What we should do - Asif Ezdi - Monday, February 21, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=32259&Cat=9&dt=2/21/2011

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.

On February 15, Obama called for the release of Raymond Davis, “our diplomat in Pakistan” during a press conference. He spent more than two minutes lecturing Pakistan on the importance of respecting diplomatic immunity. But he chose to remain silent on the key question how Davis could be accepted as a member of the US embassy staff when there is so much evidence emanating from US officials themselves that he was not. The “most powerful man in the world” did not issue any threats directly but did the next best thing by refusing to discuss the “specifics” in response to a (planted) question of how serious the US threats to Pakistan had been.

The truth is that Pakistan’s record of respecting the Vienna Convention is impeccable. There are probably few other countries in the world in which diplomats are pampered more than in Pakistan. Some of our experts have spoken of inconsistencies between our domestic law, as embodied in the Diplomatic and Consular Privileges Act 1972, and international law, as codified in the Vienna Conventions. This is a mistaken view, based on the fact that this Act only reproduces some Articles of the Conventions, not the full text.

But there is a perfectly simple explanation for this “discrepancy”. As is clear from the title of the Act, it is meant to incorporate in our domestic law only those provisions of the Vienna Conventions which deal with privileges and immunities and therefore derogate from the ordinary law of the land. The remaining matters covered by the Conventions are not inconsistent with our ordinary law and therefore have not been included in the Act. Our Diplomatic and Consular Privileges Act 1972 is actually a reproduction of the British legislation to give effect to the Vienna Conventions: Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 and the Consular Relations Act 1968.

In fact, it is the US, not Pakistan, which is acting in violation of the spirit, if not also the letter, of the Vienna Conventions by its refusal to cooperate in the investigation of the third death which occurred when a car of the American Consulate which was sent to “rescue” Davis knocked down an innocent motorcyclist. Pakistani officials have written five letters to the consulate demanding information on the identity and whereabouts of the driver but have not received a reply. He and another US official in the car have already been whisked out of the country.

The help given by the American Consulate to the killer in evading justice is an extremely grave matter because it points to complicity by the US authorities. There is an instructive precedent to go by. In 1984 a British policewoman posted outside the Libyan embassy in London was shot dead, allegedly by someone in the embassy. The suspected gunman was smuggled out of the country the next day. And because of Libya’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation, the British government expelled the entire embassy staff and broke off diplomatic relations with Libya. The least that Pakistan should do is demand the return of the American driver of the car and his passenger to Pakistan to face investigations.

On his mission to obtain the release of Davis, Kerry tried to pacify public opinion in Pakistan outraged at the US attitude. He offered regrets at the loss of life but there was no apology and no sign of genuine contriteness. He also promised that the US Justice Department would conduct its own full criminal investigation into the killings by Davis. But the hollowness of this promise was exposed soon after by an unnamed US official who told The Washington Post that Kerry’s pledge was “not intended to signal that (Davis) is going to be charged and tried here”. Even if there were evidence of his guilt, the official said, bringing charges against him in the United States “would be almost impossible”. Kerry no doubt knew all this. His promise of an investigation must therefore be dismissed as a deliberate attempt to mislead the Pakistani public.

Kerry also asserted that the US position on the Davis case was not an expression of “any kind of arrogance”. This is not borne out by the facts. Instead of trying to resolve the matter through diplomatic means, Washington has tried to pressure Islamabad through threats. What could be more arrogant than the ultimatum delivered by Munter to Shah Mehmood that if he did not agree to grant immunity to Davis, Hillary Clinton would deny him the great honour of meeting her in Munich?

Shah Mehmood was not of course the first foreign minister of Pakistan to lose his job because the Americans did not find him to be amenable enough. Musharraf’s first foreign minister, the highly respected Abdul Sattar, was also replaced because the Americans found him not to be compliant. Condoleezza Rice recalled a meeting with Foreign Minister Sattar in June 2001 at which she “delivered what I considered to be a very tough message”. In Rice’s words, he “met that message with a rote answer and with an expressionless response”. In plain language, he did not promise instant compliance with the “tough” demands she had made. As a consequence, he was made to resign in June 2002 “for health reasons”.

Zardari’s decision, first to gag Shah Mehmood and then to dismiss him at American behest, is unpardonable. Gilani, out titular prime minister, shares equally in the blame. By allowing Washington to dictate who Pakistan’s foreign minister should be, they have covered themselves with more slime on their face. Equally condemnable – though not surprising in view of their past record – is the way Rahman Malik and Hussain Haqqani have been advocating surrender to US threats.

Shah Mehmood did credit to himself and the country by not caving in to Hillary Clinton’s bullying. But his praise of his own foreign policy at a press conference last Wednesday was overdone. He no doubt deserves credit for having taken steps to return to Pakistan’s traditional stand on Kashmir which Musharraf had abandoned. But the “strategic dialogue” with Washington, which he claimed as his achievement, has a largely US-dictated agenda with little “strategic” content. Similarly, Kerry-Lugar is a US “gift” to reward Pakistan for services rendered or promised. Shah Mehmood’s main failing has been his failure to pursue vigorously our claim for access to civilian nuclear technology and to craft an effective strategy to counter India’s campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

We should now brace ourselves for more US pressure. The cancelation of the planned trilateral meeting between Pakistan, Afghanistan and US is no great loss. Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan stems from our historical, geographic and ethnic links with that country. This is a ground reality that will not be changed because Hillary Clinton does not wish to host the trilateral meeting.

Similarly, Pakistan has little to lose if Zardari’s planned visit to Washington is postponed. Its main purpose is to signal Washington’s political support for the Zardari government and to strengthen his domestic position; and in return to get some more concessions from Zardari in their planned one-on-one meeting. The visit will not serve any of Pakistan’s national interests. The same goes for Obama’s visit to Pakistan which has been announced for later this year.

US military and economic assistance to Pakistan is a price that US pays for Pakistan’s cooperation in the Afghanistan war. A cut in this assistance will jeopardise that cooperation which is of vital importance to US. It could also bring about a fall of the Zardari government. That cannot possibly be in US interest, because a government more submissive to Washington is hard to imagine.

US will no doubt keep hinting at all kinds of punitive measures. What we need in the face of these threats is strong nerves, a quality in which our leaders have not distinguished themselves so far.

Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

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