Instant Experts…Just add Ghairat!


2-Minute Vienna Convention ExpertIt 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.


Author: Mahmood Adeel


  1. I’m so glad you took time to read my blog posts in excruciating detail – how you selectively choose a few sentences and twist your own argument in it’s meaning truly amuses me

    Power to the notion of open dialogue – hope next time you see my sentences in Better light

    • Dr Awab thank you for responding. I linked to the full articles so that readers can make up their own minds. Please do let me know how I have misrepresented anything you wrote.

  2. Hilarious – ROFL. And absolutely spot on – everyone sudden expert on issue and spewing mostly utter nonsense in the absence of information that Pakistan foreign office is sitting on. FO transfixed like deer with headlights shone in its eyes.

  3. Dont get me wrong but you give off the vibe that you feel threatened by opinions of people who are not of your profession (whatever that is).

    So now that Lahore Police CCPO has affirmed the notion Dr Awab suggested in his blog. Even if Dr Awab’s opinion was based on instinct – he is not incorrect. CCPO chief confirmed today that ballistic reports, autopsy reports, forensic reports & police investigations have all concluded that Raymond Davis’ shooting escapade was indeed a “cold blooded murder”. Now, I’m not a lawyer or a diplomat or a journalist, merely a medical doctor. I have left interpretations of international law to those who understand it better, but a large part of investigation in any homocide case in Pakistan rests on the pathological and forensic aptitude of medical doctors who are experts in forensic medicine (I dont want to dwell too much into how much law we learn, I’ll leave that on you to investigate). Therefore, your notion that Dr Awab’s indulgence in this case is a far cry the dentists chair is not the most profound. You’ll find a large audience of self serving journalists who will agree with you though, but such are the insecurities we live with today and even more so plaguing Pakistan, where every man thinks he knows best. But please, try not to feel belittled by opinions of Dr Awab’s or anyone else, your thinly veiled pops referring to his profession having nothing to do with reporting are a testament to that. Rather than opening our minds and brain storming ideas, there are people (such as yourself) who are ready to knife opinions and puncture the fusion of collective collaboration. I think you summed it up nicely near the end when you said its not upto dentists or journalists to decide whether Raymond Davis has diplomatic immunity or not. But this is not just a small news, you have a possible “diplomat” who shot and killed two people which the police now firmly believe is a case of murder (not self-defence) and that person may potentially walk away scot-free. Can you really blame people becoming “instant experts” on international law?
    These matters, Mr Adeel, are important in our society and have to be addressed by all responsible citizens in their capacity, regardless of their profession.

    I hope you understand what I’m trying to say, but if you dont – here it is again: 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”? Don’t blame people for their interest to get involved in better understanding and raising their voice on this matter, it is only healthy to do so.

  4. Adeel

    I think its good dialogue to question each others argument, on second thought, id share my position

    27 bullets – I stand guilty – yes it was a mistake

    as far as diplomatic status of Abdul Salam Zaeef, whats interesting to note, that he was Talibans Ambassador to Pakistan BEFORE 9/11, we may or may not agree with the Talibans, but as the ruling Party of Afghanistan he had the necessary credentials to occupy the position of Ambassador.

    On August 28th 2001 a group of senators met with him in the capacity of Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan goes to show his credentials were valid before 9/11

    What happened after 9/11 – the UN declaring Taliban a terrorist organization and etc etc is different, if PK and US are so passionate on protecting the Vienna convention NOW, my argument was that they ignored all aspects of Vienna Convention then

    if Pakistan had accepted his credentials as an Ambassador then the worst it can do is declare him Persona Non-Grata and escort him out as a independent national going on his free will. Arresting him gaging him up ripping his clothes to the point of nudity and handing him over to the US is utter disregard ot Vienna Convention or even the Geneva Convention where simply declaring him terrorist does not make him stateless

    My reason for debating was more to show a local example in light vs the Gregorian case that was being used before.

    Its not a tit-for-tat debate but im appalled at the inhumanity of treating dignitary – let alone throw him to the dogs

  5. Dear Sir,

    I would like a nice Job with the CIA like you do. Merey chotay chotay bachay hain, Please mere bhi cia kai stath setting karwa dain.

    Yours most obediently,
    God Bless America

    • Agar Dr Awab aur main khule mein aur tehzeeb ke daayre mein reh kar ke jawab-talab kar sakte hain to aap aisa kyun nahin kar sakte? Kisi shaks kii hubb-ul-watani par shuk karnay ka aap ko kya haq hai? Aisa kyun nahin ho sakta keh 2 Pakistanio kay khayalaat amreeka kay baray mein alag hoan aur dono apni soch mein mulk ka bhala chahtay hoan? Yeh kaafir aur ghaddar y agent bananay ka kaam khatam kijiye.

  6. Mahmood,

    I did not expect my comment to be posted. Anyways, i appreciate your posting the comment.

    Your assertion about Zaeef not enjoying diplomatic immunity is actually incorrect and was explained by tariq fatmi. He says he did enjoy immunity and regards the incident as an unprecedented shameful act on part of Pakistan.

Comments are closed.