Blood, money and sovereignty - Ameer Bhutto - Saturday, March 19, 2011

Source :

“Oh judgment thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason!” - Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

Isn’t our legal system wonderful? On March 14, in the Raymond Davis immunity case hearing in the Lahore High Court, the government submitted that he had entered Pakistan on a ‘business visa’ and the court ruled that the trial court would settle the issue of immunity.

Just two days later, on March 16, the trial court set him free after payment of blood money to the heirs of the murdered boys. In these mere 48 hours, all 19 heirs of the victims were contacted (nobody knows by whom), they were ‘convinced’ to accept blood money, the amount was settled, their lawyer was fired and a new one hired, the money was paid, statements to that effect were recorded in court, the case was disposed off accordingly, Raymond Davis was freed and reportedly rushed to a waiting aircraft at Lahore airport and the heirs of the deceased were all relocated to unknown locations.

If only the system would work with the same speed for the rest of us as well. I personally know of a case in which a man convicted of murder was not released for nearly two years even after reaching a compromise with the heirs of the victim. And what about the thousands of under trial prisoners who languish in prisons for years while cases linger on without outcome? What about our citizens that are allegedly handed over, and even sold, to foreign powers?

How very nice of our government to pounce at once to implement the ruling of the trial court. It is another matter that the honourable Chief Justice and his brethren in the Supreme Court have continuously strived in vain to get the government to implement their orders and verdicts in matters of national importance, but in this case the orders of a district level trial court were implemented with lightening speed to facilitate Davis’ flight from Pakistan. But contradictions have already surfaced in the accounts of the Pakistani and American authorities.

Firstly, while the official version being peddled here is that blood money was paid to the heirs of the victims by the American authorities and the recipients of the blood money even recorded statements to that effect in court, American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has gone on record to deny that any money was paid by the United States of America.

Her statement is corroborated by media reports to the effect that the blood money was, in fact, paid by the Pakistan government. In other words, our government paid taxpayers’ money to spring a foreign killer of Pakistani citizens from prison. This is tantamount to subsidising the murder of our citizens by foreign adventurists and is an invitation to others of Davis’ ilk to slaughter more Pakistanis. If the Pakistan government did indeed pay the blood money as reported, then that does not satisfy the religious requirements of diyat, which the murderer must pay.

Secondly, the government of Pakistan is desperately trying to distance itself from the diyat deal, but a spokesperson for the United States authorities has admitted in a press conference that they worked closely with the government of Pakistan to secure Davis’ release.

The body of Shariah Law must either be accepted or rejected in toto. It is hypocritical of western powers to reap benefits under its provisions while carrying on a full scale war against those who seek to implement the same laws in society. In any case, other questions remain unanswered. For instance, Davis’ suspicious conduct needs to be explained. What business did a man who entered Pakistan on a ‘business visa’ have in the Mozang Chongi area of Lahore? Why was this ‘businessman’ so heavily armed? Widely publicised Russian intelligence reports have claimed that Davis was passing nuclear material to the Taliban. Are these not serious enough allegations to warrant investigation? Or was there a deal on those matters too? If so, who benefited from it and what were the benefits?

The clandestine manner in which Raymond Davis was set free is another nail in the coffin of our national sovereignty. We have sunk to a new low. If anybody harboured delusions of freedom they should now lay them to rest and swallow the bitter reality pill that our power hungry rulers have reduced us to a colony of their foreign masters to cling on to power with their support. Public and national interests never enter the picture. Revolution in Tunisia was ignited by the suicide of just one man who set himself on fire due to economic hardship. Hundreds of men and women have committed suicide in Pakistan in the last few years for the same reason, but there has been no public reaction here.

By the time this article is printed it will have become clear how the public will react to this issue. The future of the country will depend on their response. Lack of adequate action on their part is bound to open even greater flood gates of oppression and humiliation that this country lacks the strength to survive.

Raymond Davis is gone. All the petitions or suo moto notices in the world will not bring him back to Pakistan. But the higher judiciary can at least probe into the facts and glaring discrepancies in this matter. And if they are going to hold the authorities responsible for any form of culpability in allowing a murderer to get away, then they must also take the government to task for allowing Pervez Musharraf to escape, with full presidential protocol no less, before he could answer charges in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

What is the opposite of the Midas touch? Whatever it is, this government has it. Everything it does, everything it touches or meddles with, is soiled with filth and sleaze. It seems almost physically incapable of acting under the umbrella of law and sound political and moral ethics. In all its dealings there is the ever-present element of deception and corruption. That is why the democratic process of electing a government is so critical. The Kennedy family holds almost royal status in America, yet the late Senator Edward Kennedy was denied nomination by the Democratic Party to contest for the presidency in 1980, mainly because of the Chappaquiddick incident in which a young woman died, allegedly because of his negligence.

Electing leaders is a responsibility to be discharged not on emotional considerations, but on the more solid grounds of reasonable expectations of fulfilment of public and national interests. It is a decision the public must take not on the basis of services rendered to the nation by deceased leaders in the past, but on the reasonable expectations of services to be rendered by the current politicians in the future based on a close scrutiny of their past conduct. When public authority is vested in unfit hands, they can do no better than to make a mockery of all that we hold sacred. They are bound to hamstring democracy, cripple state institutions and compromise national sovereignty while raking in the loot, operating under the principle of ‘after me the deluge’.

How much longer must Pakistan suffer the consequences of the NRO deal? How much more pain and humiliation are the people willing to tolerate in silence? How can we hold our heads high after this? I have quoted the following lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar before and I offer no apologies for reproducing them again since they so eloquently sum up the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in time and again:

“The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.

No comments:

Post a Comment