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جمعہ، 11 فروری، 2011

Pakistan rejects Davis self-defence claim

Pakistani police on Friday rejected the self-defence claim of a US official who shot two men in broad daylight as a court extended his remand, pending a legal battle over diplomatic immunity.
A news report itself suggests Davis as a covert spy carrying a pistol, facial make-up, wireless set and pictures of different areas of Multan, Sargodha and Lahore. What mission an American diplomat was undertaking carrying such sophisticated equipments. Davis is certainly among those 650 private security contractors who are currently reported to be operating in Pakistan.

By Bilal Zubair

Undeterred by the growing US pressure, the state institutions along with political leadership have not succumbed to the ongoing diplomatic row between Washington and Islamabad. Magnitude of current crisis could be comprehended by suspension of all bilateral diplomatic activities by the United States till release of alias Raymond David by Pakistani authorities. The threats of suspending all aid and assistance to Pakistan are also emerging from Washington. So far, mammoth political and diplomatic endeavors by United States to seek the release of Raymond Davis have gone unproductive. Resultantly, Pak-US relations are at the lowest ebb since the beginning of renewed relationship in the post 9/11 period.

It all started with Raymond Davis, a technical staff member of the US Consulate in Lahore shot dead two Pakistani men on January 27, 2011 in a crowded part of Lahore (Mozang Chowk), in self-defense by his narration. Following the incident, the U.S has tried to establish David identity as a diplomat, which is neither proven from his credentials nor acknowledged by the Pakistani Foreign Office. According to the US media, Raymond Davis runs Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, a company that provides ‘loss and risk management professionals’. He has no connection whatsoever with the U.S diplomatic staff working in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s insistence, the State Department has refused to share the true identity and nature of work Davis was undertaking in Pakistan, making the matter more suspicious.

At time when anti-Americanism is high in the country, owing to unpopular alliance with Washington and increasing drown attacks, the government is in no position to play loose in this particular situation. The political leadership has remained wary of the popular public sentiments attached to this event that also has backing of the religious parties, media and civil society organizations. The PPP led government can not alienate from the mounting public opinion and any support of mainstream political parties on this issue is unlikely. For the same reason the top PPP officials including Prime Minster has chosen the legal aspect of the episode telling the Parliament to let law decide the fate of Davis. Adding fuel to fire, the suicide of Shumaila, widow of Muhammad Faheem, one of the victims has exacerbated the scenario leaving no room for politicians to make a back channel compromise with US.

Secondly, this issue has exposed the innate weakness of Pak-U.S relations where U.S continues to treat Pakistan as a minor partner. If U.S claims the present bilateral engagement between the two countries is strategic in nature then could it be compromised by a single incident? The broader picture of relations has thus squeezed to one point bilateral agenda (release of Raymond Davis). It also exposed the American double standards in advocating the rule of law and strengthening the democratic institutions while forcing Pakistan to bypass the state laws and ongoing legal proceeding. It gives an impression that the U.S wants to strengthen only those aspects of rule of law that promotes American interests in the country. The attitude of American is making the whole scenario doubtful. Questions have also been raised that if Raymond is a spy as believed to be, the ongoing investigation could reveal the undercover activities he has been carrying out since his arrival in Pakistan. This dilemma is haunting the U.S and could open a Pandora box of clandestine activities of other private contractors in Pakistan. This would be followed by serious ramifications in Pakistan-U.S relations.

Similarly, the David episode signals a strong massage to the private security contractor employed by U.S. in guise of providing security to diplomatic missions in the Pakistan. There is a wide spread belief that these contractors have been involve in objectionable activities across countries. A news report itself suggests Davis as a covert spy carrying a pistol, facial make-up, wireless set and pictures of different areas of Multan, Sargodha and Lahore. What mission an American diplomat was undertaking carrying such sophisticated equipments. Davis is certainly among those 650 private security contractors who are currently reported to be operating in Pakistan.

Following the diplomatic row in 2010 on issuing visas to US nationals, the Pakistani embassy issued one-year multiple Pakistani visas to the US marines and diplomats without fulfilling the diplomatic and legal prerequisites. According to a diplomat in Foreign Office more than 700 visas have been released to the U.S diplomats and about 250 to (ODRP) Office of Defence Representatives, Pakistan in the pretext of (SAC) Security Assistant Cooperation providing training and capacity building of the armed forces in the Pakistan. One wonders what variety of tasks the Americans are undertaking on the pretext of diplomatic, defence and security cooperation. Presence of non-diplomatic staff should have been viewed seriously with no let go to the officials found in objectionable activities against the state of Pakistan.

Whatever would be result of this diplomatic saga, the current stance has revealed the level of diplomatic counterweight Pakistan can exert on Washington. Likewise such incidents develop the understanding of bottom-line drawn vis-à-vis state to state relations that has truly not been the case in Pak-U.S relations. Thus responsibility heavily lies on the political leadership to show some moral courage by sending a clear message to Washington that there is no alternative to law taking its course and the unbecoming foreigners have to alter their way in pursuing their duties in Pakistan.
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