by rahnuma ahmed
[Today’s column is dedicated to those who believe US presidents don’t lie, that only politicians of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria, Iran etc., etc., those who belong to the uncivilised south, or to fundamentalist Muslim countries, do].
“We’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future,” said Obama at a press conference (February 15, 2011) where he declared that by not releasing Raymond Davis, accused of killing two Pakistanis point-blank in Lahore (January 27, 2011), Pakistan was violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
“If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.” “We expect Pakistan, that’s a signatory and recognises Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.”
It was rich coming from the president of a country which has violated international law in its treatment of foreign nationals. Which captured and abducted scores of men in Afghanistan, sent them off to Guantanamo hooded, shackled, bound and drugged, locked them up in small cages and tortured them. International conventions do not apply, said Donald Rumsfeld, when defense secretary, for they are “unlawful combatants.” No insignia, no chain of command, carrying arms openly. True of the Taliban, but true as well of American special forces who eased in the Northern Alliance’s victory. They wore civilian clothes, and kept their weapons out of sight (Patrick Martin, “Afghan POWs at Guantanamo base: bound and gagged, drugged, caged like animals,” WSWS, 14 January 2002).
It was rich coming from the president of a country which has failed to observe the Vienna Convention on Consular Access to which the US is a signatory, which obliges countries to notify foreign govenments when their citizens have been detained. US states regularly flout Vienna conventions, to the extent of executing foreign nationals without allowing them to contact their embassy officials, a practice upheld by the US Supreme Court. More bizarre was the reason advanced by the state of Texas when George Bush was governor. The international treaty applied only to the federal government, not to Texas. The latter was not a signatory.
Full diplomatic immunity is enjoyed only by diplomatic agents, by those who are head of the mission or a member of the mission’s diplomatic staff i.e., those having diplomatic rank (ambassador to third secretary), explains Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-2004 who was removed from his ambassadorial position for criticising Western support for the dictatorial Karimov regime. A second category exists, writes Murray, the mission’s “administrative and technical staff” enjoy limited diplomatic immunity but it specifically excludes “acts performed outside the course of their duties” (“This CIA agent is no diplomat,” Guardian, 28 February 2011.
Raymond Davis was not one of Obama’s “our diplomat.” There was no reason for the president not to know that, if he didn’t, he seems too ill-informed to be the president of the United States.
According to news reports, sources in the Pakistan Foreign Office said, the US had pressurised them to forge backdated documents to allow the US to claim that Davis worked for the US Embassy. But Davis himself had told arresting police officers that he was “just a contractor” working out of the Lahore Consulate (Dave Lindorff, The Case Mounts Against The CIA?s Raymond Davis, Eurasia Review, 25 Feb 2011).?Further, a week before the shooting, the US Embassy had submitted a list of its Embassy workers to the Foreign Office. Forty-eight names, no Davis. A day after the shooting, a “revised” list was submitted by the Embassy. Sorry. The earlier list had “overlooked” Davis.?To make matters (lies) worse, Davis was carrying a regular passport when arrested. A day after the shooting, however, Lahore Consulate officials rushed over with a shiny new diplomatic passport; it was not accepted. To complicate matters even further, Davis was carrying a Department of defense contractor ID when arrested.
But it wasn’t only Obama. Other top-ranking US officials too, lied. Hillary Clinton, in a message to Pakistan’s president Asif Zardari insisted that Raymond Davis should be released immediately. Senator John F. Kerry, chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, went to Pakistan to advise the government to respect the international law which grants diplomatic immunity to consulate officials.
These lies were backed up by threats. All bilateral contracts with Pakistan were put on hold until Davis’s release. The dispute, said diplomatic sources, could affect three major events: president Asif Zardari’s planned visit to Washington this year; the next round of US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, and the trilateral talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US (Dawn, February 8, 2011).?Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was told that secretary Clinton would probably not meet him in the Munich international security conference. Qureshi postponed his visit (only to be fired later for not agreeing to change Davis’ record; he’d rather resign, he said, than become “an accessory to multiple murder”). http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/129647/world/qureshi-lost-foreign-ministry-portfolio-for-opposing-immun The row could also affect $1.5 billion annual assistance to Pakistan. It could affect a $7.5 billion, 5-year civilian aid package. Official visits. Official meetings. In short, it could cast a shadow on everything. Until and unless Raymond Davis was released.
Outside the US, commentators began wondering very early on what on earth Davis (“our diplomat,” our “administrative and technical staff”) was doing with the items found in his car: a 9mm Glock pistol, GPS tracker, satellite phone, telescope, five magazines, 75 bullets of prohibited bore, two cutters, two cell phones, ATM cards, first aid kit, PIA tickets, maps, a digital camera which included photographs of sensitive military installations, bridges and Ack Ack gun positions near bridges and bunkers facing the Indian border, masks, make-up kit.?A police investigation of calls later showed calls to 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the banned Pakistani Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group identified as a “terrorist” organisation by both Pakistan and US governments, one that is blamed for prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl’s slaying.
But it wasn’t only top-ranking US officials, the US press too, lied. After the Guardian and the Associated Press reported that Raymond Davis is “beyond a shadow of doubt” employed by the CIA (Guardian, February 20, 2011),?that the arrested US official is “actually a CIA contractor” (AP, February 21, 201),?the New York Times ‘fessed up. Alongwith major US news organisations, wrote its editor, the NYT too had agreed to the “request of the Obama administration” to withold Davis’ CIA connections from the American public. Despite knowing fully well, the American press had regurgitated endlessly that Davis was one of “our diplomats,” that he enjoyed “diplomatic immunity.” NYT’s editor agreed that their stance which had led to misleading the public was “unpalatable,” but he didn’t “regret” the judgment.
Muhammad Faheem and Faizan Haider, had been on a motorbike which swerved in front of Davis’s Honda Civic when he stopped at a red light. A former special forces soldier, Davis, whipped out his semi-automatic Glock pistol and opened fire from behind the wheel of his car. Five shots sliced through the windscreen and killed Faheem. Faizan began running, Davis got out of his car and fired another five shots. According to the post-mortem report, Faizan’s body had three bullets in the front, two in the back. Davis walked back to the car, called for help on a military-style radio, took out his camera and started photographing the dead men. All in broad daylight. A rescue squad soon appeared driving at high speed down the opposite end of the road, it killed motorcyclist Ibadur Rahman. Not finding Davis who had by then fled, the rescue car sped off in the direction of the Lahore Consulate jettisoning items which included 100 bullets, knives, gloves, a blindfold, a piece of cloth with the American flag. While fleeing, one of its doors swung open and, according to witnesses, an American brandished a rifle and threatened to fire anyone who got in the way (Declan Walsh, A CIA spy, a hail of bullets, three killed and a US-Pakistan diplomatic row, Guardian, February 20, 2011).?The rescue car men were spirited out of the country, Davis was caught.
There was a fourth death. On February 6, Shumaila Kanwal, 26 year old widow of Faheem, committed suicide by taking insecticide. The killer should be shot like my husband was shot. I want blood for blood. He is being treated favorably instead. He will soon be set free. “I do not expect any justice from this government” (Dawn, February 7, 2011).
On March 16 Raymond Davis was released. According to official reports, $2.34 million in Diyat (blood money) had been paid to the legal heirs of those killed. When asked, Hillary Clinton denied that the US had paid “any compensation.” ?Did someone else, to your knowledge?? ?You will have to ask whoever you are interested in asking about that,? was her reply. According to the NYT, the money had been paid by members of the Pakistan government, to be reimbursed later by the US government, while others think, it was arranged by the Saudi government, anxious, because the Americans were “getting impatient.” Both Faheem and Faizan’s family went missing several days before the court hearing where diyat was agreed upon, some had been taken away by unidentified men. They were delivered to the court on the day of the hearing, also by unidentified men. When the judge asked them whether they had pardoned Davis, they replied in the affirmative but 19 family members have subsequently vanished. Were they forced to accept the deal? Were they afraid of retaliation because they had? Many in Pakistan think so. The lawyer representing Faizan has said, “I and my associate were kept in forced detention for hours” before the trial. Lawyers for both families have claimed that the family members were “forcibly taken to Kot Lahkpat Jail by unidentified men and made to sign papers pardoning Davis” (Dave Lindorff, Raymond Davis Walks, CounterPunch, March 17, 2011).l The issue of compensation was first raised when senator Kerry visited Islamabad to press for Davis’ release (Dawn, March 18, 2011).
Davis, writes Dawn’s former editor Abbas Nasir, was but a “pawn on a chessboard.” His near-two months long captivity and the gravity of charges were being used as “bargaining chips” in a larger game. Being played on a much wider stage, across a much broader canvas. Others think, the now-resolved dispute will lead to closer collaboration between Pakistan’s ISI and the CIA.
Lies. Threats. Intimidation. Many accessories to multiple murders.
Published in New Age Monday March 21, 2011