Where to even begin with the Raymond Davis case?
In the last few weeks, tensions have escalated between the U.S. and Pakistan. The media has dubbed it “a diplomatic row,” but even that phrase is a gross oversimplification of the situation, which is now a convoluted, complex mess. The center of the controversy is an American allegedly named Raymond Davis who, on January 27, killed two brothers in Lahore, who he claimed were trying to rob him at gunpoint.
But two things have come increasingly into question since the incident: (1) Davis’ self-defense plea and (2) Davis’ status in Pakistan.
Although Davis claimed he shot the men in self-defense – a statement supported by the State Department – a Pakistani police report said otherwise, concluding he was “guilty of murder.” According to the Washington Post, the five-page report cited investigators’ findings that Davis “shot each victim five times, including in their backs, and lied to police about how he arrived at the scene.”
Davis’ status in Pakistan, though, has become the central issue in this diplomatic storm. Although the United States insists Raymond Davis is an American diplomat, making his arrest a clear violation of diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention, the details surrounding this status appear convoluted at best, fueling cries that he is in fact a private security contractor.
Soon after the shooting, Pakistani news channels broadcast what it says were images of Davis’ passport, seemingly absent of a diplomatic visa. Dunya News later televised a mobile phone video of his alleged interrogation by Punjab police, in which Davis told authorities that he was a “consultant” for the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. In the most recent and overblown claim, the Nation reported that Davis flew “into a fury” in jail upon hearing the azaan, the Muslim call to prayer. According to the article,
The inmates facing murder charges invariably display quite caution. American killer Raymond Davis, however, is a different species. Undeterred by the implications of his case, he lives in the jail the way he wants to…“Seeing four prisoners offering Asr prayers in the corridor of their barrack, Davis started grumbling in a derogatory way,” said Shah.
While Raymond Davis could very well be a private security contractor who was operating in Pakistan, (in fact, there is a lot of evidence suggesting he is, in fact, one), media coverage that further serves to demonize him is not productive. In fact, it has ultimately made Davis a caricature, a larger-than-life character who exacerbates the emotionalism that lies at the very root of this society. And, as the diplomatic tug-of-war has continued between the U.S. and Pakistan at the top, it has stoked anti-American sentiment and tensions at the local level. The Raymond Davis case has ultimately become so enormous that there is no painless conclusion.
However, here are a few observations:
- The Raymond Davis case highlights the tenuous relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. This is a pretty obvious statement, but the threat by U.S. lawmakers that they would halt aid to Pakistan, as well as the recent statements by PPP’s Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab (specifically that, Davis “enjoyed diplomatic immunity” and, “Why we are risking our overall good reputation before the rest of the world…America is the largest market for Pakistan, with whom we earn four billion dollars.”) further emphasize just how transactional that relationship truly is. As Raza Rumi noted, “We hate America but not American aid or arms.” Let’s face facts. We are not equal partners in our relationship with the United States. We have an American sugar daddy. And though money will certainly not buy you love (especially in Pakistan), it will definitely buy you a lot of dependency. Not a good thing.
- The case showcases the confusion and tenuous relations within and between political parties in Pakistan. Last week, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was dropped during the cabinet reshuffle reportedly “over his divergent opinion on the Raymond Davis issue,” when he said that Washington had pressured him for Davis’ release “but he had refused to comply on the basis that Davis is not a diplomat.” His statement led Wahab to question Qureshi’s loyalty and call for disciplinary action for humiliating party leadership. Another PPP official, in reaction to Wahab’s claim that Davis “enjoyed diplomatic immunity,” stated it was her “personal opinion,” not reflective of “party policy” or “government policy.” This series of statements highlight the confusion and lack of agreement that exists within parties. Moreover, the Davis case as a whole has and will lead to opposition parties attempting to win brownie points among the public to gain political leverage and ultimately undermine the current government. Cue further instability.
Since this debacle started a few weeks ago, increasingly more prominent figures have stepped in, from President Obama calling Davis a diplomat and urging Pakistan to abide by the Vienna Convention, to Senator John Kerry making a last-minute trip to Pakistan to appeal for the American’s release. On the other side, Pakistani politicians are bickering while public cries for justice are growing louder by the day. You have to wonder – is there a seamless way out of this diplomatic clusterf****?