Sunday, 20 February 2011

An imperial hubris


By: Shireen M Mazari


Once again Pakistan is being subject to the usual US imperial arrogance – this time on the Davis case. We have had threats of all kinds simply to get a murderer released and even President Obama has jumped into the fray, imperially claiming Davis has diplomatic immunity! Of course US Presidents, in recent times at least, have been known for their lies with Bush commencing his Iraq war on the WMD lie and Colin Powell brazenly lying to the UN Security Council! So Obama may be following yet another Bush tradition – after his exuberant adoption of the drones’ policy. Such imperial hubris reflected in the threats of aid and meetings’ cut-offs should be seen as an opportunity by the Pakistani state to re-evaluate its whole relationship with the US and restructure it more favourably.

If the whole “strategic” edifice is under threat over the issue of Raymond Davis, one really wonders whether there ever was such a relationship to begin with. Take the example of our longstanding strategic ally China: has this relationship ended despite the targeted killings of Chinese in Pakistan?

Perhaps if the US could see beyond its imperial arrogance, it would realise that right now its own interests would be damaged far more than the suffering the Pakistani nation may suffer – as opposed to the ruling elite – especially in terms of its so-called “war on terror”! But the US rarely sees reality beyond its blinkered vision and its contemptuous arrogance towards the Pakistani state is so immense that it has chosen not to have a lawyer represent Davis in the Lahore High Court!

It is also amusing and ironic to see the Obama Administration, as well as US lawmakers, suddenly accuse Pakistan of not abiding by international law! Given how the US not only flouts international law at every opportunity but refuses to subscribe to accept the International Criminal Court and any International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion that goes against it (Remember the Nicaragua harbour mining case?), it is hardly in a position to adopt the high moral ground on international law.

Only recently, the US violated the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it had put its signature to, when it signed its nuclear deal with India – something Senator Kerry felt he should educate us on in terms of the Vienna Conventions. By going for this deal the US contravened Articles I and III:2 of the NPT, which amongst other restrictions, forbid transfer of sensitive and dual use technology to non-NPT states.

However, what is the Pakistan government up to with its Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking three weeks further to give a simple response to the issue of Raymond Davis’s immunity issue? As if the absurd proclamations and retractions of the PPP office bearers and ministers were not folly enough, we have now had the Punjab Chief Minister state that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had informed him that the Federal Government was going to give Davis diplomatic immunity and would be informing the Lahore High Court of the same.

Clearly that too did not happen on Thursday as the case got underway and the nation must be grateful for these small hiccups in the path of total subjugation to the US Will. Unfortunately, the LHC has had to stay the proceedings till the federal government overcomes its habitual pusillanimity when confronted by the US and plucks up the courage to take a clear position on the immunity issue.

But why is the Pakistani political leadership so hesitant on the Davis case since whichever legal perspective one takes, there is no ground on which Davis can claim diplomatic immunity. In view of the documents already in the public domain, including the “official visa” – and there is a qualitative difference between his visa and a diplomatic visa – there is no ground on which Davis could be placed in the category of a diplomat. However, even if one were to concede the US argument of his being “Administrative and technical staff” and thereby entitled to “diplomatic immunity” under the 1961 Vienna Convention; for such staff this “immunity” is not applicable to actions outside “official functions” under Articles 31:1c and 37:2.

In any case, with the material evidence, including photographs of sensitive military offices, recovered from Davis as well as his pay slip for the period beginning September 2010, he clearly falls into the category of being hired by the US State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and is in all probability a CIA “stringer” intelligence agent. In fact, as the facts of Davis come to light, it appears he may have deliberately allowed the second car to speed away as it may have had more covert operatives in it. Interestingly, in November 2009 and later in 2010, Davis was caught in restricted military locations in Peshawar and sources state that the Foreign Office verbally asked the US Embassy to remove him from Peshawar. Proper interrogation of Davis is essential now for Pakistan to discover the linkages with a range of US covert activities.

While we can sigh with relief over the halt in drone attacks since the arrest of Davis, the cause for this halt is probably the US fear that the location of other stringer agents may be revealed through these attacks. That brings up another interesting aspect of the Davis case: the possibility of charging him with espionage given the massive evidence already available and made public.

After all, if the federal and provincial governments manage to persuade, through fair means or foul, the families of the victims to accept “blood money”, Davis still needs to be detained on espionage charges and tried for the same. This is one criminal who must not be allowed to get away with impunity.

Most important, though, the Davis case should persuade the Pakistani state to rein in the thousands of US operatives – both CIA and private security contractors – and rid the country of them as soon as possible so that there is no repeat of this lethal incident again on our territory.
(The writer is a former editor of The Nation and ex-head of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad).

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