COMMENT: A national sellout —Dr Mahjabeen Islam - Friday, March 18, 2011

Source :\03\18\story_18-3-2011_pg3_3

As a supposedly democratic nation, the people have the right to transparency in every governmental and judicial proceeding. Despite all past disillusionments, there seemed hope in the judicial system. And now that too lies in tatters

It is like being newly orphaned. Or, as though in one clean sweep, our self-respect as a nation has been decapitated. Columns, rantings and protests now serve only as eulogies to our national grief, for the deed is done.

Raymond Davis himself probably sits disbelievingly somewhere in the US that he actually got out of cold-blooded murder, none the worse for the wear of Kot Lakhpat jail.

For a nation famous for its foot-dragging and the aap kal aa jaiye (please come tomorrow) mantra, changing the lawyers for Faheem and Faizan’s families at the last moment, completing the blood money transaction in court with 18 survivors individually and whisking Davis to a waiting US jet at the Lahore Airport, all within two hours, is indeed nothing less than a miracle. This shows the amazing efficiency that is buried deep within our Pakistani bones. And how it can be genie-released with just the right stimulus.

The self-flagellation in columns such as this can continue ad infinitum but these stimuli and the actors are important to examine.

The US steadfastly held on to the idea of diplomatic immunity and the Vienna Convention but, along the way, it appeared that this defence might not hold water or the situation would derail quickly if heard in the Lahore High Court. Shah Mehmood Qureshi was also fired as foreign minister for not toeing the line and the situation got even more uncomfortable when he took his tell-all tale to television.

A hint of behind the scenes machinations appeared in public in a Washington Post article by David Ignatius three weeks ago about using the Islamic ritual of blood money. And Foreign Policy magazine now reports that the deal of invoking the law of diyat was orchestrated by Pakistan Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, Senator John Kerry, President Asif Ali Zardari, CIA Director Leon Panetta and ISI Director-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha. Many conflicting reports are surfacing about the families and it is heartless to add insult to their injury by examining their motives.

As a supposedly democratic nation, the people have the right to transparency in every governmental and judicial proceeding. The PPP and the PML-N play musical chairs and the nation is used to this tacit understanding. But, despite all past disillusionments, there seemed hope in the judicial system. And now that too lies in tatters. Feeling orphaned is right.

Speaking of adding insult to injury, the US claims that it did not pay the blood money of 20 crores or $ 2.34 million to the survivors of the murders committed by Davis. “The understanding is the Pakistani government settled with the family and the US will compensate the Pakistanis one way or the other,” a senior Pakistani official told Foreign Policy magazine.

Our sellout is so wholesale that we are even keeping American niceties and protocols of not creating the precedent of paying blood money in mind and paying the blood money ourselves! After all, what is $ 2.34 million in contrast to the billions we get in charity? And, of course, the Lord and Master US said, did they not, that they would pay it one way or another? They also said that they are initiating criminal proceedings against Raymond Davis. Really?

In an archaic calculation, blood money for the murder or grievous injury of a person is the equivalent of 30,000 grams of silver. The heart-breaking photo of Faizan’s widow on her deathbed asking for justice and “blood for blood” makes this so much more difficult to accept for it appears that she too was the recipient of compensation. How torturous for her soul! Faizan and Faheem’s family members have disappeared en masse and rumours as to their location now are rife. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah spoke of the whole diyat proceedings as though they were as natural as one’s morning walk. For a nation jaded by the incredible, he expects belief, hook, line and sinker. Are blinders a prerequisite to serving in any governmental position in Pakistan? It is this disconnect and blasé statements that send the country reeling and (Imran Khan is right) dramatically increase public humiliation and anger, and increase extremism.

And oh the sad and mad people that we are, we will kill our own people, the innocent ones that just went to school, pray or shop. All the while the Raymond Davises of the world will be sipping margaritas in the anonymity of some Arizona backyard.

Pakistan is the recipient of a large amount of American aid and has not always accounted for it honestly. But its sacrifices in the war against terror have been above and beyond any aid that has and can be given. Its leaders had an incredible chance at greatly improving Pakistan’s diplomatic and strategic stature if they had handled the Davis affair appropriately. Corrupt to the marrow and recognising greed alone, they bargained with money and left the nation’s self-respect in smithereens.

The writer is an addictionist, family physician and columnist. She can be reached at

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