Monday, July 3, 2017

Business Recorder Column July 3, 2017

Raymond Davis as metaphor Rashed Rahman The Raymond Davis affair in January 2011 is one that embarrassed Pakistanis may well want to forget. The American CIA contractor was charged with shooting dead two alleged armed robbers in Lahore when they pointed guns at him as he rode in a vehicle. A third man was run over and killed by another vehicle sent to rescue Davis from a gathering hostile crowd at the scene of the incident when it was careening at speed on the wrong side of the road. The reason reasonably self-respecting citizens of Pakistan may want to forget the incident is the shameful manner in which the powers that be bent over backwards to get Davis off scot-free and unpunished. The method chosen was to coerce the victims’ families to accept Diyat (blood money), which implied they had forgiven the killer. The role played by the Pakistani authorities in the affair is an affront to the dignity and self-respect of the country. Foremost in facilitating the ‘rescue’ of Davis was the former ISI chief General Shuja Pasha. Other political and state officials also played a bigger or smaller part in the exercise. This recollection is prompted by the publication of Raymond Davis’ memoir entitled The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis. Although the reportage in the Pakistani media indicates that the book does not make any new revelations over and above what is already known about the affair, its publication does serve as a reminder to jog the memory about the incident. Davis was on undercover security duties in Pakistan, according to his memoir. Pakistan, since the advent of the Afghan wars and post-9/11 during Musharraf’s regime, had been cooperating most generously with Washington in issuing visas to CIA operatives, contractors, etc, to come to Pakistan and undertake their assignments. This ‘generosity’ continued after Musharraf left power and an elected PPP-led government was installed in the 2008 elections in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. For long years, Pakistan’s foreign, defence and security policies have been the virtually exclusive domain of the military establishment. Davis’ account of General Pasha’s efforts on his behalf reflects the central role of the ISI (and perhaps other intelligence agencies) in facilitating and, when and where necessary, covering up for them. Although this nexus between the military establishment and its US counterparts reached unprecedented heights during the Afghan wars, it was by no means new. Pakistan almost from the word go chose to become a dependent client state of the west, led since the end of the Second World War by the US. The first prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, snubbed Moscow’s invitation to visit the USSR and instead travelled to Washington. The die was thus cast. Pakistan had plumped for becoming part of the anti-Communist alliance put together by the US-led west to contain and roll back communist revolution. This led inexorably and naturally to Pakistan becoming the ‘most allied ally’ of the west when it joined, because of its geopolitical location, both CENTO and SEATO. The only problem with this throwing of all Pakistan’s eggs in the west’s basket was that Pakistan and the west understood the alliance differently. Whereas for Pakistan the alliance with the west, whatever Pakistani leaders’ aversion to communism, was essentially a security guarantee against its bigger and hostile neighbour India with which it was in conflict over Kashmir, for the west it was nothing more than an anti-communist grouping. Later events were to glaringly throw into relief the differing understanding and expectations of the two sides. India had declared itself non-aligned after independence but was considered close to Moscow. China was a friend of India until the two neighbours’ border disputes erupted into an all-out war in 1962, in which India was roundly defeated. New Delhi then turned to the Kennedy administration. Washington was more than willing to come to India’s rescue by opening the door to weapons sales and other forms of cooperation against the Chinese communist ‘threat’ (China was magnanimous in victory and offered negotiations on the border dispute after withdrawing its troops from Indian territory captured during the war). Pakistan questioned this US largesse towards India, fearing a bolstered military capacity would make New Delhi even more intransigent on issues such as Kashmir. Washington ignored Islamabad’s protests. In fact during the 1965 Pakistan-India war, weapons supplies and other aid was cut off to the ‘most allied ally’, triggering an acceleration of Islamabad’s outreach to Beijing in the time honoured tradition of ‘the enemy of my enemy…’ This was not the last occasion for the US-led west to demonstrate that the weapons and other aid supplied to Pakistan could only be used against ‘communist aggression’ and not against any non-communist state, including India. When this truth finally lifted the curtains from Pakistani leaders’ eyes, they incrementally realigned their foreign policy in the direction of diversifying sources of weapons and aid, chief amongst these new sources becoming China as time passed. Despite annoyance at the perceived western ‘betrayal’, successive governments maintained as polite and cooperative relations with the west as the circumstances allowed. But a relative frost had descended on the alliance, whose obsolescence was brought home with great force during Pakistan’s 1971 civil war in East Pakistan, culminating in Indian intervention and the breakaway of the eastern wing to emerge as Bangladesh. After this dismemberment, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, after becoming President and later Prime Minister, took Pakistan out of SEATO and CENTO and began to cultivate the oil-rich Gulf states as part of an Islamic alliance. India’s test of a nuclear weapon in 1974 sparked off a secret nuclear weapon programme in Pakistan, which finally culminated in Pakistan ‘coming out of the (ambiguity) closet’ by testing its nuclear weapon in 1998. Starting from the 1970s, developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan provided incentives and opportunity for Islamabad to intervene through religious fundamentalist proxies in its neighbour’s affairs. The rest, as they say, is history. Part of that history is the ‘alliance’ of mutual benefit between Pakistan and the west, particularly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The holy warriors unleashed as a result of this enterprise were the forerunners of today’s global terrorists. However, the ‘honeymoon’ between Pakistan and the west only lasted until the Soviets departed Afghanistan in 1989. From then on, a familiar pattern of suspicion and sanctions revolving around Pakistan’s quest for a nuclear deterrent set in. September 9, 2001 is the next major turning point when Pakistan willy-nilly joined the anti-al Qaeda war, being forced ostensibly to abandon its Taliban allies who were ousted by the US invasion of Afghanistan. Anti-al Qaeda because this is how then President Musharraf’s strategy of duality played out. The US was ‘delivered’ al Qaeda (except Osama bin Laden) while the Taliban were sheltered in safe havens on Pakistani soil for a time when the US invaders/occupiers would tire and be ripe for a defeat. Currently, the policy of duality has Washington in a cleft stick, with a US Senate delegation led by John McCain visiting to reassure Islamabad that Washington’s policy on Kashmir has not changed despite Modi’s recent warm welcome and solicit Pakistan’s cooperation to bring about a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan. Ironically, while the unequal nature of the US-Pakistan relationship has never been in doubt, numerous examples exist of instances of the ‘tail wagging the dog’. Not so of course in the case of Raymond Davis, which could be considered a metaphor for the banana republic behaviour of Pakistan vis-à-vis the west through most of its existence.

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