by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 2, Rabi' al-Thani, 1432)
The release of Raymond Davis on March 16 has dismayed most Pakistanis who felt the American was guilty of murder and should have been dealt with according to the law of Pakistan. Instead, what this confirms yet again is the craven attitude of the government in its dealings with the US.
The release of Raymond Davis on March 16 has dismayed most Pakistanis who felt the American was guilty of murder and should have been dealt with according to the law of Pakistan. Instead, what this confirms yet again is the craven attitude of the government in its dealings with the US. Facing murder charges before a Pakistani court in Lahore, Davis was released under a deal struck through the much-maligned Shari‘ah law. In the US, several states have passed ordinances denouncing the Shari‘ah, as if American Muslims were about to impose it in the US. Despite this, there was deathly silence from the same American Shari‘ah haters when Davis was released.
Notwithstanding the political grandstanding of Pakistani politicians — “We will not compromise on Pakistan’s sovereignty” (Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani) to “Davis will be dealt with according to law” (Punjab Law Minister Rasna Sanaullah), ultimately the Saudis were used as intermediaries to get out of a tricky situation. The Pakistani masses demanded Davis’s trial on murder charges; the Americans wanted him released immediately.
Enter the Saudis, the ever-loyal agents of America. Families of the victims were flown to Saudi Arabia for ‘Umrah and were then “persuaded” to accept the diyah in return for Davis’s release. Each family, it is reported, were paid nearly $2.34 million. Upon return to Pakistan, they appeared before the court telling the presiding judge they had forgiven Davis and accepted blood money instead. The judge ordered Davis’s release; he was promptly flown out of the country on a plane waiting to whisk him out.
There were small demonstrations against the deal but they petered out quickly. Even the religious parties, including the Jamaat-e Islami that had organized mass rallies, were relatively moot in their criticism of the deal that got an American murderer off the hook so easily. The entire Davis saga showed how easily Pakistani law is subverted to appease the US. It is not difficult to imagine what the Americans would have done if a Pakistani official were involved in the murder of American citizens. Pakistani/Muslim lives are cheap because Pakistani officials are willing to sell themselves for a loaf of bread. It may be interesting to investigate what was paid to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in this sordid affair.
Davis, it would be recalled, murdered two Pakistanis in cold blood on January 27 in the old part of Lahore. He then casually got out of his vehicle and photographed the two victims, Faheem and Faizan, he had shot in the back before being apprehended by the people and handed over to the police. Not only a Glock pistol — a prohibited weapon in Pakistan — but also vast amounts of ammunition, surveillance equipment and other banned materials were found in his vehicle. There was a camera in which there were photographs of many madrasahs as well as sensitive military installations in Pakistan. A consular vehicle dispatched to rescue Davis drove on a side street and ran over motorcyclist Ibadur Rehman, killing him instantly. The vehicle then sped away from the scene of the crime. The occupants of this vehicle — an SUV belonging to the US Consulate in Lahore — were whisked out of the country without being presented for questioning by the police.
The murder of two Pakistanis in such cold-blooded manner led to a war of words between American and Pakistani officials. For weeks, Pakistani newspapers were full of stories about the affair and the identity of Davis. The Americans insisted Davis was a “diplomat” and immune from prosecution. Pakistan, or at least the foreign office, rejected this. Two days prior to Davis killing the two Pakistanis, the US embassy in Islamabad had provided a list of American diplomats in the country; Davis was not on the list yet the Americans were now insisting he was a “diplomat”. The diplomatic spat also led to the resignation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who refused to accept Davis’s diplomatic status. In the end, the Americans settled for the Shari‘ah deal to get their man off the hook. It must, however, be noted that Davis, who was presented as “technical” advisor to the US Consulate in Lahore, was no ordinary person.
On February 13, both the New York Times and Washington Post admitted that Davis was a CIA agent. This information was known to the two newspapers as well as to other media outlets in the US but they kept it secret at the request of the US government. President Barack Obama repeatedly asserted that Davis would be given all “diplomatic” protection! Before joining the CIA, Davis had served in US Special Forces for ten years in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Thereafter he opened a security company in Las Vegas, Nevada with fake addresses. It was a store front in a strip plaza with no office activity and Davis and his wife were the only registered persons operating from there.
He came to Pakistan in 2007 as a “security contractor” working for the notorious outfit Blackwater that has now changed its name to Xe Services. The company run by American mercenaries has a compound on Chinar Road in University Town, Peshawar and Davis was in regular contact with it, according to intelligence sources in Pakistan. He was officially attached to the US Consulate in Peshawar to provide him legal cover for his nefarious activities. It is interesting to note how CIA agents that indulge in murderous activities, including acts of terrorism in a country known to be a US ally, are provided cover by their consulates. Are employees of the US Consulates in Peshawar and Lahore really diplomats?
During his two-year stint in Peshawar, the city was gripped by the most intense terrorist attacks in its history. Hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in attacks that were officially attributed to the Pakistani Taliban but now appear to be American-sponsored terrorist operations. Davis also developed close contacts with suspicious elements in North and South Waziristan and was a frequent visitor to the area.
Pakistani authorities retrieved a treasure-trough of contacts Davis had with Pakistanis, many of them belonging to these terrorist outfits. There were also frequent calls made to Davis on his cell (mobile) phone by these individuals leading to the belief that he was behind the most deadly and lethal terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Davis was declared persona non-grata twice because of his suspicious activities. When he moved to the Lahore Consulate in 2009, the city became the epicenter of terrorist activities culminating in Davis perpetrating not one but two murders in broad daylight.
We also need to deconstruct the official story put out by the US Consulate in Lahore. Davis had allegedly gone to the old part of Lahore to withdraw some money from an ATM machine. Is this usual for American officials, especially security contractors, to do? US consulates have millions of dollars in cash that they hand out to their agents. So why would Davis need to go to an ATM, especially in the old part of the city, unless of course he was on an assignment to meet someone there? Are there no ATMs near the US consulate? And how did the rescue vehicle arrive so quickly on the scene unless it was in the vicinity while Davis was carrying out his assignment? Who was Davis meeting there?
Pakistani authorities have said they have arrested some 50 people on the list compiled from Davis’s cell phone. Further details have not been revealed but it is clear that these terrorists were on the US payroll. It has also become clear that Davis was one of the major lynchpins in coordinating drone attacks in North and South Waziristan. Interestingly, January 23 was the last time the US drone attacks occurred in Pakistan. The next one came on February 21, a hiatus of one month, during which time, the Americans scrambled to activate other assets to carry out their murderous attacks against innocent civilians.
During the Davis saga, there were frequent contacts between the CIA chief Leon Panetta and Director of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Ahmed Shuja Pasha. Pakistani papers reported that Pasha demanded a list of all CIA agents operating in the country. This demand is unlikely to be met.
There is an even more problematic issue involved here. Last year, the US forced the Pakistani government to withdraw ISI screening of Americans applying for visas to Pakistan. Within one week of acceding to this US demand, 3,000 Americans obtained visas from the Pakistani embassy in Washington DC in one week. How many were CIA agents or Blackwater operatives nobody knows. It is such craven and cowardly attitude that has jeopardized the lives of innocent Pakistanis as American mercenaries operate with impunity in the country.
As a gesture of US expression of gratitude for releasing Davis without putting him on trial, two missiles fired from drones killed nearly 80 people in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on March 17. The missiles were fired at a tribal jirga at which tribal elders were meeting to resolve a dispute over ownership of minerals in the mountains of North Waziristan. Tribesmen from Madda Khel tribe were meeting at Nawai Adda, some 25km from Miranshah when two missiles were fired in broad daylight at the jirga gathering. Among the dead were children and many elderly men. It was the 23rd strike of its kind in Pakistan this year in which at least 87 people have been killed so far.
As a closing note, Aaron Mark De Daven, an American citizen, was arrested in Peshawar while the Davis saga was underway. His visitor’s visa had expired last October. He claimed he was there to find residential accommodation for Americans. One wonders why he would need to do that and live in Pakistan on an expired visa? He was arrested from the Falcon Complex, a residential area in Peshawar, and claimed he was working for the security company, Catalyst Services. There is widespread belief in Pakistan that he is an American-Zionist agent who, like Davis, is also involved in terrorist activities. In De Haven’s case, the US has not claimed he is a “diplomat”. Clearly, Davis was far too important an asset to be left to the courts in Pakistan.