VIEW: The great escape —Andleeb Abbas - Sunday, March 20, 2011

Source :\03\20\story_20-3-2011_pg3_3

The Americans, rattled in the beginning by the stand of the country against giving diplomatic immunity to Davis, soon discovered that the decision makers of this country know only one language and i.e. money

They came, they paid, they took. Everybody knew it, everybody expected it, yet, when it really happened, it angered and saddened a nation that has gotten into the habit of expecting the worst and then seeing it actually happen. The underlying message is that money talks, money buys and money silences. The Raymond Davis saga is like a B-movie melodrama where the bad man comes bullying to kill a couple of innocent young men and then keeps on committing various atrocities till the hero catches him and puts him behind bars forever. The only difference between the Raymond Davis saga and the B-movie is that the villain in actual life goes unscathed in the absence of any hero who can make him pay for his crimes and ensure that justice prevails.

This case has gained mega publicity glare. First of all, due to the nature of the blatant killing. A trigger-happy American pulls his illegal weapon at two innocent boys without any apparent reason and takes photographs from his mobile camera in a moment of sadistic triumph. Second was the resignation of the foreign minister after his refusal to declare Raymond eligible for diplomatic immunity. Third were John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan and Obama’s warnings of the consequences of the non-acquittal of Raymond Davis. Finally, the constant speculation about the family of the two young men being pressurised to accept money in return for Raymond’s freedom. This outcome was quite predictable considering the desperation of the government not to incur American displeasure. However, it also exposed the cracks in our institutions like the army, ISI and even the media and civil society who all apparently seemed aghast at these events yet have a strangely mum attitude when it comes to negotiating and asserting themselves to prevent another heinous crime going unpunished.

The government, a little shaken in the beginning by the public reaction, became noticeably smug in the last few weeks. The ‘honourable’ minister of information constantly quoted how the government would uphold the court’s decision. Considering that the PPP has started an anti-Supreme Court (SC) protest against the nomination of the head of NAB, their complete acquiescence to the court meant that they had entered a deal where the court would have no chance to apprehend Raymond further. First it was IMF threats, later it was Kerry Luger aid refusal and many more financial restrictions that made a government notorious for its greed and graft succumb easily to manoeuvring a deal with the hapless family of the two boys.

The PML-N has played a double game for so long that they no longer know how to act different. In the beginning, they jumped on board the public angst wagon but as the Punjab government got involved they also chanted the song of the court’s decision being supreme. Their hypocrisy and double standards have really doomed them and have robbed them of the chance of upstaging a tottering ruling regime. As is typical, Nawaz Sharif went to London a few days before this decision and the younger brother followed suit because the elder brother has been admitted to the hospital for heart ailment. Nevertheless, the two major parties have so much in common that a difference of stance in this case is unthinkable.

The media has played its typical role of grabbing viewership, instigating unrest and then creating enough confusion and despair to make the public feel frustrated and helpless. The first few weeks of Raymond Davis’s arrest showed media mania at its peak. From every movement covering Davis to every movement covering anybody remotely connected with the family of the victims, each channel was out to break the record of breaking news. Then, in the last two weeks, the media went strangely silent on this topic, covering the typical ‘we are not playing with you’ act of various coalition partners to divert the public from the Davis case. The resumption of this case on media’s centre stage was post Davis’s exit and the bereaved families’ disappearance. After following the families so microscopically and then not being able to determine where they were planning to go or had gone seems a bit strange considering the immense power of the media to intrude and trail every single detail of any news they think is going to bring viewership in.

The Americans, rattled in the beginning by the stand of the country against giving diplomatic immunity to Davis, soon discovered that the decision makers of this country know only one language and i.e. money. The minute they worked around that weakness they discovered it was a cheap deal. They did not have to dish out a single penny extra and just told the government that those that are promised may not be available. In fact, when Hilary says that they have not paid the Pakistanis anything she could be right. They must have told the government to pay off the families and that they would lend Pakistan the required amount with compound interest to be paid by raising more taxes. For the Americans, it has been a win all around.

For Raymond Davis it has been an hour of triumph. His arrogance and confidence during his arrest spoke largely of his intentions. He will return to the US and be promoted to a higher rank for bearing this tough time with aplomb. He will probably write a book that will become a bestseller, which will then be taken over by Hollywood to turn into a blockbuster spy thriller movie. Mr Raymond Davis will earn billions and retire to become a famous consultant on how to survive and thrive undercover.

For the public, the Davis case has been an ordeal and one of pure anguish. They had no expectations from the government and none whatsoever from the Americans. But, somewhere in their hearts, they expected the families to resist the option of a payoff. The gory details of the exact amount, to the last rupee, each family member has received, splashed by the media, is very depressing. However, the question mark remains on where those families are; is it a willing escape or is it a forced expulsion, or is it another case of the missing people we may never find out about? Whatever may be the case, it is a confirmation of the fact that the establishment, the army and the government are all shareholders of a country that has been mortgaged for a few billions in lieu of its independence and sovereignty. For the people of Pakistan, if this is unacceptable, they need to prove it by their deeds and actions rather than sit in mourning for an identity lost.

The writer is a consultant and can be reached at

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