The Raymond Davis fiasco is plastered all over. Every newspaper, every television channel, drawing room gossips, tea shop conversations, road-side predictions all converge on the possible fate of Raymond Davis. More specifically, these interactions are about the manner in which he would ultimately be released because, discuss as one may, plead as one may, protest as one may, immunity or no immunity, it is evident that, at some stage in the future, the government would be left with no option but to let him walk away a free man.
It is clear that Raymond Davis is not a diplomat and does not enjoy immunity. Under the provisions of the law, he should be proceeded against just like any other mortal would be who is caught in the act of killing people. Article 37-2 of the Vienna Convention states: Members of the administrative and technical staff of the mission, together with members of their families forming part of their respective households, shall, if they are not nationals of or permanently resident in the receiving state, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in articles 29 to 36, except that the immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving state specified in paragraph 1 of article 31 shall not extend to acts outside the course of their duties. Article 38 of the Vienna Convention reiterates this point further: Except insofar as additional privileges and immunities may be granted by the receiving state, a diplomatic agent who is a national of or permanently resident in that state shall enjoy only immunity from jurisdiction and inviolability, in respect of official acts performed in the exercise of his functions.
The obvious question that arises is with regard to the nature of duty that Raymond Davis was performing when the incident occurred. If the duty was official, details of the same would have to be provided to the government and the courts. If, however, as circumstantial evidence so far available suggests, Raymond Davis was not engaged in the performance of any official duty, he would lose his right to the immunity as stated in the Vienna Convention. Therefore, he would enjoy no special status that would grant him reprieve from prosecution.
There are scores of other Raymonds roaming the roads of Pakistan. Most of them have entered the country on the basis of special visas granted by the presidents man in Washington one Mr. Hussain Haqqani. The choice diplomat has been taking pains to explain that all visas to the Americans were issued with due authorisation. That does not exonerate Mr. Haqqani from culpability. It only proves that there were others involved in the scam also!
The least that the government can do at this stage is to withdraw all visas forthwith that have been issued to the Americans under dubious circumstances. Everyone, as of now, should be made to go through the normal drill for ascertaining his or her eligibility for the grant of visa.
The eagerness of the federal government in devising a mechanism to free Raymond Davis also stands proven. In spite of a lapse of over two weeks, the foreign office has still not come out with a clear statement with regard to whether Mr. Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity or not. I have also been given to understand that the federal government is ready to make the requisite statement certifying immunity for Raymond Davis, but is holding back because it is uncertain about the manner in which the Punjab government would respond. Strange are the pretensions of the dictators remnants!
The fact that the US is applying intense pressure to secure the release of Raymond Davis is patently evident. Veiled insinuations to hold back military and economic aid have, by now, given way to open and blatant threats of severing relations. Three senior US parliamentarians have recently warned that the congress may proceed to cut off aid if Pakistan failed to release the diplomat. That is as close as it can come to blackmailing a supposed ally. The resolution of the pending issue would, of course, come only in shape of reprieve from prosecution for Raymond Davis. Those who fail to understand the finality of such a happening would find enough avenues to vent their frustration.
It is a cruel world. The soul, once sold, cannot be reclaimed. We did not sell it once. We sell it every time there is even a wink of an opportunity. Our brave leaders are always short on legitimacy and are eager to buy it. Some do so by fighting holy wars on aliens behest, others by becoming partners in the so-called war-on-terror, and yet others by having a dubious piece of agreement proclaimed that goes by the misnomer of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Are there more of the kind coming any time soon?
The solution to the woes of this country is not simple. But, one thing is certain. Elections, now or any time in the future, are not bringing any drastic changes in either the kind of people returned to the legislatures, or their attendant mindsets. They are all claimants to the soul of the country that they would sell for tuppence at the first bidding.
The writer is a media consultant to the Chief Minister, Punjab.