The Damocles’ sword has severed Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s head. The 54-year-old seasoned politician and former foreign minister was unceremoniously booted out of the federal cabinet. Qureshi’s crime? Shahji had preferred to resign than become an accomplice in the American triple murder conspiracy. Qureshi said that his stance on the Davis issue was principled and that he would stand by his position.
He had strongly argued that Raymond did not enjoy “unlimited diplomatic immunity under the law”. In his press conference on February 16, he let the cat out of the bag that he was directed to remain silent on the issue of Raymond Davis. It does not require a genius to guess as to who directed him to remain silent.
The obdurate ex-FM paid heavily for his obstinacy. Unlike General Musharraf who went into submission mode on receiving the call of “either you are with us or against us” and the threat of bombing Pakistan “back to the stone age”, Qureshi has demonstrated that he would not be coerced to kowtow to Uncle Sam. Aunt Hillary, on the other hand, was not pleased by such decisions taken by the reawakened conscience. Shah Sahib was informed in no uncertain terms that he need not attend the Munich Security Conference on February 6 if he could not comply with orders regarding Raymond Davis. Pakistan was represented at the annual conference by the COAS Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyanni.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi might have fallen from the American grace, but he has certainly gained stature in the eyes of the Pakistanis.
Salman Bashir is also not behaving like a bureaucrat. Even as midnight communiqués from Washington continue to find its way to Islamabad, the foreign secretary has explicitly stated that it is prerogative of the court to decide about the matter of Raymond Davis. At the weekly briefing in Islamabad on Saturday, the foreign secretary said: “A person indulging in criminal activity deliberately should not seek immunity or protection”, adding that had he “committed an act similar to that of Raymond Davis, he would not have sought immunity.”
Like his former boss Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Salman Bashir can also expect to have his head scalped for uttering such bold statements.
No matter how rigorously spies are trained to withstand torture, they are not invincible and eventually break down to pressure. America knows that if it is infamous for its water-boarding, sleep deprivation and other inhuman torture tactics, Pakistani police are also renowned for their “chitrol”.
Michael J. Fox, the Canadian–American actor, author, comedian, producer, and activist says: “When something enters your life that is so big and so non-negotiable as catastrophic illness, you either go in denial for a while ... or ultimately you accept it and you make space for it. And in making space for it, you illuminate a lot of things that you normally don't have room for….”
This is what America is afraid of. Should Davis start to cooperate and breakdown during the course of investigation, it would lead to the opening of the Pandora’s Box.
Fumes have been emitting from the Davis’s Pandora’s Box. Questions regarding his identity have been plaguing both American and Pakistani officials. Since the US Embassy in Islamabad did not deem it pertinent to provide the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the list of officials as normal protocol demands, Davis could be any of the 500 Americans who were given carte blanche entry to Pakistan.
American officials have been trying to pull the wool over the eyes of their Pakistani counterparts by first calling Davis as “US citizen”, then “staff member of the US Consulate General in Lahore”, “member of the Administrative and Technical staff at the US Embassy in Islamabad”, and “US Consulate’s Technical Adviser”. More recently, US Embassy officials have described him as a “functionary” of the Embassy assigned to the US consulate in Lahore and carrying a US Diplomatic passport. All this in order to get him diplomatic immunity and absolved of all criminal charges.
If he is need who he is as the American Embassy would like Pakistan to believe, then comes the question: how can a “functionary” of the Embassy fire nine shots with isolated accuracy through his car windshield? A senior former U.S. diplomatic security agent Fred Burton tells Jeff Stein of the Washington Post that “It shows a high degree of firearms discipline and training.”
Secondly, questions also arises as to what was Davis doing in the area of Mozang Chungi? Mozang Chungi is a densely populated area of small shops and street vendors typically only used by local residents. No tourist much less a diplomat would ever go there with and that too with “illicit arms, GPS (global positioning system), four magazines, more than 70 bullets, [and] pictures of sensitive installations”. It is as Burton suggests that Davis “was the victim of a spy meeting gone awry, not the target of a robbery or car-jacking attempt.”
Thirdly, why is the US Consulate in Lahore reluctant to hand over the Americans and the vehicle that crushed to death Ubaidur Rehman? Despite requests by the Punjab Police to the Consulate to release the vehicle and hand over the occupants of the vehicle, the Consulate has refused to cooperate in this regard. Interestingly there is a strange silence on this issue by Washington.
Vehicles belonging to the US Embassy have been involved in shoddy business in Pakistan. On February 9, two vehicles -- Toyota Hiace bearing registration numbers IDN 2501 and IDN 2932 -- belonging to the US Embassy in Islamabad were impounded by the Federal Capital Police under Section 550 of Pakistan Penal Code as these were used with fake number plates.
A spokesman for the US embassy said both the vehicles are property of the embassy. Acting spokesman for the embassy said neither the embassy had the knowledge nor it was taken into confidence over the use of the vehicles with fake number plates. He also denied that the vehicles were being used by the Peshawar consulate. He also denied any connection of the persons occupying these vehicles with the US embassy.
Back in June 2009, a double-cabin vehicle coming from the NWFP did not stop for checking at Golra police check-post. The vehicle was intercepted at Khyber Chowk, G-9/4, check post. According to reports, three American diplomats namely Jeffery, Jeffdic and James Bill Koeen and a driver named Charlie Benzic belonging to Regional Security Section of the US Embassy were found in the vehicle. They were wearing Shalwar Kameez, had beards, were in Pakhtun clothes and carrying four M-4 machine guns and four 9 mm pistols. The report, however, said that on the intervention of the then SP Sadar, the vehicle was allowed to go.
Fourthly, the US embassy claimed that Davis was hired as an employee of a US security company called Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, located at 5100 North Lane in Orlando, Florida. Arresting officers found business cards for Hyperion with Davis.
Dave Lindorff writing for the Eurasia Review states “there is not and never has been any such company located at the 5100 North Lane address. It is only an empty storefront, with empty shelves along one wall and an empty counter on the opposite wall, with just a lone used Coke cup sitting on it. A leasing agency sign is on the window.”
Lindorff further writes that the “Florida Secretary of State’s office…. has no record, current or lapsed, of a Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, and there is only one company with the name Hyperion registered at all in the state. It is Hyperion Communications, a company based in W. Palm Beach that has no connection with Davis or with security-related activities.”
Speculations are rife that Davis is a CIA agent or even possibly that of the mercenary firm Xe, the reincarnation of Blackwater. Fred Burton, a veteran of the State Department’s counter-terrorism Security Service, believes that that Davis may have been involved in intelligence activity, either as a CIA employee under embassy cover or as a contract worker at the time of the shootings.
The New York Times writes, “And, yes, it turns out that Davis was not a member of the US Foreign Service, but a gun-for-hire private operative attached to the “technical and administrative” staff of the consulate, according to the US Embassy. We all know that the business of private security has ballooned in recent years under very lucrative government contracts. The employees are often Americans, Britons and South Africans with military experience who can put their training to work for a great deal more money than usually awaits them in a fully civilian job. We also know that with the US forces stretched to the breaking point, these mercenaries, unhappily, play a major role in guarding American installations and embassies abroad that were once guarded only by the US marines.”
Now the question arises, does a hired gum or spy enjoy diplomatic immunity? Even If he is a diplomat and enjoys diplomatic immunity as claimed by Washington, he has breached international laws by carrying arms. Diplomats are expected to obey regulations governing their behaviour and they suffer strict internal consequences (disciplinary action) if they flout local laws. A diplomat's career may be compromised if they (or even members of their family) disobey the local authorities or cause serious embarrassment, and such cases are, at any rate, a violation of the spirit of the Vienna Convention.
Pakistani law says that Pakistan has a say in who has diplomatic immunity and who does not. Even the US-based Global Intelligence Forecast Organisation, Stratfor, has revealed that Davis did not enjoy diplomatic immunity. According to Stratfor, “a contract employee assigned to the US Consulate in Lahore, Davis, was likely not on the diplomatic list and probably did not enjoy full diplomatic immunity.” The think-tank adds, “Protecting himself during a robbery attempt would not be considered part of his official function in the country, and therefore his actions that day would not be covered under functional immunity.”
Washington’s insistence of granting diplomatic immunity and demanding immediate release of Davis, smacks of the famed American double-faced hypocrisy. If one of their own is involved in heinous crimes abroad, America hides behind diplomatic immunity. On the other hand, foreign diplomats in America are tried for their crimes, as exemplified in the case of the deputy ambassador of the Republic of Georgia, Gueorgui Makharadze. In January 1997, Makharadze caused an accident that injured four people and killed a sixteen-year-old girl. The U.S. government pressurised the Georgian government to waive his immunity, which they did, and he was tried and convicted of manslaughter by the US and sentenced to seven to twenty-one years in prison.
U.S. Marine Christopher Van Goethem posted at American embassy in Bucharest, Romania, collided with a taxi and killed the popular Romanian musician Teo Peter on December 3, 2004. Van Goethem, allegedly drunk, refused to give a blood sample for further testing, and fled to Germany before charges could be filed. The Romanian government requested the American government to lift his immunity, which it refused to do.
American Consul General Douglas Kent, stationed in Vladivostok, Russia, was involved in a car accident on October 27, 1998, that left a young man, Alexander Kashin, crippled. Kent was not prosecuted in a U.S. court. Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, diplomatic immunity does not apply to civil actions relating to vehicular accidents. However, on 10 August 2006, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that since he was using his own vehicle for consular purposes, Kent may not be sued civilly.
In June 2010, narcotics officer at the American Embassy in Islamabad rammed his car into a Cabinet Division peon. The 50-year old Muhammad Yameen went into coma and eventually succumbed to his injuries. The US Embassy officials managed to avoid initiation of any legal action under the garb of diplomatic immunity.
The State Department is now accusing Pakistan of violating” the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963. Section II, Article 41 of the treaty, in its first paragraph regarding the “Personal inviolability of consular officers,” states: “Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority.”
“In other words, the prosecutorial, police and judicial authorities in Lahore and the state of Punjab are doing exactly what they are supposed to do in holding Davis on murder charges, pending a judicial determination concerning whether or not he can properly claim diplomatic immunity,” writes Dave Lindorff, adding that “the US claim that Pakistan is violating the convention is simply nonsense.”
Will Shumaila’s sacrifice be justified? Will the bereaved families of the double tragedy—Faheem’s murder and Shumaila’s suicide—get justice? Family members of triple murder case are pinning their hopes on the judiciary as they have no faith in the government.
The Raymond Davis affair is a litmus test for Zardari-led current government of Pakistan. Asif Ali Zardari’s credibility and the present judiciary’s responsibility are put to severe test as the US government blows hot and cold. Now is the time for Pakistan to take a firm stand to regain its lost credibility, and dignity in the eyes of the masses.