Showing posts with label Raymond Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Raymond Davis. Show all posts

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Game Afoot?

I had promised a comprehensive post about the unraveling of Husain Haqqani when it first happened. The different aspects of the case (technical, political, legal) that led to his resignation as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States - now commonly and irritatingly dubbed 'Memogate' - however, not only required a lot more time to deal with than I then had available, but has already been commented upon in bits and pieces by various analysts all over in newspapers, on television and on the net. Far more importantly, it now seems like a footnote in the rush of current events.

 Eye of the storm: Husain Haqqani

Because I had promised a post on it, I will state briefly what I thought of the entire episode as well as state some things that all should be aware of:

*** The Unravelling of Husain Haqqani ***

1. The military establishment was never pleased with the appointment of Haqqani as Pakistan's ambassador to the US and had been gunning for his head right from the beginning. Whether this was because it actually believed Haqqani was not sincere to Pakistan's interests, whether it felt it needed someone more on its institutional side in the US, or whether it was simple vindictiveness that arose out of Haqqani's well-regarded 2005 book "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military" which critiqued the military's role in fostering religious extremism, I do not know. What I do know, however, is that it tried many times covertly to vilify Haqqani through the media in order to have him pushed out, the most recent previous example being over the Raymond Davis affair.

2. It is my educated guess, based on the evidence available so far, that the military did not precipitate the memo crisis, but it certainly pounced on it with great glee once the existence of the memo had been revealed by Mansoor Ijaz's oped in the Financial Times. It is also my strong hunch that the only reason Mansoor Ijaz did what he did was initially a banal hunger for the limelight, a desire to be seen as a 'player' in international politics. He has always harboured great ambitions to be seen as such, as well as deep-rooted resentment that his alleged earlier forays into Sudan and Kashmir had not provided him the importance he felt he deserved. Before his FT piece, no one knew even of the existence of the memo or perceived any notable shift in US policy because of it. His subsequent posturing was precipitated by a sense that he was once again being belittled and mocked.

 Mansoor Ijaz: Blackberry warrior

3. It is my considered belief that Husain Haqqani was, in fact, involved in this saga, based on the 'evidence' presented so far in the public domain and my own knowledge of Haqqani's personality. You are free to disagree with this, it is after all only my opinion. Haqqani has always been an extremely intelligent and clever man (some colleagues have often dubbed him Machiavellian in his brilliance) but in this case he probably overreached and did not anticipate the power of the desire for fame that underpinned Mansoor Ijaz's personality. Haqqani also did not anticipate that his attempts to discredit Ijaz through certain blogs and newspaper articles - not under his own name of course, but I choose to leave them unnamed - only angered Ijaz further and made him more resolute in exposing all. It helped of course that Ijaz had the military to goad him on. For one of the most brilliant media tacticians, this was Haqqani's fatal miscalculation. There still remain plenty of unanswered questions about why Haqqani did what he did, especially because public opinion after the May 2 Abbottabad raid, if one cares to remember, was decidedly anti-military and certainly not conducive to the kind of coup the memo was allegedly in response to. My own feeling is Haqqani (and possibly President Asif Zardari) felt it to be an opportune time to bring the khakis to heel and he chose to go via the Mansoor Ijaz route (despite his dubious credentials) precisely because it provided the requisite plausible deniability. I can present no definitive evidence to back up these gut feelings, which brings me to the next point.

4. I don't believe that, legally speaking, Haqqani can be linked directly with the memo based on the evidence presented so far. At best, even if (and that is a big 'IF') RIM - the company that runs Blackberry services around the world - provides concrete evidence of the authenticity of the BBM messages exchanged between Haqqani and Ijaz, there would still be only circumstantial / speculative evidence that what they actually discussed was the memo itself. The most recent revelations by WikiLeaks - which indicate that "software products could not only read emails and text messages sent from spied-on phones, but could actually fake new ones or alter the text of messages sent" can be used by Haqqani to cast even more doubt on the alleged BBM exchange. There is not even that little level of evidence to link Zardari to the memo. Keep in mind I am speaking purely from a legal point of view, which is the only point of view that matters as far as the courts are concerned. The Supreme Court inquiry into 'Memogate' is bound to run into a legal dead end, like it or not.

5. I don't subscribe to the line of reasoning of those who rose to the defence of Husain Haqqani by saying that 'there is nothing wrong in the memo even if he did write it'. They misjudge how it plays in the minds of even the most pro-democracy of Pakistanis and certainly misjudge its impact on public consciousness. No one in their right mind thinks the solution to the Pakistan military's obtrusiveness in domestic politics lies with the US. Not even Haqqani has claimed that; in fact he has used that argument explicitly to denounce linking him with the memo.

So where does this all leave us? Some people will be angered by this analysis. No doubt Mr Haqqani and his die-hard supporters will question my assumptions even though I have attempted to clearly label them as my opinion where appropriate. On the other hand, his detractors will consider this a cop-out: if I really do believe he was involved, they will argue, how can I be satisfied with no repercussions? Simply because my 'gut feelings' are no substitute for solid proof. All I am trying to lay out is how I think matters played out and will play out from a legal point of view. But it's not that there have been no repercussions already. Husain Haqqani's career as a Pakistani envoy is finished at least pending some sort of major revolution in Pakistan (and I don't mean of the Imran Khan variety). He has resigned and that will be that from a legal point of view in my opinion. But far more is going on behind the surface that requires a closer look.

*** Beyond the Memo ***

The reason I say that the memo saga is fast becoming a footnote in the rush of current events is because of political developments of which it now seems one small part. The latest of these is the speculation over Zardari's sudden departure for the UAE ostensibly for "medical reasons" and the media frenzy about whether it signals his imminent resignation.

No logical scenario entails any such resignation by Zardari (neither legally nor politically) but the media (with some notable exceptions) is not often one troubled by looking at things logically. However, what the hysteria around it and around the memo story indicates is not just wish fulfillment on the part of media anchors. It indicates that there is a concerted effort in place to tip things into at least a perception of crisis.

I have been sitting on an explosive lead for about two weeks, primarily because it is entirely based on hearsay, partly because it defies logical credulity and partly because I was trying to get some more confirmations which have proved difficult to obtain for obvious reasons. However, while  I don't generally believe in sharing speculative rumours (there are far too many in this country) I think there are interesting enough aspects to it, especially in light of recent events, that perhaps some of our more well-connected readers can shed some further light on or perhaps even definitively refute. So here goes:

Two independent sources, both extremely well connected, have been talking big in private gatherings recently. One of them is a prominent businessman with links to military intelligence operatives. The other is a close family member of a recently retired high-ranking military man. Both say the same thing: that the entire political 'set-up' will be 'wrapped up' in January. While the sources for their 'information' are patently military, they both cited cases being heard in the Supreme Court, which are at critical stages, as the catalyst. The three most important cases referred to are the one against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (which has finally been decided against the government), against the Rental Power Agreements (in which government is accused of corruption) and finally the one calling for an inquiry into the secret memo and the government's role in it. The decision on these three cases in particular will supposedly tip the situation from one of impending crisis into a real one.

So far nothing spectacular other than an apparently definitive timeline. Many analysts with no inside knowledge could make similar predictions. However, what these sources say next is notable. They both claim that what would follow the 'wrapping up' of the current political dispensation are not elections but an interim arrangement along the Bangladesh model, and the name they mention is reference to who might head up such an arrangement? Former 'clean' minister and businessman Jehangir Tareen.

MNA Jehangir Tareen: Mr Clean Sweep?

When I first heard this, I did a double take. Wait, I asked, didn't Tareen already announce he would join Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI)? No, I was told, he quietly took back his decision when he was 'asked to reconsider.' Indeed, Tareen has not yet joined PTI though PTI sources claim 'negotiations' are continuing.

Now, Tareen's name could well be red herring. When I first heard this, as I said about two and a half weeks ago, it immediately made me question whether the military establishment's obvious sympathies for Imran Khan were wavering. But there are already reports that the delay in Tareen joining up with Imran Khan has more to do with internal dissent within his group, some of whom want a more prominent role vis a vis PTI. If Tareen does join PTI as expected by the time of PTI's rally in Karachi on December 25, we can put at least this particular claim to bed and allay all doubts about where the brass' sympathies lie. Hint: Not with Nawaz Sharif (and he knows it).

But there are other major issues with these claims as well (even without Tareen in the mix) which stretch my credulity. Primarily that it would take a lot of shameless somersaults for the Supreme Court to validate yet another diversion from the constitution. And despite the fact that stranger things have happened in this country, such a scenario seems very unlikely to me at this point. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that a very serious game is nevertheless afoot.

So there you have it. If nothing of the sort happens, and the PPP government actually addles through the next couple of months, I promise never to indulge in such rumour-mongering ever again. But if something significant does occur by the end of January, I would have hated to have been in a position of saying 'Guess what I'd heard in November!'.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rant of the Day

I have to admit I'm not particularly fond of PPP Senator Faisal Raza Abidi's appearances on television. But that's just because, my ears having been bled from the apparent dominant paradigm of anchors and participants on Pakistani television talk shows, I have a general aversion to over-emotional and LOUD grandstanding. And nobody gets more emotional and louder than Senator Abidi.

However, this typically cataclysmic rant from him on Aaj TV's Aaj Ki Khabar programme on March 17th (which one missed partly because the England - West Indies thriller was on the same night and partly because one doesn't normally bother with Aaj in any case) deserves to be heard. To be fair, he only let loose after the other participants (including the host Absar Alam, Khalifa-ul-Waqt Ansar Abbasi, Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood, PMLN's Pervez Rashid and Jamaat-e-Islami's cretinous Fareed Paracha) all pointed fingers at the federal government for either letting 'Raymond Davis' go or lying about it.

But more importantly, if you can look beyond the political grandstanding and the ear-splitting volume of Abidi's splenetic fury (I'll admit it'll take some doing), he also makes some rather pointed and valid arguments against those casting the 'Raymond Davis' issue as one of national honour and 'ghairat' as well as the silent sympathisers of extremism and the opportunistic judicial system.

Yeah, so what indeed about the 23,000 plus Pakistanis killed by the Pakistani Taliban? But if you thought this could coax some soul-searching from apologists for extremism such as Fareed Paracha, you'd be sadly mistaken. Paracha subsequently responded that by letting 'Davis' go, the government had blocked people from collaring the people who are actually behind terrorism in Pakistan (i.e. it was 'Davis' and his Blackwater cohorts, it's never the Taliban and their ilk). As I said, cretinous.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Poor, Sensitive, Hot and Bothered Revolutionaries! (Updated)

OMG. I don't think anyone could have done a better parody even if they had tried. I laughed so hard I almost cried. A Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) supporter / activist presents his case to an Aaj TV cameraman. See this clip to understand why, as the title of the clip says, Imran Khan is doomed. (Thanks to Syed Ali Raza Abidi for the link.)

For those who do not understand the revolutionary Urdu slogans, here is a word-for-word translation of what Islamabad's Che Guevara says:

"See what is happening with our sisters and mothers in this demonstration. We are all from good families. We have come out on to the streets to raise slogans for Imran Khan. We are being beaten by our own police. They're pushing us. We have come for a revolution, for your country. Every person here has come out of his house for this. Who would do such demonstrations in such heat [otherwise]? The police is shoving us, for what? For a foreigner? For Raymond Davis? He caused such bloodshed in Lahore and ran away to his home. See what is happening with Afiya Siddiqui. Nobody has such justice. We have all come out on the streets. Our homes have curtains too. Our women also do purdah. But when revolution requires it, every person in the home comes out on the streets. [To off camera supporter] Am I lying? I'm saying the correct thing, right? Everyone comes out. Sir, look our own police is beating us, how can we bring about a revolution? You tell me, you're from the media. If you're with us, only then will the revolution come about. If the police don't beat us up, only then will the revolution come about. Now look at Imran Khan. What need does he have for this, he's a very rich man. He's standing up there on the stage and addressing people and even he is getting pushed around. Everyone's getting pushed left, right and centre. This brother here, he's totally sapped by the heat. Do we have any need of coming here?"

Or as they say, 'Agar ammi mana na karteen, tau inquilaab zaroor aata!'*

[*The Revolution would surely have happened, if only Mom had not said no.]

: : : UPDATES : : :

Zohair Toru, as we now know is the real name of our Islamabad Che, defends himself on Aaj TV's Bolta Pakistan tonight...

Part 1: You might want to watch the whole of this clip where Nusrat Javed explains the reason for inviting Zohair Toru on to the programme and presents different strands of his argument against the noveau-revolutionaries. But the actual bit with Toru begins around 10:15.

Part 2:  The bit with Toru ends around 05:30, before which he brings up Che Guevara himself. Do not miss Nusrat Javed's response to that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blood Money

By the way, just in case you would like to see copies of the court documents from the 'Raymond Davis' case, attesting to the relatives of the deceased accepting diyat (blood money) and allowing the court to acquit the accused, here are some of them. I can't put all of them up (there are too many) but here's a representative sample of relatives' documents of one of the two men killed by 'Davis', Faizan Haider.

Here's the main prayer to the court setting out that the persons named have no objection to 'Raymond Davis' being acquitted by the court since they had accepted compensation and reached agreement to settle the matter.

Here's the individual affidavit of the mother of Faizan Haider, attesting that she has reached an agreement with her son's killer of her "free will, without any fear or pressure, without any enticement, and in her full senses." She further testifies that she has not been subjected to any injustice and has received a sum of Rs. 33,333,333/- from the accused and has no objection at present (nor will she in the future) to the accused being set free.

Here's a similar one from Faizan Haider's wife, acknowledging receipt of Rs. 25,000,000/-.

The rest are pretty much the same. The operative part in each is the share of the blood money received, divided according to shariah rules. The following is the detail of the diyat received by Faizan Haider's family:

Faizan Haider's Mother: Rs. 33,333,333/-
Faizan Haider's Wife: Rs.25,000,000/-
Faizan Haider's Brother No.1: Rs. 7,575,758/-
Faizan Haider's Brother No.2: Rs. 7,575,758/-
Faizan Haider's Brother No.3: Rs. 7,575,758/-
Faizan Haider's Sister No.1: Rs. 3,787,879/-
Faizan Haider's Sister No.2: Rs. 3,787,879/-
Faizan Haider's Sister No.3: Rs. 3,787,879/-
Faizan Haider's Sister No. 4: Rs. 3,787,879/-
Faizan Haider's Sister No. 5: Rs. 3,787,879/-
Total Diyat paid to Faizan Haider's relatives: Rs.100,000,002/- which translates into US$1,166,744/- at the current rate of exchange.

The relatives of the second man killed, Mohammad Faheem, received similar compensation.

Of course, there has long been an argument that the provision of paying diyat or blood money, while sanctified under Islamic law, leads to abuse of justice in an unequal society, since it more often than not allows the rich and influential to literally get away with murder. Nevertheless, this is very much a part of Pakistani law and in fact apparently used in a majority of murder cases according to lawyers. Those protesting against 'Davis' buying his way to freedom might want to question the Qissas and Diyat Laws in a more structural manner.

Please do note that I am not making any judgement about whether these affidavits were actually obtained without any pressure on the relatives. That is something for the court to decide and seemingly it seems to have decided to accept their authenticity. The case of the third man killed (by being run over) during that incident, Ibadur Rehman, has yet to be resolved.

Tailpiece: The editor of The News Islamabad, Mohammad Mallick claimed in a programme on Geo, that what this case has proved is that accused was tried by our courts and that local law takes precedence over the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Immunity. That is pure hogwash of course. It does nothing of the sort. For one, the trial never proceeded beyond indictment because of the 'out of court' settlement and so the accused was neither tried nor convicted. Secondly, the issue of diplomatic immunity never entered into the equation in this case since the Pakistan Foreign Office had stated (somewhat ambiguously) that in its opinion 'Raymond Davis' did not have documentation to support his plea for diplomatic immunity. So the issue of local laws taking precedence over the Vienna Conventions does not arise at all. For an editor of a major paper, Mr Mallick sure plays fast and loose with facts.

The War Within Geo

If you thought Pakistani society was polarized, take a look at the open warfare going on under the same media house roof.

The issue being discussed was, of course, the sudden release of the man known as Raymond Davis from jail after the payment of diyat or 'blood money' to the relatives of the deceased. What better time than that, thought Geo's analysts with wildly divergent points of view, to attack each other in the most personalized manner possible?

First up, Geo's Capital Talk programme, where host Hamid Mir assembled a long list of panelists and commentators he knew (or hoped) would raise a hue and cry about the release, among them the odious Irfan Siddiqui, the slippery Mohammad Mallick, the dissenting lawyer for the victims' families and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. But star attraction was of course the once journalist-now-self-righteous turd known as Ansar Abbasi. Abbasi had made his contempt for the result of the case known earlier during Geo's news bulletins but had basically tied himself up in knots over the fact that 'Davis'' release had come about through the application of the Islamic Qissas and Diyat Laws - which have been often criticised for allowing the rich to get away with murder - laws that Abbasi can't bring himself to critique. That and the fact that ostensibly all of his former idols and regular sources, the ISI, the Sharif brothers and the judiciary were complicit in allowing 'Davis' to get away, seemed to have truly left him bewildered, though unfortunately not at a loss for words.

In today's programme, which went on air at 8pm PST, Abbasi made a number of remarkable claims, such as his opinion (presented as the gospel truth) that the case was one of 'fisaad fil arz' [spreading division in the land] rather than a double murder and therefore making diyat inapplicable. He further added that all terrorism should now solely be blamed on the military establishment, the federal government of the PPP and the Punjab government of the PMLN for letting 'Davis' go. Not for nothing is Abbasi known as an apologist for the religious extremists who might actually be carrying out the acts of terror.

But Abbasi decided this was also the time to vent his considerable frustration at fellow Geo analysts who had presented an analysis entirely opposite to his. So, without naming names but making it abundantly clear who he meant, he called Najam Sethi (who had also presented his analysis on earlier Geo bulletins) "an American agent." As proof he cited Sethi claiming to know what discussions were being held between the Pakistan government and the Americans. You can see what he said in the following clip, between 10:00 and 10:35...

It has to be mentioned that Hamid Mir had, in fact, begun his programme with a soliloquy also directed very much at Najam Sethi, criticising those who were gloating over their predictions having come true and blaming the media for misleading the public while supposedly not mentioning how the Americans had been proved wrong.

All it took was another two hours for the reply, in Aapas Ki Baat, Geo's 11pm PST programme featuring Najam Sethi. The opening intro by host Munib Farooq immediately set the tone for the programme as seemingly a reply to Mir and Abbasi. But by the end of the programme, Sethi had managed, also without naming names but making it abundantly clear who he meant, to call Ansar Abbasi and Mir brainless twits and journalists "jo apnay aap ko phannay khan samajhtay hain lekin ander se bilkul phuss hain" [who think the world of themselves but who are as empty as deflated balloons]. You can see and hear what he said between 0:00 and about 4:45 in the following clip:

Don't you just love Geo's tolerance of diversity? Or should one say glasnost?

Knowing the vindictive natures of both Abbasi and Mir, however, expect more sparks to fly in the pages of the Jang Group's publications. This is going to get very ugly unless the Jang Group clamps down now.

Friday, February 25, 2011

'Raymond Davis' - FAQ

Continuing moronic statements by trolls on this blog and some no doubt military establishment-goaded television anchorpersons have forced me to address - hopefully for the last time - certain basic issues to do with the whole 'Raymond Davis' saga. Unfortunately, such is the deterioration of our national discourse and perhaps of our educational system that not only are people often unable to grasp simple arguments but are willing, immediately and without understanding the nuances of the points being made, to ascribe ulterior motives to anyone presenting facts that go against popular opinion. So for the sake of clarity, I will attempt to make my points as questions and answers in bullet form (no pun intended). Roughly the same questions have come up repeatedly in earlier comments.

The man known as Raymond Davis in custody

1. Do I 'support' 'Raymond Davis'?

No. I hold no brief for him or others like him. Nor do I wish to see 'security contractors' / yahoos like him roaming around in Pakistan.

2. Do I think US interventionism is okay in Pakistan?

Personally, I think crying about US interference in Pakistan's affairs after the 'Raymond Davis' affair is not only cretinous but also hypocritical - there has been American interference in this country's internal affairs almost since it was created and which has been welcomed wholeheartedly by our establishment which benefits handsomely from it. Moreover, it will continue to benefit from it in the foreseeable future as well irrespective of the public stances it takes. Nevertheless, no, I don't think it has generally been a force for good in the past and it has usually been counter-productive in the present.

3. Do I want Raymond Davis to walk free after killing two Pakistanis and being involved in the death of a third?

It really does not matter what I, or anyone else, may want. There is a small issue of diplomatic conventions that Pakistan is a signatory to. If he does have diplomatic immunity, Pakistani courts cannot try him unless the US gives its consent. I do think he should have a fair trial for the killings but, if he does have diplomatic immunity, the best Pakistan can do is ask the Americans to try him in the US.

4. Am I still claiming 'Raymond Davis' has immunity after all that has come to light about him?

I am not claiming anything beyond pointing out what is already there in the legal conventions and whatever evidence has so far appeared. The basic question on which this hinges, as far as I can ascertain and as has been pointed out earlier, is whether 'Davis' was a member of the US Embassy staff in Islamabad - in which case the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 applies to him and he has blanket immunity - or a member of the US Consulate staff in Lahore - in which case the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 applies to him and he does not have blanket immunity. That determination is, in my opinion, the main one that needs to be made.

5. But he's an acknowledged spy! And he is a contractor, not a diplomat!

As I pointed out in one of my earlier posts on this issue, long before the shocker (not!) of the acknowledgement that 'Davis' works for the CIA, it does not matter as far as the legal standing of diplomatic immunity is concerned. The Vienna Convention of 1961 (not the 1963 Convention on Consular Relations) grants the same privileges to an embassy's "technical and administrative staff" as diplomats. Of course there are spies working on 'cover posts' in all embassies and anyone who has any doubt should go ask the Pakistan Foreign Office about how many intelligence personnel are deputed in our foreign missions on cover posts. Should they all go round killing people and claiming immunity? And does diplomatic immunity confer the license to kill? Obviously not. But that doesn't change the legal position.

6. But what about Shah Mahmood Qureshi's claim that the Foreign Office had determined that 'Raymond Davis' did not have blanket immunity?

Mr. Qureshi or the Foreign Office has yet to state the evidence on which this claim was based. Indeed, the Foreign Office has yet to make that claim officially itself. They may have valid reasons, especially if the US had 1) not actually notified 'Davis' as a diplomat to the Foreign Office (contrary to what the Americans are now claiming which would mean also that their official letter is fabricated) or 2) If the US had notified him as attached to the Lahore Consulate rather than the Islamabad embassy. However, we have yet to hear of the reasoning. The Pakistan Foreign Office does indeed have the right to determine diplomatic status under Pakistan law, but obviously this has to be based on solid reasoning.

There have been some in the Pakistani press who have pointed to lacunae in the Pakistani law that the Foreign Office must 'approve' diplomatic status even after another state notifies someone as a diplomat (an approval that 'Davis' had apparently not received), and which do not grant diplomatic status to 'technical and administrative staff' of embassies. Moreover, they have claimed that Pakistani law takes precedence over international law (i.e. the Vienna Conventions). The Vienna Convention applicable to embassy staff (1961) itself only needs the 'sending' state to notify (there is no clause for approval) and, as pointed out before, applies equally to an embassy's technical and administrative staff. The common sense understanding of international law is that if a state ratifies an international treaty, it must ensure that its own laws comply with it. However, this is a matter of legal haggling and should this matter (of whether local law takes precedence over ratified international law) become a real issue, it would seem the International Court of Justice would have to be referred to, where in my humble opinion, if this is all that Pakistan's position is, its case would be weak.

7. Don't you think the US has been lying about 'Raymond Davis'? And don't you think the US media has been equally hypocritical by hiding facts it knew about him?

Yes and yes. Absolutely. The US government's response in the immediate aftermath of the incident was especially muddled and led to suspicions in the minds of most Pakistanis that it was trying to hide its guilt (which it probably was). The US media's capitulation to American government pressure to withhold information about 'Davis'' real activities has been particularly shameful. The Pakistani media should not be emulating it.

8. Don't you think there is more to this issue than what we already know?

Almost certainly. My analysis is based purely on what is already in the public domain. But it needs to be pointed out that so are the claims of almost everyone else in the media and my criticism of some of them is predicated on simply pointing out the flaws in their arguments.

9. So what should Pakistan have done? Do you want Pakistan to take this lying down?

There were a couple of recourses available to Pakistan before this sorry saga unfolded. One, it should not have given 'Raymond Davis' a visa if it had any doubts about him. Even after it granted him a visa, it could have expelled him from the country if it found his activities incompatible with diplomatic norms. However, if 'Davis' indeed has diplomatic immunity, all it can do now - aside from asking the US to lift it - is to declare him persona non grata and expel him and request the US to try him in its courts.

 Everybody hates 'Raymond'

What we are seeing, unfortunately, is a whipping up of emotionalism and fanciful conspiracy theories to cover up the dire incompetence and / or collusion of our security services. There are claims now that the visas were granted without proper checks because the security services were cut out of the loop in foreign capitals by the political establishment. First of all, if this is even true, why was this not raised as an issue at the time? 'Davis'' first visa was issued in 2009. He received two subsequent visas in 2010, both from Islamabad. Were our security services sleeping? Or are they so riddled with bureaucracy that their flagging of a violation of norms took until 2011 to trickle up to the relevant officers?

Secondly, even if one accepts that our security services were cut out of the loop in the grant of visas, what about the entire time 'Davis' and others like him were living in Pakistan and conducting their "subversive" activities? Are we to take it that, in the almost two years he kept coming in and out of Pakistan, our intelligence was so incompetent that it never once spotted his activities and flagged them? Shouldn't they have paid particular attention to people who allegedly bypassed normal security clearances? It would seem that all this hoopla now is to cover up the fact that our security services had dropped the ball.

We are now hearing all sorts of stories about 'Davis' - from the silly story in The News by Marianna Babar about his addiction to niswar (as if chewing tobacco or snuff is a rarity among US servicemen particularly from areas like Virginia state), to claims in the Express Tribune that 'Davis' was orchestrating bombings by the Pakistani Taliban (sourced to anonymous intelligence personnel) to claims on Geo and in The Nation (sourced from some alleged Russian intelligence report) that he was involved in supplying nuclear material to Al Qaeda in order to frame Pakistan. We should be clear about one thing. Regardless of the authenticity (or likely not) of these stories, they are basically a smokescreen that obscure the real issues of this case. They matter not a whit in whether 'Raymond Davis' is tried in Pakistan or whether we are forced to expel him without a trial.

10. Should Pakistan reassess its ties with US intelligence and its covert operations programme?

By all means. But Pakistan's establishment should do so in a cool, logical manner, having weighed the consequences of its actions. This should not be done by whipping public opinion into a frenzy through post-facto planting of stories and side-tracking issues. You want to kick out Xe (nee Blackwater) operatives from Pakistan? Absolutely do so. Why wait until they cause damage?

Footnote: You may want to read this piece from Foreign Policy that came in as I was writing. It deals with what may have allegedly been agreed between the Pakistani and American military's top officials particularly regarding this case in a closed-door meeting in Oman yesterday. If this report is correct, you may actually very soon see a complete change of tone in the media as well.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Brief History of Diplomatic Immunity (Updated)

Since we Pakistanis often suffer simultaneously from the twin demons of megalomania and paranoia - verily we are better than everyone else and that is why everyone is out to get us - we often also look at history through a rather selective and distorted lens. Unfortunately, none typify this mindset more than the doyens and doyennes of the Pakistani electronic media, in whom a curious mix of hyper-patriotism, half-baked information, sincere ignorance and arrogant bluster seems generally to hold sway.

Take the issue of the day on Pakistani media: whether the American known by his apparent pseudonym "Raymond Davis" - who shot dead two men in Lahore - can be tried by Pakistani courts or whether the US government has any right to claim diplomatic immunity for him. I am not going to offer my own opinion on this because, for better or worse, this is an issue for the US and Pakistani states to sort out. (I should, however, point out that, personally speaking, I do not think armed Americans or armed anyone should be roaming around the streets of Pakistan.)

But having seen numerous commentaries on television where emotive claims have been made about how Americans have not respected diplomatic immunity in their own cases, how immunity does not extend to serious crimes or how Pakistani diplomats have never been extended this kind of privilege, I just want to direct readers to a few examples.

Here's The Independent reporting in 1997 about a case in which a drunk Georgian diplomat killed a 16-year-old girl in New York with his reckless driving and the US requested a waiver from immunity for him. (The paper reports that Georgia was unlikely to approve the request though it actually was approved at the discretion of the Georgian government and the diplomat was sentenced for 7-21 years. He was transferred back to Georgia after serving three years [link courtesy @qabacha].) The piece also cites other incidences of less egregious crimes by diplomats that go unpunished. Appropriately for us, the story is titled "Can A Diplomat Get Away With Murder?"

You may also recall the shooting dead of British constable Yvonne Fletcher apparently by Libyan embassy staff in London in 1984 as well as the wounding of 11 others. Diplomatic immunity allowed the staff not to be prosecuted at all, though Britain subsequently broke off diplomatic relations with Libya. Fifteen years later, Libya accepted "general responsibility" and paid compensation, though some experts continued to question whether the police officer's death was actually caused by someone shooting from within the embassy.

Coming to Pakistani diplomats invoking diplomatic immunity, let us recall the case of our Ambassador to Spain, Mr. Haroon-ur-Rashid Abbasi, who Pakistan withdrew from his post in 1975 without allowing prosecution when heroin was discovered in his suitcase.

Let us also recall the case of our longtime permanent rep at the UN, Ambassador Munir Akram in 2003 who was accused of assault by his then girlfriend. The US also asked Pakistan to waive immunity in that case, which Pakistan did not oblige. (The case was eventually settled when Mr Akram persuaded his girlfriend to withdraw the charges against him).

So, as they say, au contraire, my friends.

Some final points, and please remember that we are only taking issue with the 'facts' of the case as presented in the media. Television analysts have almost unanimously claimed that "Davis" did not have a 'diplomatic visa'. It might behoove someone to ask our media pundits if they have ever actually seen a Pakistani diplomatic visa. From our own investigations, it seems Pakistani visas have no such specified category of 'Diplomatic Visa' (unlike some other countries). In fact, according our sources, all foreign diplomats receive Pakistani visas with the marking "Purpose of Visit:" "Official" or "Official Business" (not Official / Business, another category that does not exist) on their diplomatic passports. If they carry such a visa on their diplomatic passport and the Foreign Office has been so notified, they receive diplomatic immunity during their stay in Pakistan.

Here are some scans of Davis' passport as presented on DawnNews' Reporter programme...

This is the marking on his passport, which clearly states that he is on "diplomatic assignment" (click picture to enlarge):

This is his current visa, issued incidentally not in Washington (as claimed by Shireen Mazari on Geo and Syed Talat Hussain on DawnNews) but in Islamabad:

In fact, "Davis" only once received a three-month visa in 2009 from Washington. His subsequent 4-month visa in 2010 and his current 2-year visa were both issued within Pakistan.

Kamran Khan on Geo also went to great lengths to 'break the news' that "Davis" is a spy who works for the CIA. He almost certainly is. But not only is that not amazing insight, we have to ask, so? Is his actual work the issue of contention here? As former ambassador Zafar Hilaly pointed out on Dunya, spooks get posted on "cover postings" abroad all the time, including by the Pakistan Foreign Office, and they all receive diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention. Let's at least be clear what we are arguing about.

: : : UPDATES : : :

There have been some comments questioning some of my assertions in this post, which have been answered in the comments section. You may want to have a look.

A couple of other cases have been brought to our notice which we are also sharing. The first is the case in January 2001 of a Russian diplomat who killed a woman in Canada while driving drunk. A couple of quotes from this piece are worth pointing out.

"Andrey Knyazev was charged with criminal negligence causing death, impaired driving, failing to provide a breath sample, and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. Knyazev immediately claimed diplomatic immunity and on Monday, Russia denied Canada's request to lift it. [Russian Ambassador Vitaly] Churkin urged Canadians not to judge all Russians on the actions of one man. But he defended his government's right to recall Knyazev, saying it's tradition and common practice in the diplomatic community. “Many people are not happy that we didn't lift the diplomatic immunity," Churkin said. "The Canadian government has expressed its displeasure but recognized that this is our right.""

And this bit of wisdom from Canada's Foreign Minister that Pakistanis may also want to understand:

"[The] tragedy has raised questions about the use of diplomatic immunity to escape prosecution. But Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley says he will not use this case to press for changes. "There's an old saying among lawyers that hard cases make bad law," Manley said following a cabinet meeting Tuesday. "I think that (revising diplomatic rules) is something that we'd want to look at in a broader circumstance, not in the situation which we're in now," he said."

Incidentally, Shahid Saeed has also pointed out two further cases where Pakistani diplomats have invoked diplomatic immunity. The first involved Col Mohammad Hamid, a military attache in Pakistan's High Commission in London, who was caught in 2000 having sex with a prostitute in his car in a public place. When caught, Hamid immediately invoked diplomatic immunity and therefore could not be arrested. Here's an Indian Express report of the incident, which was also reported in the English papers.

The second involved the arrest in April 2001 in Kathmandu of Pakistan's first secretary Mohammad Arshad Cheema. 16kg of high-intensity explosive RDX were recovered from his residence. The Indian government believed him to be also linked to the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 which resulted in the freeing from Indian prisions of (subsequently Daniel Pearl murder accused) Omar Saeed Sheikh and Jaish-e-Mohammad leader 'Maulana' Masood Azhar. This report from the respected Indian magazine Frontline presents a wider and less one-sided perspective on the arrest. It also provides evidence of two things we already asserted in our post: that spies (and even military operatives) are often posted by foreign governments under diplomatic cover and that diplomatic immunity extends even to grave crimes. Cheema was expelled from Nepal rather than be prosecuted even though, by any definition, possessing high intensity explosives for ulterior motives is a very serious charge in any country.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cutting Through the Emotionalism

Can we just express how refreshing it was to watch Najam Sethi's first appearance on Geo tonight? In the middle of the hyperventilating cacophony surrounding the shooting to death of two men in Lahore by a contractor of the US embassy (and the death of a third in a hit and run accident apparently at the hands of an American consulate vehicle), Sethi began his new programme Aapas Ki Baat with the warning that he wanted to put emotionalism aside and analyse the incident only in terms of the facts. That in itself is an all too rare approach on our television screens these days. But what followed was close to a masterclass for other television anchors on how to impart clear, precise information with a logical, rather than emotional, analysis.

Not only did Sethi cite the actual clauses of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity (which Pakistan has ratified) that have been furiously talked about but never actually specifically referenced, but also put into context the whole issue in light of contemporary history and geopolitical realities. Now, others may question his interpretations of the Vienna Convention or the heretofore unknown 'facts' he presented as definite realities (we have no way of determining their veracity but he did stake his reputation on their authenticity), but I hope such challenges, if they do come, will be based on proof rather than vague emotionalism. His main contentions were:

1) Irrespective of a non-diplomatic visa (which seems to have become the main issue for some channels), a diplomatic passport - as the US claims the killer has - may still grant the man known as Raymond Allen Davis* diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention. [*This is assumed to be a fake name.]

2) The Vienna Convention actually grants immunity to diplomats (and their technical staff) from ALL criminal prosecution. No diplomat or foreign mission operative may be arrested by a host country, no matter what their crime (except in cases of property). (You may verify this from Clause 29-31 of the Convention.)

3) Since the American government has claimed diplomatic immunity for Davis, the Pakistan government must either accept their claim or the Pakistan Foreign Office - as the constitutional authority to decide such matters - must dispute this status. The courts are not the arbiters of the Vienna Convention under Pakistan's own constitution.

4) By claiming to leave the matter in the hands of the courts or the Punjab government, the Pakistan Foreign Office - and by extension the Federal government - is in violation of Pakistan's own constitution which details how issues of diplomatic immunity are to be handled. The Punjab police and Punjab government were wrong only to the extent that they should have referred the matter immediately to the US Consulate or the Pakistan Foreign Office before arresting Davis.

5) There are some 50-60 such contractors working for the US Embassy in Pakistan, who are all Blackwater-type operatives and whose job involves spying and ferreting out leads to trace Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership. Under a secret treaty signed by the military government of General Pervez Musharraf, a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) allows such operatives to work in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. The important thing to remember here is that the military and the intelligence agencies are fully on board about this and know full well the mandate of these operatives. (This claim by Sethi, if true, of course flies in the face of those who have recently been painting Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani as the principal villain in granting visas to these operatives, as if such visas are not overseen and approved by the ISI. It also means that those who point out that the Vienna Convention applies only to the discharge of official duties by diplomats and that Davis could obviously not be on any official mission at Mozang Chowk in Lahore, could be countered by the simple assertion by the US Embassy that he was.)

6) In case the Pakistan Foreign Office does decide to dispute diplomatic immunity to Davis, it will probably have to bear the brunt of reciprocal action from the US for reneging on a bilateral / international treaty.

7) Even if diplomatic immunity is denied to Davis, he will most probably be acquitted by the courts since his plea of self-defence will be very strong. As evidence for this contention, Sethi cited his own information that the two men killed by Davis were indeed brandishing weapons, that they were actually shot in the chest or on the side (contrary to news reports of their being shot in the back) and the context of previous attacks on foreigners in Pakistan and the atmosphere of fear that they have created.

Incidentally, Sethi does not address the death of the third man who was run over but it bears recalling that Davis is not charged in that case and the US Consulate has refused to acknowledge that its vehicle was involved. Sethi was also at pains to clarify that he neither condoned Davis' actions nor that he supported such infiltration of secret American agents into Pakistan. In fact, he also condemned such commandos roaming freely around Pakistan under the guise of diplomatic cover. But the solidity of his programme rested on the fact that he was able to separate out a dispassionate analysis of a given situation from the patriotic impulse that seems to overtake our other television analysts.

This does not mean, in any sense, that this issue will not become a hot political issue, particularly serving as a lightning-rod for popular disaffection with American policy but also helping political actors from making opportunistic capital off it. Or that the Peoples Party government is not now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Sethi himself acknowledges this. But it is good to have more than just one side of the debate, particularly when that one side is often also misinformed.

For those who missed the programme, I am attaching the clips below. But first it might also be useful to see how another programme on the same channel, Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath, dealt with the issue, just in the previous hour, and which trotted out that doyenne of hyperventilation and hyper-patriotic confused thinking, Ms. Shireen Mazari, to make its point (the segment begins around 1:10 and ends around 11:30).

Don't miss how Ms. Mazari fudges the issue of diplomatic immunity by referring to a waiver in other cases (which obviously implies immunity). Remarkably this was not even the worst fudge of an analysis on our screens.

In stark contrast, here's the full Najam Sethi programme:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

I suppose kudos to Geo are also in order for finally bringing some rationality to their programming. See? It's not all that bad.