cost to a devil's bargain By
Syed Saleem Shahzad
ISLAMABAD - The deal
hammered out between Pakistan and the United
States that allowed American contractor Raymond
Davis - facing charges of double murder - to be
set free from jail in Lahore on Wednesday has
brought to an end an unprecedented crisis between
the two countries - and both sides are now
counting the cost of the six-week saga.
Davis, 36, described by US officials as a
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contract
bodyguard, was acquitted after a blood money
settlement was agreed with the families of the
victims. Davis shot and killed two men he said
were trying to rob him in Lahore on January 27.
A senior Pakistani official said
US$700,000 was paid by the CIA to each of the
families. Pakistan's legal system allows the
families of murder victims to
forgive an accused in exchange for monetary
A deal is made Davis' arrest following the shootings
precipitated a serious fallout between Pakistan
and the US. The crisis centered on Washington's
claim that he was entitled to diplomatic immunity,
while the Pakistanis insisted the matter would run
its course through the judicial system.
With tensions getting higher by the day
amid threats and counter-threats, and progress in
the Afghan war stalled for almost one-and-a-half
months, the highest-level military commanders of
the two sides finally sat down at a secluded
resort in Oman on February 22 following
intervention by Saudi Arabia.
The US was
represented by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General David Petraeus,
commander of the International Security Assistance
Force in Afghanistan; Admiral Eric Olson,
commander of US Special Operations Command; and US
Marine Corps General James Mattis, commander of US
Central Command, the US military newspaper Stars
and Stripes reported.
delegation included General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani,
chief of army staff, and Major General Javed
Iqbal, director general of military operations.
Three key players helped make the Oman
Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha, the director
general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),
who had received a second one-year service
extension only two days before Davis' release.
Pakistanís ambassador to Washington Husain
Haqqani, a former professor at Boston University
who is in a class of his own in terms of his
wonderful rapport with US administrations. Haqqani
had earlier convinced then-US president George W
Bush to help replace military ruler Pervez
Musharraf with current President Asif Ali Zardari.
United States Senator John Kerry.
Haqqani sprang into action immediately the
crisis broke and urged leaders on both sides to
resolve the matter as soon as possible. He
realized that sending threatening messages to
Washington would be counter-productive. Already,
the US had excluded Pakistan from strategic talks
on Afghanistan, held in Washington on February
23-25. Haqqani was certain that any delay in
reconciliation would further isolate Pakistan.
However, a segment of Pakistan's military
read the situation from a different angle, arguing
that at a critical juncture in Afghanistan and
given the extremely volatile situation in the
Middle East, Washington could not afford to make
any lopsided decisions against Pakistan. They were
also aware of the intense feelings the case had
aroused on the street.
On February 5,
Pakistan celebrated Kashmir Day. The Jamaatut Dawa
(JuD), the new name of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba,
renowned for its jihadi activities in
Indian-administered Kashmir and blamed for the
massive attack on the Indian city of Mumbai in
November 2008, was at the forefront of street
rallies. Later, after Kerry visited Pakistan, the
JuD stepped up its activities, with its chief,
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, personally leading rallies
and demanding the hanging of Davis.
appears that in the crisis over Davis, Pakistan is
mainstreaming terror organizations like Jamaatut
Dawa and the whole process for clipping the wings
of jihadi organizations under American pressure
after 9/11 seems to be reversing," a senior Indian
official told Asia Times Online at the time.
India, along with Afghanistan and even
Russia, was concerned that Pakistan's
non-cooperation in the American war in Afghanistan
could lead to trouble in the region if
international Islamic outlaws were given more
freedom to move.
grew when ISI chief Pasha instructed Haqqani to
send a message loud and clear that the era of
unstinting intelligence operations with foreign
agencies in Pakistan was over.
The ISI had
already implemented a "counter-intelligence
operation" on all Western diplomats, which meant
round-the-clock physical surveillance. As a
result, CIA operations in Pakistan were deeply
affected. Earlier, such surveillance had been
limited to Indian, Iranian, Russian and Afghan
After 9/11, the CIA and the ISI
agreed to share intelligence. However, the CIA
established its own offices and only informed the
ISI before conducting any operation. After the
fall of Musharraf's regime in 2008, the CIA spread
its tentacles further by bringing in private
defense contractors who hired local Pakistanis.
This was a breach of the post 9/11 agreement and a
direct intervention in Pakistan.
2009, Pakistan started to react, but in a very
cautious matter. It refused to issue visas to
non-diplomatic staff of the US Embassy, and the
counter-intelligence initiative was begun.
Once the Davis episode broke, Pakistan
took the bull by the horns and told the Americans
that the CIA's presence in Pakistan would have to
be administrative only, restricted to the four
walls of their consulates and embassies, from
where they would only write reports on Pakistan.
All intelligence operations would be dealt solely
through the ISI.
Pakistan did everything
to bring the Americans into line. It refused to
launch military operations in the North Waziristan
tribal area against al-Qaeda and militants, and it
retained ceasefire agreements with militants
despite them carrying out attacks on Pakistan. It
allowed right-wing religious organizations to
mobilize cadre in anti-America rallies. Pakistan
also allowed tribals to go to Islamabad and break
the cover of a CIA station chief in Islamabad and
it allowed the court and police to rough up an
American defense contractor.
administration became nervous over Pakistan
changing horses in midstream, especially with the
summer battle in Afghanistan just weeks away.
Washington refused to cave in, but its threats to
cut off the vast military aid it gave to Pakistan
were not made from a position of strength.
At this point Saudi Arabia stepped in,
followed by the breakthrough in Oman. Pakistan was
also promised a new deal, one in which it would
play a more powerful strategic role in South Asia
than India, and that in all intelligence dealings
the ISI would have the upper hand in Pakistan.
Pakistan, it would appear, was the winner
in this diplomatic wrangle; the US the loser.
Some senior Pakistani officials, however,
believe that the country has a lot to lose. They
argue that with the battle against the Taliban in
Afghanistan about to begin in earnest, the US will
insist that Islamabad crack down 3/18/2011in North
Waziristan, or else it will do what it has to
regardless of Pakistan's sensitivities.
People in the street, knowing little of
any strategic gains Pakistan might have acquired
in the Davis case, will have their grievances, and
perhaps even be emboldened in their distrust of
the country's institutions by events in the Middle
East and North Africa. In particular:
There is already resentment against the court
for settling for the blood money option while not
pursuing Davis under the Official Secrets Act as
there were claims of him being on espionage
operations or of possessing illegal weapons.
The country's two major political parties, the
ruling Pakistan People's Party in Islamabad and
the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz in the
province of Punjab where Davis was held, are
perceived as having bowed to the Americans.
The Pakistan army is widely viewed as being
too American-friendly, especially as the US backed
the extension of Pasha's term as well as that of
Kiani, who has just received an unprecedented
three more years on the job.
through mass rallies against US missions in
Pakistan grows, it would inevitably turn against
the major political parties, the judiciary, the
military, and last but not least, against American
interests in Pakistan.
Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau
Chief and author of upcoming book Inside
al-Qaeda and the Taliban, beyond 9/11 published
by Pluto Press, UK. He can be reached at[email protected]
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