Raymond Davis’ release: doubts and questions


ISLAMABAD – The swift release of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor Raymond Davis has not only fuelled anger across the country but also left behind many doubts and questions regarding the settlement of the double-murder case, which had been a headache for the Pakistan government for 50 days. Legal experts and Islamic scholars say that the murder charges against Davis were dropped under the diyat (“blood money”) law without issuing certification of successors properly, which is compulsory under Sharia. They say the compensation was also not distributed among the heirs of the murdered men according to Islamic law as the widow of Faizan was given more than her rightful share. Senator Professor Khurshid Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) said that the failure to issue certification of successors at the proper time had revealed that the case was settled in “indecent haste”. Legal experts and religious scholars claim that it was not a simple murder case which could be settled under the diyat law.
Senator Khurshid Ahmed said that Davis killed two Pakistanis without any background of enmity between the victim and the murderer and he killed them in a public place, therefore it was case of fasaad-fil-arz. “Why did the judge not consider this aspect when there was precedent of Peshawar High Court’s 1982 judgement or when the prosecution raised the issue before the court?” he questioned.Davis was not charged for abetment of crime in the case of Ibad-ur-Rehman’s death. “The US consulate vehicle that crushed Rehman to death was in fact on its way to rescue Davis, therefore he should also have been prosecuted by the Punjab government on the charges of abetment of crime,” said a Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader.
Former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) vice president Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry agreed, but Pakistan Bar Council Chairman Latif Afridi rejected the notion that Davis could be charged with abetment.
Senator Khurshid and Justice (r) Fakhr-un-Nisa Khokhar said that the government should have tried Davis for spying under the Espionage and Official Secrets Acts of Pakistan. British newspaper The Guardian said in a report on February 20 that Davis was a CIA agent who was on assignment when he killed the two young men.
“Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, The Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former Special Forces soldier is employed by the CIA. A senior Pakistani official said he believed Davis had worked with Xe, the firm formerly known as Blackwater,” the report said. It quoted Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah as saying that Davis’ actions were not those of a diplomat and that he was doing espionage and surveillance. He confirmed that Davis was a CIA employee, said the report.
PML-Q’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Ameer Muqam said that the federal and Punjab government did not try Davis for spying under US pressure though there was plenty of evidence. Senator Salim Saifullah also said Davis should have been prosecuted for spying.
Punjab government officials however say it was the federal government’s responsibility to try Davis for spying because his suspicious activities were not bound to any specific region or province; rather he used to travel across the country from Peshawar to Karachi. Legal experts and some politicians expressed reservations with the court’s decision in the illegal possession of firearms case against Davis. “Pakistani law recommends a 7-year imprisonment for the crime but the court, in a very lenient manner, imposed the minimum penalty on Davis,” said a JI leader. PML-Q National Assembly Member Sheikh Waqas Akram demanded that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry take suo motu notice of the additional district and sessions judge who passed the dubious judgement.
Ever since Davis’ arrest, there were media reports of evidence that the CIA contractor was either involved in terrorism in the country or had contacts with terrorist outfits. The Counter Terrorism Wing (CTW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) also submitted a report to Punjab Police on the data found on Davis’ cell phones and other devices seized from him after his arrest. Religious leaders also questioned why Davis was not tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
British newspaper the Daily Telegraph said in a report on February 10 that “sources close to the investigation said Raymond Davis, 36, had made a series of telephone calls to South Waziristan, a tribal area along the border with Afghanistan synonymous with militant activity”. Another media report revealed that a Global Positioning System (GPS) chip recovered from Davis was being used to identify targets for drone attacks in the tribal region. Former SCBA vice president Chaudhry said that the Punjab government should have prosecuted Davis under Anti-Terrorism Act.
Why did the government not take the nation into confidence about the results of investigations into 45 individuals who were arrested for having contacts with Davis? The individuals had been arrested from Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar and their contact information was taken from Davis’ mobile phone. The federal and Punjab government also failed to try Raymond Davis for impersonation when investigations clearly indicated that Davis not only entered Pakistan with a fake name but also used many other fake identities in the country. Official testimony by US Assistant Secretary of State Philip J Crowley on January 27 stated that the person involved in the Lahore “incident” was not named Raymond Davis.
Chaudhry said that the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC)’s section on impersonation was deliberately not invoked against Davis by the Punjab government to please the US.
JI vice chief Liaqat Baloch claimed that PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had left the country before Davis’ acquittal in a preplanned arrangement. Some religious scholars claimed that Pakistan’s payment of compensation to the heirs of Fahim and Faizan was not allowed under true spirit of Islam’s qisas wa diyat law. “Only Davis, his family or the US government could pay diyat to the victim families. The government of Pakistan, by paying compensation to the victim families, has in fact violated Sharia,” said Liaqat Baloch.
If this was a routine settlement of a murder case under sections 309 or 310 of the PPC in light of qisa wa diyat law and the heirs of the victims had opted to compound the qisas with compensation, why were they removed from the public eye 24 hours before the settlement of the case and why does no one know their current whereabouts? The victims’ families’ counsel Asad Manzoor Butt has alleged that the government forced the families to accept diyat. Ameer Muqam of the PML-Q said that both the government had played a clandestine role in brokering the deal between the offender and the victims’ families.
In a 50-day standoff between the US and Pakistan, leading political figures across party lines, the media, civil society and the clerics all raised serious concerns over the presence of hundreds of dubious US nationals in the country, calling them “CIA agents” and demanded the government send all such characters back to the US to avoid ugly incidents such as the one in Lahore, but today the government is unable to tell Pakistanis if it even reached an agreement with the US that is would pull-out such dubious “diplomats” from the country or not.
Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman and PML-Likeminded President Salim Saifullah said that all such dubious US nationals should be immediately sent back to America. “The government should ask the US embassy to send all such men back except the embassy’s sanctioned strength of 1,089 [employees],” he said. He also demanded the government tighten its visa policy for US nationals.