Our ranting and raving - Babar Sattar - Saturday, March 19, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=37009&Cat=9

The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

What is it that makes us really mad about the Raymond Davis saga? Is it that two Pakistani lives have been lost and no one has been made to account for them? Is it that big, bad America has rubbed our noses in the dirt, robbed us of honour and established that with power and money one can even get away with murder in Pakistan? Is it that our civilian and military leaders have proved yet again that their personal servitude to US interests takes precedence over all else? Is it that with the acceptance of blood money the families of the slain Pakistanis have reminded us that ordinary citizens are as eager to sell their souls for the right price as our leaders?

Or is it a vile conspiracy against Islam that a Shariah-inspired law has been used by an infidel to get away with murder? Has the manner and speed of the Davis trial established that our justice system isn’t really blind and does play favourites if they are powerful enough?

How does one explain the outpour of national outrage at the death of two Pakistanis (with suspect backgrounds at best) and nothing comparable at the killing of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti? Why are the lives claimed in Fata by drone attacks, in Balochistan by national security, and across Pakistan by morality, honour and intolerance any less valuable?

Does Shariah-inspired law not endorse the concept of blood money, the role of a victim’s legal heirs in granting forgiveness and the legal system letting a killer off the hook if he manages to buy his pardon? Why is the use of this law acceptable when it comes into play to excuse premeditated murders of women by family members for the sake of ‘honour’ or to allow the rich to purchase their way out of the criminal justice system, but not in the case of Davis?

Why criticise Hussain Haqqani for showing the Americans a legal way out of the Davis debacle? Could he have shown such a way if none existed? If the Davis case has made a mockery of justice why is no one interested in plugging loopholes in the Qisas and Diyat law even today? Has the justice system faltered in this particular case? Do we not know that thousands use money and influence every day to grease the wheels of our judicial system? Is financial or intellectual corruption kosher when it comes to cases involving Pakistanis but swift judicial process abhorrent if it benefits someone like Davis?

The ability of a legal system to produce justice is contingent on the merit and substance of laws together with the integrity of procedures that comprise the system.

As a nation we are loath to critique and revisit abusive statutory provisions such as the blasphemy law or the diyat law. We understand that bigots in the past conceived flawed legal provisions in the name of religion, present-day bigots defend them tooth and nail for their public survival rests on their ability to continue to drag religion into politics and abuse it, and yet we are too timid to stand for our beliefs and confront the abuse of religion in our state.

How can a legal system comprising flawed laws and compromised procedural practices miraculously produce justice?

Leaving our hypocrisy and internal contradictions aside, let us form a fair estimate of what happened in the Davis case. The fact that an undercover CIA operative was formally arrested and information about the case was released to the media was extraordinary.

The federal government refused to declare that Raymond Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity despite US pressure backed by all its might having been brought to bear upon it. The US administration was forced to backtrack and consider ‘amicable’ alternatives when Pakistan insisted that Davis’ release must be the outcome of our court process.

At a time when the US is plunged into one of the most Islamophobic phases of its history (with legislators in more than 13 states having introduced bills requiring courts to disregard Shariah laws), the US administration has had to rely on a Shariah-inspired Pakistani law to buy the release of a spook in full public glare.

Notwithstanding current US status as the sole superpower and the arrogance that comes along, the Davis episode (in the midst of the Middle East turmoil) would have driven home the point that even in satellite states such as Pakistan business-as-usual might not work for much longer. The formula of relying on compliant elites within client states eager and willing to do the master’s bidding is on an extended lease of life if not outdated.

In Pakistan with the judiciary and the media emerging as new sources of influence more responsive to public opinion, power is no longer as centralised and monopolised as it used to be. Such change in the power-distribution pattern will make it harder for the US to rely on a coterie of individuals within the ruling regime to secure its interests in utter disregard of street opinion.

But here lies the rub as well. The manner in which the Raymond Davis saga wound up has further entrenched the sense of disempowerment of the average Pakistani. We are angry most of all for we feel used. Our elites have not undergone a change of heart it now seems. They are still eager to sleep with the enemy. It is obvious that public anger was deliberately provoked in this case as a tactical maneuver to drive up the price.

Our faceless khakis were running the show all along. Once they extracted their pound of flesh things became hunky-dory and the ‘system’ started to speak with one voice again. The biggest winners in this haggle have been the army and the ISI, and the democratic process, civilian control of the military and a rational tolerant society the sorest losers.

Punishing Raymond Davis was not going to rid Pakistan of any of its problems. We feel violated because this episode has thrown into our faces the ugly realities that characterise our state and our society. Our reaction is twofold: a sense of fatalism reflected in self-loathing commentary on how we are a failed people and deserve the hand we have been dealt; or a sense of denial obvious in theories about the US-Euro-Zino-Indian hegemonic-nexus conspiring to hold down the tremendous potential of the faithful in this land of the pure.

Neither position helps one indulge in constructive self-criticism and take corrective measures. The real tragedy surrounding the Davis saga is that while getting all riled up against the US, we are refusing to learn the right lessons.

The Raymond Davis episode transpired because our security apparatus is not accountable to the people of Pakistan and the national security policy is not subject to public scrutiny. We will never know the details of why the CIA and the ISI fell out in the first place and the terms on which they made up and so more Davises will exist and thrive without our knowledge.

What we do know is that the khakis have established conclusively that anyone interested in doing business in Pakistan must go through them (first by stirring up a national crisis over the Kerry-Lugar law and then taming it, and now by getting Davis wound up in a legal conundrum and then disentangling him).

This will remind the US and other foreign actors of the necessity of building direct ties with the army, further perpetuate the civil-military imbalance in Pakistan and weaken the democratic process. Meanwhile the nation addicted to hollow notions of pride will continue to confuse jingoism with national interest and growing anti-Americanism will keep religious parties, bigotry and intolerance alive and well in Pakistan.

Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

No comments:

Post a Comment