Abject surrender

The US has managed to secure the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis by paying blood money to the families of the two people he shot dead in Lahore seven weeks ago. Under Pakistani sharia law, relatives of a murder victim can pardon the killer. The payment of blood money — according to reports around $2.4 million was paid — in exchange for Davis’ release is therefore legal in Pakistan. However, questions are being raised over how this deal was done. The families appear to have been forced to pardon Davis. Western journalists have revealed that even a couple of days ago, the victims’ kin had stressed they wanted justice, not compensation. Lawyers of the victims’ families claim they were not kept in the loop and were held in detention for several hours while the deal was being negotiated. It is said that the families were under immense pressure from the right wing parties too to not pardon Davis. Ultimately, the Americans won the day.

How compromised Pakistan’s sovereignty is has been laid bare by the Davis saga. Unlike the missile strikes by US drones in Pakistan’s tribal areas that are happening far from public gaze, Washington’s heavy-handed management of the Davis crisis has unfolded before the eyes of the Pakistani masses. The end of the crisis leaves several questions unanswered. What for instance is Islamabad’s position on Davis? Was he a diplomat? If he was, why was he armed? At the height of the crisis, the US promised that Davis would be tried in a US court. The least it can do now is to keep that pledge.

Sections in Pakistan have said that Davis’ release was a sensible thing to do. Indeed, the tension over Davis’ arrest had thrown US-Pakistan relations into turmoil. Given Pakistan’s deep dependence on US aid, fraying relations was hurting Islamabad. Davis’ release has ended the diplomatic standoff. But there is little reason for the two governments to heave a sigh of relief. The manner in which the US got Davis off the hook and the Pakistan government’s facilitation of this is likely to unite opposition parties, the countries religious right-wing and anti-US elements as never before. Riots have already erupted in several cities. Pakistan’s beleaguered government, already on the backfoot with regard to its relationship with the US, is likely to emerge weaker from the supposed ‘resolution’ of the crisis over Davis.

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