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جمعہ، 18 فروری، 2011

Davis case: Diplomatic immunity or a licence to kill

Legal experts in Pakistan opine that Raymond Davis is a murderer who has no diplomatic immunity. Many Pakistanis are suspicious about Davis, who was arrested with loaded weapons, a GPS satellite tracking device, photographs of Pakistan`s defence installations and tribal areas, while American authorities are still silent about his role in Pakistan.

By Ghulam Asghar Khan

Islamabad is under growling US pressure to release Raymond Davis, an American national, responsible for gunning down two Pakistani youth at an open market place in Lahore on January 26. A murder case was registered against him the following day after he was arrested. A rescue mission was immediately launched by the Lahore Consulate to whisk away Davis from the spot. A third man, Ibadur Rehman, was killed when the vehicle sent to save Davis was speeding in the wrong direction on a one way street. The consulate members ran away from the spot to avoid public anger. The driver of the vehicle that killed a bystander Rehman was also booked for murder and is yet to be arrested, but is believed to have fled the country mysteriously. The initial version of the manslaughter by Davis was that he killed the two innocents in self-defence because they wanted to kill him. The post-mortem report has revealed that both of Davis’ victims were shot from the back. The question is, were those two young men chasing him, or he was chasing them. As propounded by the local police authorities, it was a clear case of murder for which the American target shooter was incarcerated legally without any malice by the local police. It is one of their ardent duties to protect their citizens from onslaughts of American sharp-shooters who have infested the country with non-diplomatic visas. Davis is not a lone ranger, but there are thousands of such hired guns who move freely in all the four provinces and cause disruption. How come this that our Embassy in Washington is so lavishly issuing such visas without any verification? It is the foreign office that owes an explanation to the people of Pakistan. Thomas Hobbes says, “A state that cannot provide the security of life and property to its citizens forfeits its right to rule them.” The US embassy in Islamabad claimed that he was a member of the technical staff and as such was entitled to diplomatic immunity under Article 37 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The embassy has aggressively trumpeted some facts about diplomatic immunity to make the point, knowing fully well that Davis wasn’t on a diplomatic visa, and what technical work was he doing at a market place in the Punjab Metropolis? The US officials and Congressional leaders have suggested that the US aid to Pakistan be curtailed and cancelling of an impending visit to Washington of Pakistan President in March, at the same time threatening to downgrade whatever one-sided relations US has with Pakistan. The preconditions are; Davis is immediately set free, all incriminating charges against him withdrawn and is allowed to leave Pakistan. Islamabad seems to be under overwhelming pressure to bow before the master’s command or face the dire consequences. Last weekend, Pakistan’s overenthusiastic foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was refused an audience with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Munich security conference, shattering Mr. Shah’s illusion that he had mesmerised the Secretary of State with his charm. In an explicit gesture and calculated insult to Pakistan’s civilian government, she, however, met the COAS of the Pakistan army. The Davis issue seems to have created yet another predicament for the profoundly ostracized Pakistan government, which in addition to a raft of economic and law and order problems faces mounting popular opposition because of its collusion in the crimes of US imperialists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier, Cameron Munter, the US ambassador in Islamabad, had met President Zardari to reiterate Washington’s demand that Davis be released on the grounds of diplomatic immunity. The Diplomatic Immunity agreed upon in Vienna convention in 1961 was drafted by the governmental legal experts to puff diplomats up with as much power as possible to, violate at will, the sovereignty of the host state. It had so many lacunae that bestowed upon the diplomats not just immunity but impunity, covering every crime and transgression committed during foreign assignment, whether or not in course of duty. This resulted in providing “impunity” to foreign officials, their spouses, children and even chauffeurs to fearlessly engage in serious crimes, using their inviolable embassy premises and baggage for drug and gun-running and money laundering to assist groups with whom their state is in political sympathy. This “Diplomatic Immunity” law is obviously much wider than is necessary to protect the essential function of a diplomatic mission. Some years back, even ‘Scotland Yard’ reckoned that 40% of the unrequited crimes were committed by family members or wives of foreign diplomats. The US, plagued by more diplomats than any other country, has recently adopted a novel approach to their unpaid parking fines. It tallies the penalties incurred by every embassy and deducts the total from that country’s foreign aid. Isn’t it strange that for every requited or unrequited crime committed by the American diplomats the host country has to pay one way or the other? The myth that state dignity would be lowered if its officials were prosecuted abroad for blatantly indulging in un-diplomatic escapades is just meaningless. The judgement at Nuremburg lays down that crimes are committed by individuals, not by states. When they are committed by diplomats with impunity, the notion of “diplomatic immunity” is just oxymoronic. While insisting on Davis’ immediate and unconditional release, Washington and its embassy in Pakistan have refused to answer any questions about the target shooting and as to what was he doing in Lahore at a crowded market? Without elaborating his mission in Pakistan, they only said that he was part of the “technical and administrative staff”. Davis did not cooperate with the local police and refused to state where he was going when the shooting took place. Washington’s conduct in this entire sordid affair is to secure his release and speedy return to the US. What is so mysterious about this VIP killer who is enjoying all the perks and elite privileges in the ‘Kot Lakhpat’ prison? The official US version of events lacks consistency and credibility. According to a report by ABC News, Davis runs a shadowy Florida-based Security firm “Hyperion Protective Consultants,” heightening suspicions that he is an operative for, or otherwise, linked to the CIA. Some reports suggested that he might have been working on behalf of the notorious Blackwater that had also been operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The manner in which he gunned down the two victims indicates the modus operandi of an elite agent with advanced firearms training. The men were shot with sniper-like precision, and a back up vehicle immediately appeared to whisk the killer away. As the misfortune had it, the backup car killed another man and failed to accomplish the mission. The triple-murder in Lahore has roused the anger of the people all over the country and has further exacerbated anti-American sentiments as it has provided an added illustration of the impunity with which the CIA operates in Pakistan, blatantly violating its sovereignty with utter indifference to the destruction it leaves in its wake. The US insistence that Pakistani courts be not allowed to test and adjudicate Davis’ claim that in gunning down two young men he was acting in self-defence harkens back to the extra-territoriality, enshrined in ‘unequal treaties’ in the heydays of colonialism and gun-boat diplomacy. Islamabad’s neither here nor there response over the killing of not two but three citizens of Pakistan by a mercenary is yet another example of its subservience to Washington and callous indifference to the sovereign rights of the people of Pakistan.
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