Pakistan-US relations: Who will blink first (Part-I)

February 14th, 2011 - 2:04 pm ICT by ANI  

By Salim Haq

New Delhi, Feb.14 (ANI): The case of US operative, Raymond Davis, has mushroomed beyond the dramatis persona involved. From being a case of diplomatic immunity and self-defense it has snowballed into a confrontation between the US and Pakistan with ramifications for their future relationship and much else.

What is known about the event has been in the public domain since January 27 and does not need repetition here. What does bear reiteration is the mystery surrounding the event.

From the real name of Raymond Davis, where was he based, what was he doing, did he have diplomatic status to who were the Pakistanis, were they dacoits or intelligence minders of Davis, are there deficiencies in the FIR that may allow Davis to be freed, has Pakistan permitted US diplomats to carry weapons, was the weapon with Davis licensed etc, are all questions being asked repeatedly but for which no authentic reply has been forthcoming, either from the US or from Pakistan.

The key question is whether or not Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity on January 27. If he did have diplomatic status on Jan 27, then as per the Vienna Convention, he would walk free.

However, the confusion on what should have been a clear cut and simple determination has degenerated into suspicions about convoluted efforts to give him retrospective diplomatic status. Declaring him a diplomat two weeks after the event would give the impression that this was done under US pressure and be disastrous.

The US has shifted its stand from Davis being a Lahore-based consular officer to his being a diplomat in Islamabad and further indicating that Davis is not even his real name.

Davis himself claimed in the police station that he was a ‘consultant’ with the Regional Affairs Office of the US consulate in Lahore.

On the Pakistani side, the lack of understanding of the issues involved by the Lahore Police, failure of the federal government to clearly state his status right at the outset, the tension and mistrust between the PMLN-led Punjab and the PPP-led federal governments has ensured that the case has raised public suspicions and reached the judicial level from which it would be difficult to extricate.

The amazing silence on the part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on the diplomatic status or otherwise of Raymond Davis has led to speculations that he did not enjoy immunity.

If he had, MOFA would have said so right in the beginning. Lending substance to this view is the kind of lethal and non-lethal equipment found in his car, which is unlikely to be carried by a bona-fide diplomat.

Then again, his car did not have diplomatic plates, though it is not yet known in whose name the car was registered.

The US position is that the Davis is a diplomat, and therefore, is entitled to diplomatic immunity for all acts and should be freed immediately.

That’s why US officials have coached Davis to say nothing and not to cooperate in the investigations.

On its part, the US has not handed over the second car or its driver, which had run over the third Pakistani on January 27.

The position of the Punjab government at least is that Davis is not a diplomat and in the absence of an announcement by the federal government, the judicial process will determine his status.

In case he did not have diplomatic status, then the next crucial question is whether he acted in self-defense or was it murder. The Punjab Police have clearly indicated that it was murder and not self-defense and charged him accordingly.

The silence on the part of both countries on key aspects of the case and the ham-handed manner in which it has been dealt with by both has given conspiracy theorists, who abound in Pakistan, a field day.

Given the confused reports in the public domain and without the Pakistan Government giving an authoritative statement, there is a lurking suspicion that beyond the Vienna Conventions, there is a secret bilateral agreement between Pakistan and the US that gives diplomatic-like status to operatives like Raymond Davis.

This is why the US, knowing that Davis does not have regular diplomatic status, is continuing to insist that he has such status, and therefore, enjoys immunity and is tightening the screws on Pakistan, even at the risk of a rupture in relations.

That is also why the Pakistan Government is keeping silent on the issue. If this is so, it is very likely that if the confrontation continues, sooner or later, the US will arrange a leak about the secret agreement, which could cause a huge furor in Pakistan.

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