It has been a bit interesting to see how many instant experts we have on the Vienna Conventions and international law. Everyone from local lawyers, to talk show hosts, to retired bureaucrats, to dentists have weighed in with their opinions on how to interpret the Vienna Conventions and instruct the government on how to proceed in matters of international relations.
For weeks now every newspaper and TV station has run headlines such as ‘Davis neither a diplomat nor fired shots in self-defence’. People like Asif Ezdi, a former Ambassador, are writing columns suggesting that, facts be damned, the government should decide issues of diplomatic law based on “the national self-esteem”. And that was one of the less strange opinions from the instant experts.
Pakistan Today wrote that “chances of his release are now hinged upon the approval of families of the deceased”. The Nation wrote that Davis “did not merit” diplomatic immunity and provides as argument against his release the tragic suicide of Shumaila Faheem.
The USA is insisting, in the face of all the evidence and all the law, that Davis is entitled to diplomatic immunity which would enable his release. The State Department spokesman Crawley, however, acknowledged that the suicide of the widow of one of Davis’ victims as a ‘tragedy’. The USA should realize that her death provides as additional reason against the release of Davis, apart from the fact that he did not merit it on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.
Even lawyers are coming out the woodwork to make pronouncements that don’t make any sense whatsoever. Mirza Shahzad Akbar wrote last week in The News, that Raymond Davis does not deserve diplomatic immunity “because he is not a diplomat”. Unfortunately, the esteemed lawyer in Islamabad gives himself away in his closing paragraph in which he states that this issue is not about hating America, and the proceeds into an anti-American tirade about “hegemony, self-righteousness and their…policies towards Palestine and Israel”.
Then of course there are the emails that flood my inbox from so-called “journalists” whose only published works appear on the sorts of websites that vanish as soon as sunlight appears.
But it’s not just the usual lawyers, retired bureaucrats, and operatives “journalists” who have become instant experts on the Vienna Convention as it also appears that our dentists are experts in the Vienna Conventions also!
Look at how the issue is being discussed on Dr Awab Alvi’s blog, Teeth Maestro. Dr Awab writes, “Raymond Davis an American National who shot and murdered two Pakistanis in open daylight with 27 bullets is under arrest in Lahore.”
There are several problems with this very first sentence of his post. First is the term “murdered”. Now I realize this is going to upset a lot of people, but the fact is that the term “murder” carries a specific meaning which is the unlawful killing of another human being with “malice aforethought”. Whatever Dr Awab might have decided in his own head, there has been no such conviction by any court. Nevermind, the esteemed dentist has already judged and prosecuted the American himself. No need for anyone in the Foreign Office to do their jobs as questions of diplomatic immunity are now being decided from a Alvi Dental Hospital in Karachi.
Dr Awab also claims that Raymond Davis shot “in open daylight with 27 bullets”. Now, I’m not one to question the investigative conclusions and legal pronouncements of a respected dentist, but wasn’t it Mumtaz Qadri who fired 26 bullets in open daylight into the back of an unarmed man? No matter, surely Dr Awab must be correct, after all he writes a popular blog.
But Dr Awab wasn’t done with just one blog post on the subject. He then posted again the same day declaring that Raymond Davis “killed two people in cold blood”. He then goes on to compare the Raymond Davis case to the case of Abdul Salam Zaeef and says,
“It sends chills down ones spine to note how ruthless the Americans were, total disrgard for humanity and no consideration for any Diplomatic immunity that Abdul Salam Zaeef may have under the Vienna Convention.”
Unfortunately, Dr Awab gets several points wrong in his posts. For example, the good Doctor writes:
I am sure the serving Ambassador had full Diplomatic Immunity as accorded to his status under the Vienna Convention…
Actually, no. Abdul Salam Zaeef did not enjoy the protections of the Vienna Conventions once the UN voted the Taliban as a terrorist regime. I suppose that Dr Awab must have missed the course on recognition of states and governments in his dental school.
What is even more strange, though, is that Dr Awab is not even suggesting that the Foreign Office recognize the diplomatic immunity of Raymond Davis as he seems to believe the Americans should have been done for Abdul Salam Zaeef. Rather Dr Awab seems to be suggesting that Pakistan match the “ruthlessness” and “total disregard for humanity” that he complains the Americans demonstrated in the Abdul Salam Zaeef case.
I would think he might take offense at the Foreign Office instructing him on the proper procedure to perform a root canal, though obviously Dr Awab has the right to post whatever ill-informed opinions he wants on his blog. But I do think it’s symptomatic of a larger problem which is that suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harry has become an instant expert on the Vienna Conventions and diplomatic immunity and this is only serving to create confusion about the issue.
For those of you interested, here is a link to the actual text of the treaty on the UN website. I have scanned it several times and have yet to find any mention of “national self-esteem”, tragic suicides, the approval of the families of the deceased, American “self-righteousness” or even root canals.
Now, I’m not going to play the role of judge, jury, and hangman myself. I’m neither a lawyer nor a diplomat. But I can read well enough to know that a good 99 percent of what is being reported is either totally false or completely irrelevant to the question of whether Raymond Davis is entitled to diplomatic immunity, and that this is a matter not for newspaper editors or dentists but for the governments of the involved nations to work out between them.
Mosharraf Zaidi sums everything up well on Twitter:
No prosecutors for the Taseer murder case. But soooo many Vienna Convention experts. It all adds up.
The worst of all of this is that while the entire country has become obsessed with carrying on painfully uninformed debates over the intricacies of treaties that they’ve probably never seen before and instant experts are popping up in drawing rooms and tea stalls across the country, every other problem facing the nation is virtually ignored.