This is a cross post from COUNTER PUNCH published 18/3/2011
Why I Agree With Zardari
The atmosphere in Pakistan is charged with emotions: fury at the release of Raymond Davis, the U. S contractor who killed two Pakistanis in cold blood. The government, especially the President, is coming under firing for “doing” this. A rally by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf was organized in a few hours. All kinds and shades of experts are speaking 24/7 on the electronic media airing their views. Print media is working over time trying to prove the government is ineffective and the “deal” struck between the victims families and Raymond Davis is immoral, wrong, without justice.
Pakistan is being labeled as a “bargain basement”, ridiculed. Emotions aside, let us examine the facts:
Pakistan refused to accept the diplomatic status of Raymond Davis. In spite of the pressure on the Pakistan by the powerful executives of the U. S government, During a press conference in Washington, no less a person than Obama himself, said that the US official, identified as Raymond Davis, enjoys diplomatic immunity. “If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution,” Obama stated. The Pakistan Government did not back down! They did not cave in!
The case was registered as per law of the country, and the matter referred to the court. The entire nation, media, politicians, rejoiced. Pakistan had decided to stand up to The Power and go by the Law. Raymond Davis was kept in the Koth Lakhpath jail throughout the period of the hearing of the case.
The Court indicted Raymond Davis for double murder after rejecting plea for diplomatic immunity. This had made every Pakistani proud. There is faith in the justice system that has decided the case according to the tenants of law and not pressure, no matter how immense.
Then came disillusion. News broke out that the families of the victims have accepted “blood money”, Raymond Davis has not only been released but flown out of Pakistan, as have the families of the victims. The latter to USA.
Let us first explore the concept of “blood money” under which this was made possible. In the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance Section 315 is relevant in the case under discussion:
Section 315:Qatl Shibh-I-Amd.
Whoever with the intent to cause harm to the body or mind of any person causes the death of that or of any other person by means of a weapon or act which in the ordinary course of nature is not likely to cause death is said to commit qatl shibh-I-amd.
Punishment : whoever commits qatl shibh-I-amd shall be liable to Diyat [compensation specified in section 323, payable to the heirs of the victim by the offender, Eds] and may also be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term up to 14 years as ta’zir.
When we say ”may also” it becomes an option in law. Court may or may not add imprisonment as part of the punishment. In a case where the victims forgive the accused after accepting diyat, the punishment will not accrue.
Here rises the question whether or not the families of victims were pressurized into accepting the diyat. This decision, is to be taken by the free will of the heirs.
According to the lawyer representing the victims, pressure was exerted. However, to be admissible as proof this has to be certified by the concerned parties themselves and not by others.
The pressure could have been from either side, to accept the diyat and also by others not to accept diyat. Let us remember they were poor people with no contacts to save them from the repercussions of pressures or threats. Thereby, it made sense, for their own safety, to remove them to a place of safety from their abodes.
We, as a nation, need to make a focused decision. Do we want to accept the decision on the basis of law or on the basis of emotions? If our vote is for the former, then let us accept that the decision was taken lawfully. Yes, the speed with which all events took place; the court’s indictment, Davis’s release, his departure, has made politicians and “analysts”, play on the emotional pitch of their countrymen they understand so well.
A friend wrote to me, on the protests against Davis’s release:
“[As for]the parties protesting, except for the Pakistan Muslim League, no one gave the families any financial aid. They are just using this for their political gains. The special fund created by an advocate with the help of AAJ TV got only Rs,49,000;this too from poor people. No rich person contributed any thing! What a shame. If the nation had contributed if not billions but at least a decent sum; one rupee per person even then these protests would have been justified.”
What should have been questioned by politicians, media and the civil society, is not the case of diyat which is a perfectly acceptable Islamic option, but as to why, when Lytton Road police had put Davis’ arrest on record in the second FIR registered against him under charges of carrying an illegal pistol (Express Tribune February 3rd 2011), this finds no mention in the final analysis. All focus was on the murder charges and not on the offence committed by him against the State.
The case of Raymond Davis will have far reaching effects on the relationship of both the countries. For one, the world realizes that irrespective of the country of origin, a wrong doer will be nabbed and charged in Pakistan.
Second, after the arrest of Raymond Davis, Pakistan has began scrutinizing records of the Americans living in Pakistan and discovered several discrepancies, causing many suspected American operatives to maintain a low profile and others to leave the country altogether.
Extract from a report by Express Tribune by Asad Kharal published Februray 23rd 2011:
“The foreign ministry states that there are 851 Americans with diplomatic immunity currently in Pakistan, of whom 297 are not working in a diplomatic capacity. However, sources at the interior ministry put the number of non-diplomats at 414. The majority of these ‘special Americans’ (as the ministry refers to them) are concentrated in Islamabad, with some also residing in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Interior ministry records show that most of the “special Americans” live in upscale neighborhoods in Islamabad and Lahore, with smaller presences in Karachi and Peshawar.”
Third, this should be a lesson to Pakistan not to put all its eggs in one basket!
Yasmeen Ali is a lawyer based in Lahore, teaching in a University. See her site, http://pakpotpourri2.blogspot.com/