Prompt justice

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Former Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah who had once suggested that the ordinary courts could deliver speedy justice and was consequently forced to resign following an executive-judiciary tiff caused by his opposition to the then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharifs plan for setting up special courts stands vindicated. The Sessions judge hearing a double murder case proved him right by rapidly acquitting Raymond Davis after the relatives of the two murdered young men pardoned him for his crime by accepting compensation and signing the relevant document before the trial court.

That the solution of the problem was to be found in blood money had already become clear following indications that Davis did not enjoy absolute immunity under Vienna Convention. The application of Diyat has turned out to be a face-saver for the custodian of the state. A few pertinent questions however remain unanswered. There is no doubt that the issue related to the double murder was legally resolved after the families of the victims forgave the assassin in return for compensation. But did they do it willingly or were forced to do so? And under what law did the judge acquit Davis in the case of possessing illegal weapons by just imposing a nominal fine and declaring that the time he had already spent in the prison as enough of a punishment for the crime.

Much has been said and written about the ISI and the CIA redefining rules of engagement which eventually resulted in the early release of Raymond Davis. But there was also a domestic angle to it. That was about Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and the Intelligence mandarins working in close coordination to resolve the issue as soon as possible. There were some disturbing news reports indicating that the families of the two victims were told in no uncertain terms that since Davis was to be released in any case, they should better forgive him and get compensated.

The task was assigned to Mian Shahbaz at a time when the Punjab Government was already providing all facilities to the detained CIA spy on his watch. It was not difficult for him to engage some of his influential friends to convince the legal heirs of Faizan and Faheem to settle the dispute as advised. And once everything was done as planned the CM proceeded abroad leaving behind his combative law minister to take the beating from the media. Rana Sanaullah had to do a lot of explaining but was inconsistent and apologetic because he knew the shameful act of letting Davis off the hook will give more offence to the right-wingers in his own party than anybody else.

The Law Minister drew a blank when asked why indecent haste was shown in releasing Davis and allowing him to leave the country immediately when his name was still on the Exit Control List. Did the Punjab Government consult the Ministry of Interior or seek permission from the Lahore High Court before doing so? Most certainly not. And why the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act were not invoked at the time of the registration of a criminal case against Davis for killing two citizens? This was not done because it would not have benefited the culprit even in the event of any agreement with the complainants since the offence under this particular section of the Penal Code is not compoundable. It also confirms that the decision had already been taken to resolve the issue in accordance with the Islamic Laws. The rest was to be achieved by persuading the families of the slain youngsters to pardon the assassin in return for compensations.

The Punjab CM cannot think of going public claiming credit for ensuring speedy justice in this particular case but would be content with the blessings of the Army and America. It was a difficult proposition to restrain the federal government from playing a role in resolving the issue by accusing it of having created a serious diplomatic crisis, while doing the ISI bidding itself. Mian Shahbaz would not have liked Senator Kerry expressing his gratitude only for the federal government for taking the decision to set Davis free but he would be happier to have successfully accomplished the assigned task. Nothing can please the League leadership more than keeping the army by its side.

As far as Raymond Davis case is concerned it is over; but the CIA operative will have returned home carrying a lesson for his bosses to learn: Deal directly with the Army and its intelligence apparatus rather than the elected political leadership while running espionage operations in Pakistan. Dont think your spies can commit a crime and get away with it. Last but not the least: Never mess with the ISI and expect them to take everything lying down.

The writer is Executive Editor, Pakistan Today.