To go scot free?


Just when we thought wed hit the rock bottom and it couldnt get any worse with double-digit inflation, increasing unemployment, rising incidents of terrorism in urban areas once again, being forced to watch the not so pretty but buffoonish politicians with an IQ of an ant on tele daily, with an unsavoury topping of pot bellied maulvis, (I have an endless list), along came Honble Raymond the diplomat Davis (hereinafter referred to as good old Ray; Americans have a knack for short names ya know). Whether this is his real name or not (Christians usually have three names; first, middle and last) is immaterial. Even if his name was Jean Paul Sartre he would still be hated in Pakistan for what he has done! Deep down we all know, despite the hullabaloo on Mall Road and what not, that hell be set free by those under oath to protect us from internal and external enemies.

The concept of diplomatic immunity unsettles us. In a perverse way, it seems anti-Pakistan (for our tree-hugging liberals) or anti-Islam (for our fire-breathing mullahs). It is simply mind boggling to us as to why a person who shot two of our own could get away without a scratch on his body. Whether those two had a previous criminal history is immaterial as well. Would we have accepted Rays plea of self-defense if the two were making their debut in the world of crime? No, off course not. Antecedents matter in determining the propensity to commit crime and at the sentencing stage, not in broad day light on the intersection of Ferozepur Road and Jail Road!

The print and electronic media too has coloured our mood grey. It is being shoved down our throats by media pundits that the synonym of diplomatic immunity is blanket immunity. This is simply not true. Even if his Excellency Ambassador Cameron Munter had gone commando on the two, a case could have been made against him under the Vienna Convention (1961) to try him if only in the US. In an alternative, he could have been granted persona non grata and asked to leave the country (well maybe this remedy is available to only self respecting nations!). The point being that a loud and clear message would have been sent to him. Now why is that? By now, those amongst us who are glued to the tele have become kind of an expert on diplomatic immunity and have accepted the mantra of blanket diplomatic immunity and hence reconciled with the fact that nothing legally could be done against Ray, right? Wrong. I bet your favorite talk show host didnt quote you the Preamble to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 which expressly states, the purpose of such privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions in representing states. Im actually gonna cut Ray some slack by assuming that he worked in Islamabad and not Lahore. Yes it matters.

If he was working for the consulate he enjoyed less of immunity then his colleague working for the embassy. But even then under our favorite Conventions Article 31(1)(c), Ray would enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of Pakistan except when he acts outside of his official functions (I think it is safe to assume that killing Rambo style was outside Rays official functions!). Further, Article 31(4) further provides justice to the people of Pakistan and especially to the families of the deceased by stating that if Ray could not be prosecuted or tried in Pakistan it does not mean that he could not be prosecuted or tried for the same crime in the US. Although Article 41 of the Convention is without prejudice to the privileges and immunities enjoyed by Ray, it makes it incumbent on him to obey and respect the laws of our nation (carrying a firearm illegally, not much respect for our laws, was it?). In addition, Article 32 of the Convention empowers us to ask the US to waive Rays immunity so that he could be tried here (probability of that happening, snowball in hell, but still). So all in all, the concept of diplomatic immunity enshrined in the Vienna Convention is not all that bad of a deal for us Pakistanis if only it was to be followed in letter and spirit.

Unfortunately, nation states practice the concept of blanket diplomatic immunity not as a dictate of international law, but due to political expediency. We too will let go of Ray not because we are dying to follow international law but because by scratching the American back today, we expect to be scratched by them tomorrow in case one of our diplomatic corps guy goes naughty in the US. Remember Munir Akram and his Eastern European ladylove. Oh yes and one more reason folks, we like the almighty $. Very, very much.

The writer is an advocate of the High Courts.