By Raza Habib Raja
The recent episodes of Dr Afia and Raymond Davis though apparently different in context and nature have nevertheless highlighted some common traits of Pakistanis and without doubt the biggest one is irrational instinctive patriotism whereby seemingly insignificant events are tied with national honor and sovereignty.
And in Pakistan unfortunately the national sovereignty is measured solely by the degree of rabid anti Americanism whereas honor is irrational patriotism supplemented by other “virtues” such as delusional self importance and deep suspicion of the outside world.
In the case of Dr Afia and Raymond Davis the media is raising voices of opposition not on the basis of facts and principles but solely on the fact that US interests and citizens are involved. Such jingoistic and irrational behavior needs proper counter response. In my opinion the moderates need to give convincing counter arguments which can derail the conservative narrative and expose its contradictions.
It is important to also retain our credibility when presenting our counter opinion. The case of Raymond Davis is right now taking the centre stage. It is clear that he is facing a one sided media trial whereby media and Punjab government are trying to provoke rabid anti Americanism to increase their ratings and extract short sighted political mileage. I think one of the mistakes which we are making is to argue that he is a diplomat and therefore deserves immunity.
US consulate may be correct to adopt this approach (though I think they should also start thinking about changing it or at least supplementing it with other measures) but not local small segment of liberal press.
Here the issue is that his diplomatic status has been made dubious due to incomplete information and his whereabouts on the day of his murder. Assuming that even he is a diplomat, the liberal press are not in a position to know his status and also not equipped to successfully convince the general audience about complicated legal things like immunities and diplomatic status. Rather then shouting in return that he is diplomat (for which we have no ways of ascertaining or even if we are able to ascertain then convincing public) the better option would be to stress that he had absolutely nothing to gain from killing Pakistanis. It is blatantly evident that whether he was correct in his perception that the two people were trying to rob him or not, he had nothing personal or professional to gain from killing them. The Punjab police under obvious instructions from the Punjab government have stated that he killed in “cold blood”. I think this is ridiculous and right now our energies should be on exposing this ridiculous assertion which clearly is in contradiction with their earlier stance.
And those men were carrying guns. One might be tempted to ask on media to all those right wingers as to why they were doing that. Raymond Davis acted in self defense and therefore cannot be called a “terrorist”. Stressing more on this line will perhaps can potentially soften opposition and lead to a fair trial also. Even if he is released without trial the hue and cry would be relatively less. Moreover the issue has been made complicated by the suicide of one of the murdered person’s young widow and with this added complication the diplomatic immunity argument will completely lose any support in the general populace (who already are doubtful about it). I agree with Adil Najam here that right now it is the time to indulge in what is known as public diplomacy rather then throwing up legal terminology and getting stuck in Vienna convention. Trying to forcefully secure his release particularly under the pretext of Vienna convention will only intensify anti Americanism. I think a correct approach on the part of USA also would be to perhaps offer some compensation to the families and stress in public sphere through media that Raymond only acted in self defense and never intended to “murder” those men. This may even lead to an improvement in US image and can lead to a smoother release of Raymond even if eventually diplomatic immunity clause has to be used.
It has to be remembered that we have to ensure continuity of workable diplomatic and bilateral relations with USA apart from release of Raymond. Such relations can only sustain if both countries enjoy good public image among their respective populace. Let’s try to ensure that US image is improved or at least not further deteriorated while striving for Raymond’s release.