Raymond Davis's sudden acquittal on March 16 left most citizens dumbfounded, while others declared it as a sad day in the country's history. Well, sad enough to give Mr Sharif a heart attack and send him packing off to hospital where his condition was, reportedly, quite critical, (Read: He wants to refrain from giving his two cents on the Raymond Davis saga as his party was in charge in Punjab from where Davis left the country.) That said, as the Raymond Davis narrative has unfolded in the past week or so, it is safe to say that his release was a classic case of irony.
For one, Sharia, i.e. the qisas and diyat law, was misused to save a CIA contractor, as this seemed like the most convenient way for him to escape the charge of double murder. Not only that, but the law on diyat was also distorted and vaguely implemented in this case. Under Islamic law, for diyat to apply, a proper trial needs to be conducted, and if the crime is established then the victims' kin must be physically present to pardon and accept the 'blood money' in return.
It's a hard truth to accept, but money makes the world go round. Two hundred million rupees were given to 18 family members of the victims in blood money. According to a report in this newspaper, they have been promised homes in Washington and New York and were also provided an opportunity to perform Umra - how cathartic would that be after being sell-outs for a better living? A perfect package, as it may sound, to live the American dream for those who haven't treaded outside Lahore; is this all an American spy is worth? Yes, everyone has a price to pay, however, Raymond Davis's was tagged a little cheap, perhaps.
The question is who should be blamed here? For all those who are holding the judge responsible and think he should be taken to task, it is worth a mention that by law, the court's judgment is based on the information presented by the prosecution. Regardless of the poor implementation of the law, the court was presented with a signed affidavit, pardon papers and proof that blood money had been received by the victims' relatives, confirming that Davis had been forgiven by his victim's heirs. So who is at fault here? The court, or the government officials who turned a blind eye to the fact that a US aircraft had arrived at Lahore airport to take Davis away after his impending release? Also, how did he leave given that his name had been placed on the Exit Control List?
Within a day of Davis's release, the US showed who was boss by carrying out a deadly drone strike in North Waziristan which killed at least 38 people: And by most accounts, these were not terrorists but local tribesmen attending a jirga outside Mirali. Prior to this, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton publicly denied that America had paid any blood money to the victims' families for securing Davis's release. In all this, America's behaviour has been shameful and hypocritical, especially in that a day after securing the release, it bombarded us with missiles. Surely, such conduct is not becoming of a country that keeps reminding us that it is our ally and friend.
As a country with a begging bowl in our hands, living and breathing on aid money from the US, it is only inevitable that our integrity and sovereignty will be trampled over by states who claim to be super powers. Then, why the hue and cry when we are responsible for our own down-trodden status in this changing face of world politics? It is we who are to blame! We, as a nation, have lost our national honour and integrity, by our failure to get out of the dependence cycle on the US.
Although important in the Raymond Davis affair, all these arguments are probably just scratching at the surface of what is a larger question at hand: Davis's acquittal was predictable, not only because of our 'bombs and biscuits' relationship with Washington, but also for the reason that it was preceded by closed-door talks and a reported agreement between the ISI and the CIA on resolving the stand-off. But at what cost, did this come about? Will someone in a position of authority please make public the details of this 'deal'?
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2011.