Editorial - Davis drop scene - Thursday, March 17, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=36635&Cat=8

As suddenly as it begun on a busy street in Lahore on January 27, the Davis case is over. It is over in the sense that Davis was flown out of the country when these words were written, but it remains very much open and unresolved in the minds of many in Pakistan. The solution to the problem was eventually to be found in blood money. It was reportedly paid to the relatives of the two young men Davis killed. They allegedly signed the relevant documents forgiving him his crime in front of the judge who had just indicted him willingly for murder. The questions are now being asked whether or not they did so under duress. The judge rapidly acquitted Davis. He left the court in the Kot Lakhpat Jail where he had been held with American officials bound for an unknown destination. Also in an ‘unknown destination’ may be members of the families who were said to have received the money as the local and foreign media were reporting in the evening that their homes were locked and empty, their cell phones unattended.

Details will emerge in coming hours and days, but a raft of questions remains unanswered. The application of a solution under Diyat has let the government off several hooks – the first of these being the one labelled ‘diplomatic immunity’. There has not been any clear statement from the government as to whether or not Davis had diplomatic immunity; and the ambiguity that now hangs in the air leaves the door open for similar opaque arrangements to that which allowed him in here in the first place. Then there is sovereignty. Much has been said and written on the matter in the last year, usually in connection with drone strikes. But this incident was rather more ‘up close and personal’ than a hit by a Hellfire in deepest Waziristan. Is our sovereignty so compromised that it is within the rules of engagement for CIA stringers such as Davis that they are permitted to carry and discharge weapons in the street? To go equipped with the impedimenta of espionage unchallenged? Again no definitive answer has been forthcoming. The shambolic issuance of visas to Americans without any sort of background clearance was an invitation to abuse the system – which the Americans duly did. The Davis affair was a textbook example of how not to conduct diplomacy – by both sides, and neither we nor the Americans emerge with honour from this sorry business. There must be a certain irony that both sides were apparently saved from further embarrassment by Sharia law, although whether either side will have learned a lesson remains to be seen. The public protests on the streets, which could snowball in the coming days, may be an unpleasant task for the political governments in the Centre and in Punjab to handle. What we have now is two murders, a death as ‘collateral damage’ and a suicide. What we may see in the coming days and weeks is yet to unfold. But we have a trust deficit of cosmic proportions — not just between the US and Pakistan but also between the people of Pakistan and ‘their’ state.

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