Reading Raymond Davis, Reading Rodney King

Negotiations between the US and Pakistan over the fate of Raymond Davis appear to be approaching a new phase as Pakistan’s media reports that the country’s Foreign Ministry has affirmed the American’s diplomatic status. But recognition of Raymond Davis’s diplomatic status will not be sufficient to resolving the larger issue: American recognition of Pakistan’s dignity. To understand this issue, we might look to another chapter in America’s recent history: Rodney King.

LA police beating Rodney KingWhen LA police brutally beat Rodney King following a traffic stop in 1991, the initial response from law enforcement was that the officers involved were justified in their use of force because they had reason to believe that Rodney King was not only resisting arrest, but presenting an imminent threat to their own safety. A year later, a jury in Los Angeles agreed. But that was hardly the end of the Rodney King saga.

Upon acquittal of the police officers, Los Angeles erupted in violence. Fifty-three people died, over two-thousand were injured, and the city suffered financial loss of almost $1 billion. The US military was eventually called in to restore order. To many Americans, the question should have been resolved by the official trial and acquittal of the officers. This perception ignored the underlying issue of dignity in the African-American community of Los Angeles.

The LA riots of 1992 were about more than simply one incident of police brutality – they were a manifestation of the anger and frustration of a community that felt it was being denied basic human dignity, that white police officers could attack, humiliate, and even kill African-Americans with impunity.

It was not until after the 1992 riots that the Department of Justice held investigations that resulted in the indictment of the officers for federal civil rights violations. The federal trial examined not simply the isolated incident of Rodney King’s beating, but the larger context of power and police culture in which the incident took place.

Power Asymmetry

Like the asymmetry of power between Los Angeles’s African-American community and the largely white law enforcement and criminal justice system that policed it, US-Pakistan relations are plagued with a perception that the US imposes its will upon a Pakistan that is unable to adequately represent and defend its own interests. Some of this perceived asymmetry may be based in myths created for political convenience, but much of it is very real.

The US has immense leverage in Islamabad in the forms of massive military and civilian aid, access to US visas for Pakistani nationals, and the ability to authenticate Pakistan’s importance in the greater world community.

Pakistan, however, has significantly less leverage in Washington. Despite Pakistan’s geo-strategic position in relation to Afghanistan, Pakistan offers little in the way of economic opportunity. Even the country’s strategic usefulness may be overstated. Recent statements by Gen. David Rodriguez suggest that the country’s assistance in securing Afghanistan may not be necessary.

A good example of the results of this asymmetry is public reaction to the drone program. Long known to be operated in close cooperation and with the full knowledge of Pakistan’s military, complaints of the program infringing on Pakistan’s sovereignty continue. But these complaints are based less in the US violating Pakistan’s sovereignty qua sovereignty than they are in the humiliation resulting from American unwillingness to share control of the drones with Pakistan so that the program can be operated by the country’s own military.

No Justice, No Peace

Jamaat-i-Islami protesting against the release of Raymond DavisMany Pakistanis assume that if Raymond Davis is returned to US custody, he will walk away “scot-free.” From this perspective, “diplomatic immunity” is equated with a “license to kill.” A prominent Pakistani author even compared American attitudes towards Pakistan as that of hunters to a game preserve.

While US law does provide for cases of justifiable homicide, such cases do require an investigation and court hearing. Spy novels notwithstanding, there is no such thing as a license to kill. But this has not been fully communicated to the Pakistani people. Despite Raymond Davis’s shooting taking place over three weeks ago, yesterday was the first time a representative of the US government publicly assured Pakistanis that Raymond Davis would face a full criminal investigation.

“It is customary in an incident like this for our government to conduct a criminal investigation. That is our law. And I can give you the full assurance of our government today that that will take place,” Kerry told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore. “So there is no such thing as a suggestion that something is out of law or that America thinks somehow we’re not subject to the law.”

This is a crucial part of the conversation that has been missing from the US’s public response to the crisis – an assurance that justice will be served. This assurance must be reiterated, and the promise must be kept. If justice is not forthcoming, Islamist parties will continue to exploit Pakistanis frustrations and channel their anger into deeper anti-Americanism. Without bridging this ‘dignity gap,’ the US and Pakistan will never be able to move beyond a dysfunctional transactional relationship.

From Jamaat-i-Islami led street demonstrations to Taliban threats against the Pakistani government, anti-democratic groups are using Raymond Davis as an opportunity to promise respect for Pakistani dignity. But dignity is a promise at odds with their political aims. The US needs to approach this crisis not only through through the lens of law and order, but through the lens of dignity and respect for the people of Pakistan. An opportunity exists to redefine the essence of the US-Pakistan relationship. Let’s not let that opportunity go to waste.

5 thoughts on “Reading Raymond Davis, Reading Rodney King

  1. INVITATION TO TERRORISM: After the unfortunate incident of 9/11 in America, the Americans made target to Afghanistan and then asked the then Dictator Mushraf either to surrender before America or ready for war. Mushraf who was basically a weak person surrendered himself and thus invited the terrorism to enter in Pakistan. Prior to 9/11 the situation in Pakistan was not at stake but after the entry of Americans in pakistan, in real sense, the terrorism activities were allowed to pull on Pakistan. Under the Supervision of the then Mushraf as is apparent from the circumstances, the Americans did every thing in Pakistan and ultimately bloodshed started in Pakistan not only the shape of terrorists attacks, drone attacks and suicidal attacks also in which thousands of innocent people have lost their lives and many disabled and also helpless families. Pakistan was created on the basis of two nation threory i.e Muslim and non Muslim and even before creation of Pakistan someone had asked Quaide Azam(our great leader) as to what would be the constitution of Pakistan and he replied very softly in the following words:
    “Who I am to give the constitution to Pakistan as the constitution of Pakistan was given thousands years back by our Last Prophet (P.B.U.H) in the shape of Islam and that would be the constitution of our Pakistan.”
    So it can be safely inferred that even our great leader was very much clear that this country was created in the name of Islam. It is the country which has got its own importance qua its geographical boundaries and the natural resources. Unfortunatley after Quaide Azam we could not get some leader like Quaide Azam and our political leadership is almost having lust of power. By the Grace of Almighty Allah, there are thousands of natural resources in Pakistan and even it is a state having its Atom Bomb. Americans initially used Pakistan in Afghanistan against Russia and by that time, the Americans were calling the fighters in Afghanistan against Russia as Mujahideen and when Russia was defeated, then the Americans changed its eye and the definition changed into Terrorists. Very strange. The persons who were initially called as freedom fighters or Mujahideen were subsequently called as Terrorists and slowly the Americans entered in Pakistan and thus by now Libyian Prsident Moammar Qadafi has also said that he does not intend to throw his country as like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    In broad day light, American Raymond Davis had commited brutal murder of two citizens from whose possession unlicenced weapon and other sophisicated material was recovered and after investigation, he has been found guilty by the Investigating Agencies. By the passage of time, it is also brought to picture by various newspaper and media, that Raymond Davis is CIA agent. Keeping in view the whole scenioro, it can be safely said that what is the aim of America. On one side America is claiming that it has good relation with Pakistan and it is allegedly helping Pakistan but when seen with the aforesaid circumstances, it is clear that Americans are killing Pakistani through naked bullets. What kind of relationship, we must all review the whole affairs.We must unite ourselves and I have the ray of hope that Inshallah, the people or country who have evil eye on Pakistan must face the music. At the same time I may also say that our politicians ruling in Federal as well as Provincial level must mend their ways and avoid confrontation for the sake of country. The government at top level must show response and terrorists like Raymond Davis who are roaming in our country must be caught and either tried according to law in Pakistan or immediately ousted from this sacred country. As far as Raymond Davis is concerned he must be tried in Pakistan and send to gallows. The only option with Americans is to get pardon from the legal heirs of the deceased persons and that through negotiation and any coercive or forceful method would not be acceptable to Pakistani nation.

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