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The man who damaged US-Pakistan ties

Last updated on: March 3, 2011 12:36 IST

The man who damaged US-Pakistan ties

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The case of Raymond Davis, the American held in Pakistan for double murder who a court has ruled does not enjoy diplomatic immunity, would put any espionage thriller to shame. Rediff.com tries to answer some of the many questions that surround the curious case of Davis.

Who is Raymond Davis?

Raymond Davis is an American diplomat who shot and killed two armed men in Lahore on January 27.

He was arrested by the Pakistan police and is currently lodged in the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. The next hearing of his trial is scheduled for March 15, when Davis is expected to be formally indicted for the double murder.

Why did Davis kill the two men?

Nobody has an answer to this question. Davis claimed that the men were trying to rob him in a Lahore market and he shot them in self-defence. But the Pakistan police have rejected Davis's claim and have booked him for murder.

The two men had reportedly pulled up in front of his car at a traffic signal when the incident took place. The Pakistani police claim that Davis used excessive force, as he fired ten shots at the two men. He even got out of his car to shoot dead one of the two men who was fleeing.

A third man was crushed when a speeding vehicle with American officials in it that was rushing to Davis's aid hit him. Pakistani officials believe its occupants, who have since left the country, were members of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The widow of one of the two civilians shot dead by Davis committed suicide after consuming poisonous pills.


Image: US consulate employee Raymond Davis being escorted out of a Lahore court
Photographs: Tariq Saeed/Reuters
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How can Pakistan arrest an American diplomat?

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According to top officials in the Pakistan administration, Davis doesn't enjoy blanket immunity as he was not listed as a diplomat as per foreign office records. And on Thursday, a Pakistani court too ruled that "CIA contractor" Davis did not enjoy diplomatic immunity -- a ruling that makes things intractable from Washington, DC's perspective.

Though the Pakistan government has warned its ministers and officials to keep quiet on the sensitive issue, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has gone on record to say that Davis didn't have diplomatic immunity.

"The issue of killing two Pakistani citizens in Lahore in broad daylight by a US embassy employee has become a matter of national respect," he has proclaimed.

The Pakistan government has taken a more cautious stance, with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani telling the media, "You should not be worried. There is a responsible government and it is working in the country's interest."


Image: Pak protestors hang an effigy of US President Barack Obama and Senator John Kerry during a protest
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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How has the United States reacted to Davis's arrest?

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Badly. The US administration has tried every pressure tactic in the book to force Pakistan to hand over Davis. Top American officials have repeatedly asserted that Davis is an American diplomat and therefore enjoys full immunity.

According to them, he could not be arrested or prosecuted under local laws as per the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, of which Pakistan is a signatory.

The US administration claims that Davis was notified as a member of the administrative and technical staff of the US embassy in Islamabad on January 20 and, therefore, had diplomatic immunity.


Image: A supporter of a political party poses with a mask and toy gun during a protest against Davis
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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What are the conspiracy theories attached to the Davis case?

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Soon after the incident, the Pakistani media reported that the two men shot by Davis were local intelligence officers.

The two men "belonged to the security establishment" and "found the activities of the American official detrimental to national security", an unnamed official told a local daily.

Both the Pakistan government and the American embassy have refused to comment on the report.

Off the record, Pakistan government said the duo were Inter Services Intelligence agents sent to follow Davis after it was discovered that he had been making contact with the Al Qaeda.


Image: Protestors in Pakistan burn a US flag during a rally against Davis near the US consulate
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters
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Is Raymond Davis a CIA agent?

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Multiple reports in the media claimed that Davis was a CIA agent engaged in espionage and surveillance activities in Pakistan. The report said the Pakistan government was aware of Davis's CIA status but had kept quiet in the face of intense US pressure.

Another report stated that Davis was hired on contract by the CIA and he was not a regular staff.

Davis, a retired special forces soldier, carried out scouting and reconnaissance missions for a CIA task force in Lahore, claimed another report.

Is Raymond Davis a recruiter for the Taliban?

A Pakistani daily claimed that Davis, whose job as a CIA agent was to conduct surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, had developed close ties with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

"Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency in Pakistan," a Pakistani official told the daily.

Did Raymond Davis pass on sensitive information to the Al Qaeda?

Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) has warned that Davis was in possession of top-secret CIA documents. He could have passed on technology related to 'nuclear fissile material' and 'biological agents' to the Al Qaeda, SVR said.


Image: Family members of the two Pakistanis who were killed demand that Davis be hanged
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters
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Why is Pakistan acting so tough on this particular issue?

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Many political experts believe that Islamabad is using the Davis case to settle its score with the Barack Obama administration. It is trying to avenge "attempts by certain elements in Washington to implicate the ISI in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks," said a Pakistani official.

The Pakistan government is reportedly furious with the decision of an American court to summon top ISI officials, including agency chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

The Davis case had also re-ignited the simmering anti-American sentiments among the majority of Pakistanis. The killing of the two Pakistani men is being seen as yet another case of America acting as a remorseless bully. If the Pakistan government caves in to US pressure and hands over Davis, it will have to face public wrath.

Many protestors have taken to the streets to demand stringent punishment for Davis and warn the government against his release. While several militant groups have demanded the death sentence for Davis, the Taliban has vowed to assassinate Pakistani officials if they free the American.


Image: Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami take part in a protest rally against Raymond Davis in Peshawar
Photographs: K Parvez/Reuters
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What has the US administration done so far to rescue Davis?

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Anything and everything possible. The US administration has tried to cajole, threaten, plead and negotiate with the Pakistani administration but has failed to change Islamabad's mind.

As a goodwill gesture, America initally halted drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan. It then sent Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry to Islamabad to soothe strained ties. Incidentally, Kerry is the author of the Congressional legislation that gives $1.5 billion to Pakistan for five years.

Obama has personally urged Pakistan to release Davis, saying, "If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country's local prosecution."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called up Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss the issue, days before the US suspended all high-level talks with its 'most important ally'. The US has decided to go ahead with a crucial meeting on Afghanistan without Pakistan.

The US administration has even threatened to cut its massive military aid to Islamabad.


Image: US Senator John Kerry with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani
Photographs: Mian Khursheed/Reuters
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What is America's Plan B?

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The CIA is reportedly contemplating trapping or targeting Pakistan nationals serving as diplomats abroad in retaliation for Davis's detention. The American administration has also resumed drone strikes in tribal areas to target 'militant hideouts'.

At least 30 suspected covert US operatives have suspended their activities in Pakistan and 12 have left the country after Davis's arrest. In a move that could further worsen ties between the two nations, Pakistan's intelligence agencies have begun scrutinising records of Americans living in the country and discovered 'several discrepancies'.



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What is the way out of this imbroglio?

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America and Pakistan need each other to further their own agendas. Pakistan needs US financial and military aid to stay afloat while its strategic location helps America immeasurably in carrying out its war on terror. Both nations need to resolve this ugly dispute in such a way that neither of them loses face. 

One way out for Davis might be paying Diyya (blood money) to the families of the victims to forgive him and thereby escape prosecution. But relatives of the deceased have rejected this option, saying, "We don't want money. We want blood for blood."

Davis may also be declared 'persona non-grata' and expelled from Pakistan, according to some officials.

The Pakistani government, which so far has managed to withstand immense pressure from the US, may declare that after investigations, it has been proved that Davis did indeed have diplomatic immunity. The Zardari-led government may plead helplessness in such a case and hand over Davis to its big brother ally.

 


Image: Family members comfort the sister of Shumaila, who committed suicide after her husband was killed
Photographs: Fayyaz Hussain/Reuters
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