Kiran Omar


A perplexing and puzzling drama is being played out in the Pakistani and international media, the stakes of which are high – US/Pakistan bilateral relationship. At the heart of this puzzle is one Raymond Davis, a “consultant/contractor” attached or contracted to  the US diplomatic mission in Pakistan. To date his exact official designation at said mission is unclear and his job description and area of operation/expertise ambiguous.


Reports are appearing in the US media of Davis being employed by a self-owned security firm, contracted to the US diplomatic missions in Pakistan, however the company has so far not been clearly identified nor has any other come forward to claim him as their employee. There are also reports in the US media of Davis’s past career as a special operations soldier, and that he is the only “service” his company offers.


Davis catapulted to notoriety when on 27 January he shot at and killed, two men in a crowded bazaar in Lahore’s Old Quarter, in full daylight and in the presence of several eye-witnesses, including traffic wardens. A US Consulate car speeding to aid Davis, killed a third man due to reckless driving, the driver and passenger of that vehicle are presently protected by the US Consulate Lahore’s high walls. Davis claims that the men killed were armed robbers intent on stealing money from him that he had withdrawn from an ATM bank machine earlier and that he shot them in self defense. He has claimed diplomatic immunity and refuses to cooperate with police interrogation. And of late, Sen. John Kerry (D-PA) is camped in Islamabad to spirit Davis out from Pakistan.


The Davis incident, on surface a straight forward case, has taken on a vivid life of its own and threatens US/Pakistan bilateral relationship, with the US government demanding – not requesting – that Davis be immediately released to their embassy as he is supposedly protected by diplomatic immunity, extended to diplomats and consular employees under the Vienna Convention of 1961 & and ‘1963. The US threatens to discontinue or suspend further payments of bilateral assistance on which an impoverished government of Pakistan depends to prevent itself form bankruptcy, if Davis is not released to them. And an immediate effect has been that President Zardari has been prevented from adding frequent flier miles to Washington, DC.


Several aspects of the Davis case are puzzling and the man himself is shrouded in mystery. Forensic examination of his car by the Punjab Police revealed a large number of guns, cellular phones, bullets and photographs of sensitive military installations in Pakistan. This has led to wide speculation of his being involved in some covert spy operation. He was arrested from an old and run down area of the city which is not on the typical tourist route, almost never visited by foreigners. Further forensic examination has revealed that the two men shot, although armed, had not fired at Davis as he claimed, as no finger prints were found on their weapons and no bullets been fired from them. Both men were shot in the back of their heads.


Several questions spring to mind and beg answers; 1)The issue is if Davis is a diplomat as he and the US diplomatic missions in Pakistan claim, then how normal is it for diplomats to be armed with loaded weapons whilst moving around in public areas? 2) What was the purpose of his visit to an obscure, shabby and crowded area of the city, not frequented by foreigners? 3) How can he, as a diplomat, explain the weapons, bullets, cell phones, etc. found in his car? 4)And w Why the urgency and disproportionate pressure by the US to release him without allowing police investigation to be completed?


Presently Pakistan, rather the Punjab government is resisting to releasing Davis to the US, insisting that he be tried under criminal charges. The US demands his immediate release and repatriation, claiming he has diplomatic immunity. This claim however holds little weight as his “official” designation is of an independent security consultant/technician. Such contractual workers are not eligible for diplomatic immunity under any known convention. The tussle to wrench Davis from the Pakistani authorities has driven the stakes very high and threaten US/Pakistani bilateral relations, US/Afghanistan/Pakistan cooperation to fight the “war on terror”; and most importantly the flow of economic assistance that is crucial to propping up the present government of Pakistan.


The Davis incident has grown into a many headed hydra, claiming important political casualties and embroiling feuding political factions into a complex impasse. One major casualty was Shah Mehmood Qureshi the Foreign Minister, who was acknowledged by his Foreign Office colleagues and international counterparts, as a man of capability and integrity. Mr. Qureshi’s and subsequently after his dismissal, the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Salman Bashir maintain that Davis does not have diplomatic immunity and must be dealt with by the Punjab court. Conflicting statements from PPP senior spokespersons and advisers have further confused the matter. What is clear is that the US is exerting inordinate pressure for Davis’s release.


With Qureshi’s removal in a recent cabinet reshuffle, the government appears to have softened its stance on Davis, and the reports out of Islamabad indicate that the public is being readied for his release. However popular public opinion and that of the opposition stands firmly to oppose any extra-judicial settlement. Recent statements by the Taliban leaders warning against such a move, has rendered the situation precarious endangering an already explosive security situation.

The PPP government has exposed its inner weakness and fragility once again in its inability to deal with the Davis issue with clarity and decisiveness. The dismissal of a high ranking party member like Qureshi has revealed deep schisms in its internal leadership and lack thereof.


The issue of Davis issue must be resolved in a clear manner, consistent with the law of the land. The timely resolution is imperative if further internal unrest is to be prevented and US/Pakistan strategic relationship to be restored. It is also imperative that Pakistan establish unambiguously, its right as a sovereign nation, to impose the rule of law which should not and cannot, be biased by political expediency. If Davis was indeed defending himself against armed criminals, then the court should be allowed to review all evidence produced both for and against his action, in a fair and impartial manner, free of pressure, threats and downright bullying.


In conclusion, one must be reminded that covert activities by US and other foreign nationals is not new to the Sub-continent and its geo-politics. Is it that the Great Game of yesteryear’s is being replayed and revisited? Only deeper investigation into this bizarre case can reveal the truth. The public sentiment about the US and its policies globally and specially in Afghanistan, is very unfavorable at this time, manifesting in street protests, flag burning and slogan chanting against them. The Davis case further cements this anger and fans hatred of the US and the present Pakistani establishment as being subservient to their diktats. Constant drone attacks that take civilian lives as part of collateral damage conveys the message to the public that Pakistani lives are of no consequence to the US and its allies in the “war on terror”, which has lost all credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

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