My last post on Raymond Davis drew, as I expected it would, some pretty harsh criticism. This was expected and I was prepared for it. It is an emotional topic and as such it results in some emotional responses. I wanted to use this post to respond to some of the points that were made and also to continue the discussion because I think it’s important that we discuss these topics openly. Also I should note that I took some criticism for being ‘holier-than-thou’ and overly sarcastic especially with Dr Awab which I would also like to say was not my intention and I appreciate his responding. We don’t always agree on issues, but I think we can have a productive debate.
Following the last post, Dr Said Chaudhry posted the comment:
For the masses in Pakistan, the question is not whether they believes Raymond Davis is guilty or not (let the courts decide that), it is whether diplomatic immunity means an alleged double homocide perpetrator can walk away with just a few nights in a Lahore jail simply because he has a piece of paper that says “DIPLOMAT”?
This is an excellent description of the situation, and it helped me think about my own concerns on the issue. Let me say that this thinking is quite common but I think it confuses the issue in the following way – If Raymond Davis has diplomatic immunity, the court cannot decide if he’s guilty or not guilty because he is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. So guilt or innocence has nothing to do with the question of immunity. Diplomatic immunity does not only cover petty crimes like auto violations but rather it covers all crimes. Therefore, if someone commits a cold-blooded murder and has diplomatic immunity then, yes, he gets to walk away scot-free. Such a result may be unfair, and it may be infuriating…but it is the way the law works. And if we expect the same treatment for our own diplomats then we have to grant it for those of other countries also. In other words the law doesn’t apply only when it is convenient to us.
I also criticised Dr Awab in my original post for terming the shooting “cold blooded murder”. Dr Chaudhry correctly notes that Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen has also termed it this way. But is it possible that the CCPO chief is mistaken or possibly influenced by public sentiment and not the facts only? I don’t suggest this out of disrespect but because I think things are less clear than they appear at first. For example, look at the statement of the CCPO:
“The investigation revealed that the motorcyclists did not point guns at Davis as the weapons recovered from them were not loaded.”
Why would it matter if the guns were loaded or not? Could it not be that the boys pointed the unloaded guns to put the fear of his life into the American without intending to actually shoot? But the American would not know that they did not intend to shoot rather he would fear for his life and assume that the gun was loaded, which would make it a case of self defense.
The CCPO also stated the following:
“We have proof in the form of eyewitness accounts and forensic reports that it was not a case of self-defence. Rather it was a clear murder,” he said.
But Najam Sethi wrote in The Friday Times that forensic reports showed evidence of self-defense.
Two men on a motorbike, armed with unlicensed pistols, held up Mr Davis’ car. He expertly shot them through the windscreen, stepped out and took pictures of the gunmen with weapons as evidence of self-defense. Later, an autopsy report showed that four out of seven bullets had hit the gunmen in the front, confirming the threat to him. The criminals had earlier robbed two passersby of their cell phones and money.
And Kamran Shafi wrote of eye-witness accounts supporting a self defense claim in Dawn on 1 February.
What I myself saw on the very day of the shooting, about two hours after the event, was the interview of a young man off the street, conducted by a loud and vociferous channel. When asked what he had seen the man said: “pistol” (“The two motorcyclists drew their pistols to rob the foreigner [using the near-pejorative term , or Whitey] who shot them dead”). This was repeated twice in a period of 30 or so minutes and then taken off air. This is what I saw and heard myself. It is pertinent to note that that young man has not been seen, nor heard from, again. Neither has any newspaper quoted what he said on record.
Far more than this, there are stories in the press that the police is hesitant to register cases of mobile phone and wallet snatching against the two, crimes that two people allege they committed a few hours before their encounter with David, for fear of a `backlash`.
So while it is true that CCPO Tareen termed the shooting “clear murder”, it is also true that this is only one account and that others who were actually at the scene of the incident saw it differently. I was not at the scene and so I cannot tell you exactly what happened. Probably you the reader were not there either, so you would not know also. This is what is frustrating me is how many people are saying so definitely that they know what happened when that is simply not possible.
Let us also consider a related point which is that having so many media reports and so many people deciding that the shooting was “cold blooded murder” before any courts have had a chance to hear all the facts and evidence has the effect of making any fair trial by a court impossible. Ambassador Najmuddin A Shaikh described the chances of a fair trial in Express Tribune as unlikely.
Perhaps equally importantly from the American perspective is that the chances of a fair trial and the acceptance of Davis’s self-defence plea would appear to be minimal, given the viral public reaction to the killing. Initial reports had made it clear that the police had evidence that one of the two motorcyclists had a criminal record and had earlier that day robbed a Pakistani of cash and a cell phone, but that report has now been overtaken by a report that the two men were from a Pakistani security agency and were keeping an eye on Davis. Another piece of news, the committing of suicide by the young wife of one of the victims because she felt that justice would not be meted out to her husband’s killer, has further exacerbated the ugly public mood. When this is the mood in the streets in a country where a public prosecutor cannot be found to present the case against the killer of Salmaan Taseer and where cases against known terrorists cannot be brought to a successful conclusion because the judges fear that a judgement against the terrorist would put their life at risk, there would, especially in the American perspective, be little chance of a fair trial for Davis.
Of course all of this is interesting to discuss, but the fact is that the only real question is as I stated before: Does Raymond Davis have diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention? If the answer is yes, then it doesn’t matter if it was a case of self-defense or if it was a case of cold-blooded murder. It also doesn’t matter what happened in Georgia or what happened with Abdul Salam Zaeef. Even if the law was not correctly followed then it does not mean that we should not follow the law correctly now. Personally I may want to see Raymond Davis hang, but immunity is immunity full stop. It’s not conditional on if it’s an outrage or if it’s inconvenient or if we made a mistake in the past. And Diplomatic Immunity can only be determined by discussions between the US State Department and the Foreign Office – not a CCPO, not LHC, and not bloggers including me. That’s the difference between rule of law and rule of mobs. Rule of law is sometimes infuriating, but rule of mobs is just…
Lastly, I want to mention one comment that accused me of being CIA because of my post. This to me is the most frustrating because it is a cheap shot that I hear used too often. We can differ in our views on America, Vienna Conventions, drone strikes, poetry, food and everything else – and yet we can also both have Pakistan’s best interests in our hearts. Calling people infidels and agents and questioning their patriotism because they don’t agree with you is not debate, it’s just bullying. We are better than that. I know this because even the commenter when he saw that his comment was posted was surprised and then left a comment that was actually thoughtful and debated a point that I made by giving me something to look up and think about. I wish that comment had been left only and not the first one with such accusations.
I quoted Mosharraf Zaidi at the end of my last post, and I’m going to do the same here because I think he has made another excellent point for all of us to think about:
Lessons for Pakistani? #Egypt revolution had ZERO conspiracy theories (those came from #Mubarak) & ZERO rabid anti-Americanism.
Progress happens when people engage each other in civil dialogue. I’m glad that we have a good dialogue going here, and I welcome anyone who wants to join in. I don’t claim to have the answers, but by discussing these issues rationally, I think we have the opportunity find some answers together.