Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

An American in Pakistani custody



Who exactly is Raymond Davis, the main at the centre of a flaming row between the United States and Pakistan that threatens to derail ties altogether ? It’s an obvious question to ask given the lengths the Obama administration has gone to secure the release of Davis held in Pakistan for shooting and killing two men who he said were trying to rob him. As Reuters reported this week, Washington had put on hold some bilateral engagements, and even hinted that a $7.5  billion civillian aid package could be jeopardised if Islamabad continued to hold Davis disregarding his diplomatic immunity. The New York Times and the Washington Post said a much-sought after state visit by President Asif Ali Zardari planned for the end of March was on the line now. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cancelled a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at an international security conference in Munich late last month, the Post said.

The Americans are saying Davis is a diplomat and hence arresting him is a violation of international norms and the Vienna Conventions.  The U.S. embassy had initially identified him as a staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Lahore where the incident occured.

Pakistanis on the other hand are outraged by the incident, seeing it as another case where the Americans are acting with impunity in their country. Not only are they conducting air strikes in an ever widening arc in the troubled northeast corner of the country, but they also operating in the streets of  the largest cities unchallenged, they feel.  Religious parties which have long condemned U.S. involvement in the country have hit the streets demanding that the government  stand firm against U.S. calls to release the man.

 A Lahore court has barred the government from handing over Davis to U.S. custody.  It says it will decide whether he had diplomatic immunity or not. On Friday the court extended his remand by another 14 days, infuriating the Americans further.