Saturday, July 1, 2017

Business Recorder editorial July 1, 2017

Raymond Davis’ account Raymond Davis, an American CIA contractor, was embroiled in a sensational case in early 2011 involving his shooting dead two armed motorcyclists in Lahore who he claimed had aimed their guns at him. A vehicle sent to rescue him from the scene ran over and killed another man when it was careening along on the wrong side of the road. The case became notorious not only because it exposed the murky world of US spies and others virtually enjoying the run of the country, but also because it brought into play high ranking military officials and the civilian political leadership bending their backs to resolve the issue without too much embarrassment to the US or its Pakistani hosts. Much of the circumstances of the case were already known and in the public space although details may have become shrouded by fading memories. It is therefore a welcome development that Raymond Davis has now published a book bearing his version of the whole episode titled How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis. Although the accuracy and veracity of Davis’ account can only be assessed as a whole after reading the book, from what has appeared in the media some points are worth noting. Contrary to the natural suspicion of terrorism arising when a CIA undercover contractor these days gets involved in a violent incident of this kind, Davis claims his would be attackers were robbers with a long police record. He details his ‘fast draw’ of a pistol and sharpshooting abilities in getting 10 shots off in a trice from his Glock pistol carrying 18 rounds in all and killing both men, yet claims he had never killed a man before. This means either Mr Davis was blessed with incredible luck at that moment or is lying about his track record. Last but certainly not least, Davis clearly spells out the role played by former ISI chief General Shuja Pasha in getting him off the hook and out of the country. Davis’ trial in Kot Lakhpat jail was turned into a farce when the ISI reportedly forced the victims’ families at virtually gunpoint to accept blood money (Diyat) under Sharia law and forgive the killer. As soon as the trial court judge handed out a total of $ 2.34 million to the 18 members of the victims’ families, Davis was whisked away to board a plane on which then US ambassador Cameron Munter was present and flown to Kabul, en route to the US. Davis’ account does not spare the political leadership from the charge of colluding with and facilitating a way out that would limit further embarrassment for the US and its ‘ally’, Pakistan. Even as ‘embarrassments’ in the US-Pakistan relationship dot and punctuate its history and trajectory, the Raymond Davis affair exposed in no uncertain manner the nature of this unequal relationship. To take relatively recent history as an example, when the US-led west saw an opportunity to take down the Soviet Union through its unwise and shortsighted decision to invade and occupy Afghanistan, ostensibly to save the Afghan revolution, Pakistan readily lent itself to the role of a frontline state, without thinking through the unintended consequences of unleashing an army of holy warriors. Not only did the mujahideen ensure the Soviet Union was fought to a strategic stalemate in Afghanistan (helped immeasurably by weapons and aid from the west), its eventual retreat in 1989 proved a short hop away from the collapse of the USSR. In a post-Cold War world, the certainties of east-west battle lines and contentions were blurred in an increasingly complex and confused global order, spurring the assertion and spread of religious fundamentalist ideology, including reliance on terror, far beyond the region and throughout the world. Pakistan’s role in this denouement is beyond denial. Satraps we have been to the US and the west for most of our existence. To this was added another layer of satrapy when we embraced Saudi Arabian and Gulf riches in return for our conscience and arguably the health of our polity. No one, the military establishment, political leadership or our state institutions come out unscathed from Davis’ account. A moment perhaps to reflect and hang our head in shame.

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