The most important fact to come out in the open is not that Raymond Davis is a CIA contractor, but that it is beyond any doubt that he was a covert operations person, as has now been officially acknowledged by the US. It has astonished me that so many of our ‘desi liberals’ have been defending him, and focusing just on the academic question of immunity or the possibility that the ISI might be exploiting this.
It is critically more important to find out what hundreds of CIA agents (according to scores of reports including those carried by top US papers) are doing in Pakistan, and why they were provided cover by an embassy whose facilities are being upgraded by a massive spending programme exceeding one billion dollars, according to official US documents.
We are being told that the ISI was not even aware that Raymond Davis was a CIA agent. According to The New York Times, the ISI has demanded an accounting by the CIA of all its contractors working in Pakistan. Does all this represent a major turf battle between the ISI and the CIA in which Raymond Davis happens to be a pawn? Or is it that the military establishment was so embarrassed by WikiLeaks, revealing its close ties with America, that it decided to use this incident to prove to the Pakistani public that it is not them but the politicians who are American puppets?
The ISI was most certainly aware of the drone attacks and indeed gave permission to the CIA to conduct them as I had documented in my article “Whither Sovereignty?” (The News, September 14, 2008). Permission was given by General Musharraf in January 2008 — months before the PPP came into power. As far back as September 2008, the Los Angeles Times had reported that Pakistan’s military leadership had agreed to receive US military ‘advisers’. It is no longer a secret that some, if not all, drone attacks were launched from an airstrip near Quetta. Was the ISI also not aware of this?
Many ‘desi liberals’ had dismissed earlier reports of the presence of hundreds of CIA operatives as right-wing conspiracy theories. But now US officials have confirmed this to papers like the Washington Post. Moreover, they have acknowledged that Raymond Davis was a CIA agent, that he did work for Xe (formerly Blackwater), that he did live in a private home in Lahore and was so important that the CIA specifically requested the American media to not disclose his association with the agency and his background. It is therefore, no longer rational, or in fact possible, to dismiss questions about the presence, motives, activities and scale of the operations of CIA agents in Pakistan.
‘Desi liberals’ would do well to reflect upon the perception that in their zeal to fight extremism, they have by default, intent or design become defenders of the most blatant and biggest CIA ‘covert’ operation in the history of Pakistan — or, for that matter, one of the biggest in the CIA’s history.
But that is a secondary issue. The real issue is that either the ISI allowed the CIA to send hundreds of agents, and is pretending ignorance or innocence now that the beans have been spilled, or it didn’t know this in the first place — which means that questions should be asked about the agency’s job performance.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2011.