Raymond Davis is a killjoy. Pakistanis were, at the beginning of the week, enjoying themselves mirthlessly, ridiculing Fox News for having run as authentic a satirical piece on Pakistan’s Islamic Council of Ideology being wholly unsupportive of the import of padded and vibrantly coloured bras. Of course, absent from all the rib-tickling, was the fact that a small number of Pakistanis had themselves fallen for the jape bra — hook, line and sinker.
But before a discussion could erupt as to why anyone would believe the uplifting spoof, Davis was again stealing the show. For many, his acquittal on double murder charges, following the payment of ‘blood money’, underscores how it is the Americans who are now laughing last and diplomatic immunity be damned.
The religious right and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are threatening nationwide agitation protests. The former wants Davis hanged. A petition filed before the Supreme Court claims Davis’s release is unconstitutional, given that the case never went before an anti-terrorism court. Many Pakistanis have already come out on to the streets to express their disgust at reports that the Americans apparently dialled dollar for murder. The US, for its part, denies footing the more than $2 million compensation tab. But this may be nothing more than a cunning case of semantics. It is rumoured that Islamabad sealed the deal, and rather coercively at that, and is simply awaiting reimbursement.
Of course, conventional wisdom suggests that the Davis case was never about ascertaining diplomatic immunity credentials. Had it been, we could, perhaps, have expected at least some mutterings from either Islamabad or Washington about referring the matter to the International Court of Justice. Instead, it seems that Davis, in all his international man of mystery infamy, was simply exploited as a bargaining tool to drive home the point to those pesky CIA-types that it would simply no longer do to treat the ISI as anything less than an equal information partner when operating, however covertly, on the latter’s home turf.
And so it has transpired that the two outfits temporarily put aside their respective cloaks and daggers to powwow some sort of agreement to smooth the passage of Davis’s release. And if this gives possible credence to previous assertions that the two men gunned down back in January were, in fact, intelligence agencies known to the unquiet American, well, so be it. Ditto rumours that the tenure extension of the ISI chief was aimed at appeasing the CIA, who reportedly enjoyed a good working-relationship with him.
But all that is in the past. The business of the day is damage control under another name. Those at Pakistan’s helm have already embarked upon a strategy to reinvent themselves as players independent of American dictates. Slamming as a violation of human rights the CIA drone strike in North Waziristan that targeted civilians a day after Davis left the country, Gen Kayani said: “The Pakistan Army has already lodged a protest in the strongest possible terms.” Of course, there have been countless rumours that the security and intelligence apparatus’ biggest crib with the drone programme is its reconnaissance dimension. They fear the Yanks are spying on them. So this is possibly just a reminder to Washington to play ball and not forget the debt it owes.
This, however, appears a point lost on MQM leader Altaf Hussain. Jumping on the blood money bandwagon, he has now declared: “We are willing to pay diyat for the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui” if the US agrees. How that would apply to an American court of law is not something he has clearly thought through. Ditto his demands that the US pay blood money for civilian lives lost through drone operations. He has evidently forgotten that his coalition partner okayed this form of remote-controlled warfare.
Pakistan. From banning bras to buying justice. It’s life, Jim. But not as we know it.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2011.