ties suffer

The issue already has driven a wedge between Islamabad and Washington, adding to long-standing US complaints that Pakistan has not acted strongly enough against militants that are killing US soldiers across the border in Afghanistan. US government sources say the case has clouded the critical relationship between the countries’ security agencies, possibly making it even harder for the United States to succeed in Afghanistan, where bloodshed reached record levels in 2010.

One senior US administration official said if a solution is not found quickly, the US Congress could cut foreign aid. The White House on Monday asked Congress to give Islamabad $1.1 billion through the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund to help fight militants and another $1.9 billion in economic aid. The money is for the fiscal 2012 year that begins Oct 1.

“The longer this goes on, the higher the potential cost in the relationship,” the official said. “Sooner or later, if they can’t resolve it, Congress is going to start sending some signals.”

Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, said Pakistan may again start to curtail issuing visas to US diplomatic personnel, which has been a major irritant in the past.

Pakistan government brokers a deal

There is mounting speculation the United States might back payment of compensation, or blood money, as laid out under Pakistani law, even if it is loathe to support such a payment in what it sees as a case of self-defense.

Under this scenario, Pakistan would facilitate US contact with the families of the two slain men – and, presumably, a third who was struck and killed by a US vehicle about the same time – to offer a deal.

“The best, perhaps the only, option for the government is to pacify the relatives of those killed to come to some compromise,” said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general. “It’s the only option everyone seems to be working on.”

This would require the families’ acceptance of such a payment, sanctioned by Islamic law and common in some parts of rural Pakistan as a way to settle disputes. But emotions are running high in the Davis case, possibly fuelled by heavy media attention.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Mujahid
    Feb 19, 2011 - 3:45PM

    Pakistani nation especially people abroad can offer the compensation by contribution to the effective family by helping them but not to leave killer let go back.Recommend

  • aslam
    Feb 19, 2011 - 3:49PM

    if the relatives be ready to take blood money, then US will get the license to kill anyone, anytime, anywhere and pay the blood-money. What happened to the hundreds of innocent killed in Drone attacks has it reached (or the corrupt govt gulped it down)Recommend

  • Feb 19, 2011 - 4:30PM

    The only way to solve this crises is by exchanging 2 high profile prisoners, between Pakistan and the USA regardless of the crimes either one has committed. Aafia for Raymond!Recommend

  • Feb 19, 2011 - 8:34PM

    The only viable option that could be acceptable to the people of Pakistan would be exchanging Raymond Davis for Dr Aafia Siddiqui. It is NOW the people who will determine the fate of Raymond Davis, not the families of the killed persons, governments of Pakistan and the US or the court of law. The issue has slipped out of the hands of all concerned except the people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Feb 20, 2011 - 12:49AM

    There are obviously more alternatives than the 3 outlined. It’s possible that there will be no compromise between Pakistan and the USA and the backlash of that may go far beyond simply cutting off aid to Pakistan. Pakistan can cutoff Nato aid routes – the USA can unilaterally declare that it won’t recognize the Tribal areas and do what it takes to drive the Taliban away from the Afghan border and into heart of Pakistan – cut off military and humanitarian aid – cut off trade – impose sanctions – and otherwise insure that Pakistan is isolated from the West. The daisy chain of nasty events can quickly spiral out of control and may very well end up in a short but bloody military confrontation.Recommend

  • Ali
    Feb 20, 2011 - 7:36AM

    Pakistan needs to act in national interest and at least show a modicum of sovereignity. Raymond Davis is a MURERER (homicidal criminal under any law anywhere) and 47 witnesses have corroborated this cold-blooded act by an arrogant American citizen (with dubious background and reasons for being in Lahore?) and with no regard for human life. The other absconding Americans involved in mowing down of on-lookers after the murder should also face arrest and justice. This sheer American ignorance and arrogance is what is causing massive anti-Americanism around the world, particularly in the Muslim world. America is a bankrupt fading power and Pakistan’s interests would be far better served by limiting the movement and activities of US “diplomats” and spies who are running amok and only harming the safety of Pakistan and its poor people. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Regradless of repression at home, Pakistan is not immune to the Egypt like upheavel sweeping the region. US is literally history, thanks to its violent actions and Islamophobia.Recommend

  • Ali2
    Feb 21, 2011 - 3:10PM

    @ Ali agree 100%Recommend

  • Shiraz
    Feb 21, 2011 - 4:39PM

    Hu~~, I hope victim’s Family will accept Blood money and everybody will be living happily hereafter. Revolution, Change, Protest against Government or Army Coop, nothing will be happend, as such things only happens in the nations who are NOT DEAD SLEEPING. Recommend

  • Feb 21, 2011 - 5:11PM

    Shiraz: would you, if the person shot were your relatives?Recommend

  • noman siddiqui
    Feb 21, 2011 - 5:18PM

    it is the time to make understand those peoples who have become extremist to set example we are not with america .thus we can minimize suicide attack now its up to government whether the want more bomb blast in pakistan or not……Recommend

  • Raj
    Feb 21, 2011 - 11:24PM

    By asking to exchange Dr Afia with Raymond, Pakistanis are accepting that Dr Afia is a murderer like Raymond. Come on guys, if he had committed this crime in the USA he would have been tried like any other criminal. Now it is the time, Pakistan should try him like India is trying Kasab. Recommend

  • Ali
    Feb 22, 2011 - 6:33AM

    Lol..why exchange Raymod for Aafia..just send back Raymond and Make Aafia “Pakistani” Ambassador to the US ;) Gal Ee Muk Gai. Recommend

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