The Raymond Davis Case: Justice through diplomacy
The mysterious case of Raymond Davis who murdered two Pakistani’s in broad daylight near Mazang Chowk has initiated the debate Blackwater operatives on Pakistani soil. Somehow, it seems that the more you get to know about it, the more perplexing the scenario gets. The statements given by US and Pakistani governments give the impression that both the governments are purposely trying to keep the general public clouded in confusion, and as far away from the truth as is humanly possible.
Up till now, what is known about the case is that Raymond Davis, a staff member of the US Embassy in Islamabad, shot two Pakistani men dead on Thursday, January 27, 2011 in a crowded part of Lahore (Mozang Chowk), according to him in self-defense. A US Consulate vehicle that rushed in to ‘rescue’ Mr. David then ran over a third person, who also died. A murder case was registered against Raymond Davis, who was handed into police custody. A case has also been registered against the driver of the US Consulate vehicle that ran over a third person, but the driver has not yet been apprehended. After a fair deal of scrambling by both US and Pakistani officials on what to do or say, the positions of both have now started becoming clearer, and they have taken the stance that is usually taken in such cases: the US is asking that Raymond Davis, as a diplomatic functionary, should be handed back to them; Pakistan seems to be responding that the matter is sub-judice and the law should take its course before any administrative action is taken.
The statements given by the US and the Pakistan government further accentuate the conundrum surrounding the situation. One of the most surprising features is the nature of statements issued by United States, and Pakistan’s silence over the matter right after the incident took place. According to the initial statement issued by the US, Davis was a “technical adviser” and a “consular” official. More recently, US Embassy officials have described him as a “functionary” of the Embassy assigned to the US Consulate in Lahore and carrying a US Diplomatic passport. Reportedly, he was hired at the US Consulate in Lahore as a security contractor from Florida-based firm Hyperion Protective Consultants – making it more unclear whether Davis was employed by the Embassy in Islamabad, or the Consulate in Lahore. All of this has material relevance to whether he would enjoy diplomatic immunity or not, but even more because of the apprehensions of many Pakistanis that he could be linked to the CIA or to the infamous firm Blackwater (later renamed XE Services). Throughout the past year, the Pakistan government had faced scathing criticism from different quarters about its alleged approval of Blackwater operating on its home soil. Even though no verified proof has been furnished, Islamabad still denies these allegations; the case, as it is shaping up, points fingers in just one direction.
The main question then is; why are both the governments trying so hard to distort fact and hide something? Why is the US threatening Pakistan of severe consequences if Raymond Davis is tried in Pakistan? Why, up till now, has the identity of Raymond Davis remained a mystery? Why has Islamabad not played its due role in addressing the situation through diplomatic channels? Is ‘Blackwater’ operating through proper channels in Pakistan approved by the government and military? All these questions are proving the inadequacy of both the governments to deal with this diplomatic blunder.
The situation at hand demands both the countries to open up its diplomatic channels and ensure that justice is done. There is no point being allies and having engaged in Strategic Dialogue if this issue cannot be handled amicably and properly. The Raymond Davis case has not only strained the Pak-American alliance; it has also shown what each ally actually thinks of the other, and this reality cannot be hidden from the general public in both countries for long. Both the countries already have too many people on the extreme; those who are not willing to change their perception about the other, or about anyone who is different from them. This fringe minority needs to be kept away from capitalizing on the Raymond Davis issue. Furthermore, it is absolutely not in America’s interest to be seen as controvert to the way of justice and due process, and it is not in Pakistan’s interest to be seen to conducting a flawed process of justice suited to the desires of foreign powers. If this delicate case is not handled with clarity and transparency by both countries, then there is a realistic possibility of a widespread backlash where even more people would be influenced to go to the extremes due to mutual suspicion and distrust, which can in turn prove detrimental to America’s war on terror in the region as well as to Pakistan’s interests in maintaining security and stability. Exacerbating public sentiment this time will probably bring with it more than just a little diplomatic embarrassment. Not doing so can only catalyze more problems in the tinderbox that is US-Pakistan relations.