Is Pakistan also on the edge?

Developing Just Leadership

Afeef Khan

Rabi' al-Awwal 26, 1432 2011-03-01

News & Analysis

by Afeef Khan

The Raymond Davis Affair is just the latest in a series of incidents in the past few months (Salman Taseer assassination is another) that threatens to widen antipathy between Pakistan’s westoxicated neo-liberal ruling and business class on the one hand and the majority of unrepresented Muslim people on the other into a bona fide overthrow of the existing feudal political order.

Unofficial statements leaking out of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) mouthpieces and the resignation of its spokeswoman Fauzia Wahab indicate that the Pakistani government is trembling at the spectre of an “international incident” and would just love to be able to sweep the whole affair under the rug and be done with it. Translated, this means they would pusillanimously cite adherence to international law with the diplomatic immunity statute and release Davis to US custody, where he would undoubtedly be charged with doing the same under a different identity in other parts of the world. It also means that the bereaved families of the two individuals who Davis is accused of murdering would just have to go away (the 18-year-old widow of the one of the dead men committed suicide because she rightly believed she would get no justice.)

What is obvious is that Davis acted in the wanton way he did because he thought he could not be touched, especially given the prevailing atmosphere in Pakistan in previous years where American contractors and intelligence agents (call them diplomats if you also believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus) could get away with virtually anything under the Sun. Under the cover of diplomatic immunity and immunity from local prosecution for US military personnel, US “diplomats” have threatened Pakistani journalists with torture and death for reporting the truth about US jingoism in their country, randomly kidnapped Pakistani civilians to be tortured at Guantanamo or other black sites, assaulted Pakistani civilians without redress, poisoned water supplies with either chemicals or biological pathogens, conducted biological germ warfare experiments on civilian population centers, proliferated HIV-infected prostitutes in Pakistan’s brothels, and bombed civilians with drone aircraft launched from US military bases inside Pakistan. And these things for which the US has never been held accountable and which presumably are still going on does not even touch the tip of the iceberg.

As more information leaks out about the incident, going unreported in mainstream sources, the bigger picture is beginning to take shape. The two people Davis is accused of murdering were ISI agents who were tracking Davis’s movements as he was known to have made several trips in and out of Pakistan’s tribal areas, where he is said to have met with Taliban elements who are working with the US in trying to divide the Pakistani military so that it can be downsized and become subservient to the preferred local US-supported hegemon, India. After Davis killed the two agents, he was captured by Pakistani police who also confiscated from him a GPS tracking device, a telescope, bolt cutters, survival kit, a long-range radio, and a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol — apparently standard issue for US “diplomats”. During the capture, Davis succeeded in contacting US embassy personnel who, while trying to rescue him in a black SUV, ran over and killed a Pakistani pedestrian.

The British Guardian newspaper has now reported that “consulate employee” Davis was a CIA spy at the time of the shootings. Davis’ initial claims of defending himself from being robbed by the two murder victims have also been rejected by the Pakistani police because the two he killed were shot in the back 10 times and Davis was also reported to have jumped out of his car to chase one of them down to “finish him off”. Pakistani police also intended to charge the driver of the SUV who killed the pedestrian, but he could not be charged because he fled the country.

Since Davis was captured (one month ago as this issue of Crescent goes to press), no drone strikes have taken place, suggesting that Davis was a US operative gathering intelligence on, organizing, and determining where the next set of strikes would take place. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together, it is obvious that Davis could not afford to be tailed by agents who would ultimately be able to predict his movements and thus forewarn the would-be targets of future drone strikes.

US Senator John Kerry, and Marc Grossman, the new US envoy to the AfPak region, have been dispatched to threaten Pakistan to release a key US intelligence asset or face the consequences. Although a divorce in the abortive marriage between Pakistan’s elite and the US would indeed be painful for Pakistan in the short term, it is nonetheless necessary.

Those who do not suffer from short memory remember that “Gunboat” Kerry was one of the two US senators in the early 1990s (along with Hank Brown) who wrote legislation in Congress to take down BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International), the drug-money laundering outfit that made some American “lawmakers”, business people, and intelligence agents deliriously rich, and also financed the Contras in Nicaragua against the popular Sandanista government.

In the hearings preceding the build-up to pass the legislation to confiscate the assets of BCCI and to sue its principals, Kerry and Brown were forced to redact certain names and organizations from the evidence against BCCI for “national security” reasons. Whose names were redacted? Did these include former president George H.W. Bush, former secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state George Shultz, former governor of Arkansas and later president Bill Clinton?

It ought to be common knowledge now that BCCI was not criminalized because it broke the law, but because it was a Middle Eastern Bank trying to muscle in on a drug-generated windfall profit territory that was monopolized by Western intelligence agencies and Mossad and whose front money-laundering organizations were Jewish banks running “legally” under the watchful eyes of US and Russian financial regulators. Senator Kerry should be asked to answer some of these questions before Pakistani administrators are asked to reconsider Davis’ release under the diplomatic immunity obligation (Since when have diplomats become immune from prosecution for committing murder in another country and is it part of their job to carry prohibited weapons?)

To add spice to the already combustible mix, trial balloons are now being floated about a possible exchange: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui for Raymond Davis. Let us be clear: Dr. Siddiqui should be released because she is innocent of all charges; she is being wrongfully imprisoned because of the false and uncorroborated testimony of US soldiers and FBI agents; and finally she is being presented as a poster child for the success of the US war on terror. If she is exchanged for Davis, it would bring some validity to the charges that she is guilty of something. Why? Because Davis is guilty, maybe not of murder (until the courts in Pakistan convict him), but certainly of participating in black-operations, gathering intelligence, and conducting espionage against a country the US is supposedly friendly with.

Besides, if it was an even exchange, assuming an innocent for an innocent, then how would Dr. Siddiqui be compensated for the harrowing experience she endured at the hands of US torturers: spending five years under extreme torture and humiliation at Bagram, being separated from her children, enduring the murder of her 6-month-old son, Suleman, by US agents or Pakistanis taking orders from US agents, being shot at close range by US soldiers and then being accused of shooting them, having some of her organs removed, having to sit through a farcical show trial, having to be incarcerated in solitary confinement, and much more?

The debt-ridden US economy does not have enough compensation and the public mind-set against Muslims would not tolerate any significant compensation to mitigate this; and there is no court in the world that has the power or the wherewithal to try the US for the crimes it has committed and is continuing to commit without restraint.

On the other hand, if the exchange consisted of a guilty for a guilty, then Dr. Siddiqui never killed anyone; but Davis has killed two in cold blood and has been indirectly responsible for a third. What about compensation and justice for the families of the murdered and man-slaughtered? No one ought to be considering an “even” exchange in this equation because there is no equivalence here whatsoever. If the US does propose an exchange, Pakistan ought to demand that all US Muslim political prisoners, including Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who have been imprisoned on specious charges be released to the care of the Pakistani government. Such a suggestion might approach a degree of fairness.

In lieu of this, Raymond Davis should be tried for murder by a Pakistani court of law since it was in Pakistani jurisdiction that the alleged crime was committed. He should be allowed no US counsel; the court should appoint local counsel for him, perhaps a poorly paid public defender as is done for political prisoners in the US. If he is found guilty, the bereaved families should be given the option of accepting compensation; if they do not accept this option, then he should be executed — diplomatic immunity be damned. As it is now becoming more and more obvious that Davis is a US spy, diplomatic immunity will be irrelevant because foreign spies do not receive immunity for killing citizens of other countries.

If he is found innocent of murder charges, then he should be tried for illegal intelligence gathering and military activities, and all the claims of those who were harmed by these activities ought to be heard. If any of those claims involve a loss of life, then he should be tried as an accessory to murder for each count in the indictment. Even if Raymond Davis were to sit in a courtroom for the rest of his life, he would not have done enough to reverse the damage he has done to Pakistan’s national security and to the human dignity of its noble people.

Diplomatic immunity has been used as a platform by the power culture in the world to justify all kinds of spying, sabotaging, and destabilizing activities in the third world. The murder and mayhem that took place during the Egyptian civil uprising was most probably orchestrated in the US embassy in Cairo; the same script ran 31 years ago in Iran, and has been running almost incessantly in Latin America. The US may thumb its nose at this responsibility, but those who have been granted temporal power for a short time should have the discipline to exercise that power properly and justly. If they don’t then blowback will be a b---h, and they have already found this out.

If the rest of the world is expected to live in its nation-state cages, then the US and its allies ought to constrain their citizens to obey the laws of the land in which they have been invited. In fact, the biggest problem with the statute is the fact that the US, Israel, and their Western European satellites are its most vocal champions, for they are the worst violators of the provisions therein, in the same way they are the worst violators of other international agreements including the Geneva Conventions and the NPT.

Western and Israeli embassies are nothing but intelligence operations shielded by a carefully crafted public and international image of diplomacy and good will. WikiLeaks revelations about US diplomatic cables have blown the cover off this charade. It is time for a country of courage and conscience to take the lead in breaking away from the diplomatic immunity handcuffs that have been placed on the justice mechanisms of other countries. Let Pakistan use this case to send a message to its duplicitous and self-serving “friend” who prefers to prioritize its geostrategic interests over its own values and principles.

Make no mistake about it: there is a war going on here. The local interpretation of every new incident as just another example of ongoing US arrogance and snobbery, which is almost always now becoming an international crisis, is a testimony to the increasingly diverging views, which are now consolidating themselves into mutually exclusive positions that can only result in a violent exchange. This is a proxy war being fought against the Pakistani people by the Pakistani government on behalf of the United States. It is a war that the Pakistani government and its chief patron, the US, are going to lose.

The government and the kleptocratic business class, who are indistinguishable from each other, are supported, coached, indoctrinated, and held in power by the US — and the people of Pakistan know it. The momentum cresting in the rest of the Islamic East has already reached the shores of the Indus, and it won’t be long before the civil contempt will gel into a popular grassroots movement that will throw out the US and its entrenched acolytes inside the country. Separating totally from the US and then not looking back is the only chance Pakistan has at reclaiming its dignity and self-confidence.

In order to forestall such an event, US pundits, experts, and ex-intelligence agents are already in overdrive predicting an armageddon scenario. Listen to the hysterical fulminations of Bruce Riedel — a former longtime CIA officer and now a senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, and also author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad — and his ilk,

“A Pakistani emirate would welcome Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri from their hiding places of the past decade… Free of any significant constraints on their activities from the Pakistani authorities, al-Qaeda, and a host of other terrorist groups would have much more room to operate, particularly if they have access to Pakistan’s embassies from which to stage terrorist operations abroad… An Islamic takeover in Pakistan would make the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s current mission in Afghanistan virtually untenable. A jihadist Pakistan would be even more of a safe haven for the Afghan Taliban than now. Pakistan’s relations with Iran would probably deteriorate. Shia jihadist Iran and Sunni jihadist Pakistan would become enemies, each competing for influence on Afghan-istan’s battlefields.

“A militant Islamic state in Pakistan — the second-largest Muslim country in the world and the only one with a nuclear arsenal — would have a massive ripple effect across the Muslim world. Extremists would be strengthened. A jihadist Pakistan would be the most serious threat the United States has faced since the end of the Cold War. Aligned with al-Qaeda and armed with nuclear weapons, such a state would be a nightmare, and all U.S. options for dealing with it would be bad.

“Engagement would be almost impossible: U.S. options to change the regime by means of a coup or by assisting dissidents would be limited. The United States is so unpopular in Pakistan today that its endorsement of a politician is the kiss of death. Benazir Bhutto learned this lesson the hard way. Military options against a nuclear state would be unappealing at best and counterproductive at worst. Assuming we were forced to act, what would the United States do after military operations with a country twice the size of California and burdened with enormous poverty, 50 percent illiteracy, and intense hatred by its populace for all that America stands for, especially after U.S. soldiers have fought a nuclear war to occupy it?”

An al-Qaida takeover in Pakistan is as likely as Benazir coming back from the dead. Al-Qaida is the universal bogeyman created by US intelligence to abort any attempt at Islamic self-determination. The “Islamic” label attached to them and the Taliban is meant to popularize the notion that Islamic texts, experience, and systemic formulations are anathema to a civil society led by a representative Islamic executive authority, and human rights for minorities and women. Only a democratic rubric over a predatory capitalism should be allowed to occupy this space — all opposition to be displaced by force if necessary.

Since 1994, the Taliban have not been able to form a government in Af-ghanistan without military help, tactical assistance, and finances from Pakistan. Can they take over Pakistan by force facing a hostile military, secret service, and a generally Wahhabi-averse society of 160 million? Nonsense. What causes the US to tremble is that any Islamic leaning government will do almost the exact opposite of what is intoned above. It will almost certainly curtail relationship with the US, close its bases, shut down its intelligence operations, and put the luxury classes that are in US pockets on notice. It will also start sharing nuclear technology with Iran and Turkey leading to an economic and political cooperation that will uplift the economies of all three countries, making US-led sanctions irrelevant. Further TAPI will be a nonstarter without Pakistan, and the oil in Central Asia will remain landlocked for several years, sinking America’s “nation-building” efforts in that region along with all the bribes given to its dictatorial proxies there.

The current Pakistani government finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Its DNA is all Hollywood and McDonalds, while its cracking veneer is kabobs and choley. If it releases Raymond Davis under pressure from the US, the resulting civil unrest could undo it altogether; if it chooses to try him for murder, then the US may act to replace it with a more compliant package, resulting in more civil strife and contempt. All options on the table are bad for US geostrategic interests, which is only deserved because of its policies, but generally good for the long-suffering people of Pakistan.

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