Tag Archives: Raymond Davis

Once bitten, twice shy

Most Americans see the death of Osama bin Laden as an unambiguously positive event. The world’s most wanted terrorist, the man who orchestrated the deaths of thousands of innocent people, was brought to justice after a ten year manhunt. To many Pakistanis, however, the American operation evokes a complicated set of contradictory emotions. While there is certainly relief that a violent terrorist is no longer a threat, this relief is coupled with the embarrassment that he was found hiding in Abbottabad. Many in the Pakistani military consider the event humiliating. The fact that bin Laden was killed in a raid carried out without the cooperation or consent of Pakistani officials is seen as the right outcome, but the wrong process.

In his book, The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama notes the human desire for “intersubjective recognition, either of their own worth, or the worth of their gods, laws, customs, and ways of life” as a basic building block of political development. He goes on to explain that “the desire for recognition ensures that politics will never be reducible to simple economic self-interest.” Viewed through this lens, the May operation that killed Osama bin Laden takes on a meaning in Pakistan much different from the basic “law and order” narrative that informs American understanding of the event.

The midnight raid on Osama bin Laden’s secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was carried out without informing the Pakistani government. Following the operation, Admiral Mullen stated “we should not underestimate the humbling experience that this is, and in fact the internal soul-searching that’s going on inside the Pakistani military right now.”

Unfortunately, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Douglas E. Lute, the US did just that.

Responding to questions from the audience, Mr. Lute acknowledged that the administration failed to anticipate the depth of embarrassment suffered by Pakistan’s military by the revelation that Bin Laden had lived comfortably and with local support in a fortress-like home near a leading Pakistani military academy for more than five years, and that American commandos swooped into their country on a two-and-a-half hour mission undetected and unchallenged.

“We underestimated the humiliation factor,” he said. That reaction has prompted Pakistan’s military to take several steps since the raid to recalibrate its relationship with Washington and distance itself from the Pentagon, including expelling some 150 American Special Forces trainers for Pakistani paramilitary troops.

Najam Sethi, Senior Fellow at The New America Foundation, suggests in The Friday Times that the next time the US tries to go it alone, things might not turn out so well.

A single spark – power shortages, inflation, natural calamity, assassination, institutional gridlock or confrontation – could light a prairie fire of discontent. More probably, an outrageous unilateral interventionist act by the US – like the OBL Abbottabad raid or boots on ground in Waziristan – would provoke a media driven wave of revulsion and anger against the US and also, more pointedly, against the Zardari regime for its abject helplessness. The sentiment that would sweep the country would compel all the domestic players to scramble and exploit openings for their narrow party political or institutional interests rather than band together and build a national consensus that indirectly bails out the Zardari regime.

As Washington debates future aid and operations in Pakistan, American lawmakers should remember Fukuyama’s observation that “politics will never be reducible to simple economic self-interest.” The ‘dignity gap’ that we identified following the arrest of Raymond Davis remains an important determinate of how US-Pakistan relations will develop. Another perceived blow to Pakistan’s dignity of the magnitude of Raymond Davis or Abbottabad, however, would do more than damage US-Pakistan relations. As Najam Sethi warns, it could cut down Pakistan’s fragile democracy before it has a chance to firmly take root. If that happens, the US and Pakistan will both lose.

Repeating Past Mistakes Will Repeat Past Failures

Sen. Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin told Foreign Policy magazine’s blog ‘The Cable’ that lawmakers are considering scaling back civilian aid to Pakistan in the wake of the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Though Congress has concerns about the possibility of militant support networks within Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, however, lawmakers are not considering cuts to military, but civilian aid. According to Sen. Levin, helping develop a stable democracy in Pakistan is “also in our interest but not as clearly.”

A 1962 article for Foreign Affairs argues the opposite – that the shortest path to peace and stability is through strengthening civilian institutions, not military.

In this large context of peace and war, the fundamental aim of economic assistance is, therefore, to build up stability in unstable states. This cannot be done by piecemeal patching up, by casual subsidies and handouts. The most successful of all programs of economic aid so far-the Marshall Plan-clearly illustrates the need for change in depth. If the nations of Western Europe had simply been restored to where they were before the Second World War, they would inevitably have repeated yet again their melancholy inter-war cycle of economic isolationism and national rivalry. It was America’s insistence upon a joint solution of their problems that opened the era of technical modernization, supra-nationalism and interdependence. What has saved Europe has been not the reconstruction of the old order but the bold projection of a new.

We don’t have to go back to 1962 to understand the importance of investing in a strong and stable democratic Pakistan, and how disastrous it can be to turn our backs on the civilian institutions. In fact, we can look at a time as recently as the 1990s.

When President George H.W. Bush could no longer certify that Pakistan was not actively pursuing nuclear weapons, aid to Pakistan was suspended as required by the Pressler Amendment. Suspending aid to Pakistan may have made a moral point, but the practical result was to convince Pakistan that it’s national security would have to depend on options outside US cooperation. Rather than pushing Pakistan towards a policy of nonproliferation, cutting aid as India demonstrated nuclear capability likely increased Pakistan’s resolve to demonstrate it’s own nuclear deterrent.

The other byproduct of aid suspension was Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies looking more to irregular forces as a means of strengthening Pakistan’s defenses. It was terrible, but rational decision: If Pakistan could not count on the support of it’s ‘most allied ally’, it would have to find support where it could.

This scenario could easily repeat itself if Congress repeats this past mistake again.

“You risk undermining the whole edifice that the United States has been trying to support in Pakistan,” warned Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council, an independent policy institute.

Moreover, the U.S. aid lies at the heart of Obama’s strategy to help stabilize a deeply impoverished country of 170 million struggling with a growing Islamic insurgency, soaring ethnic and sectarian tensions, mounting joblessness and failing education, health, energy and other services.

US-Pakistan relations may be suffering from a severe trust deficit, but his lack of trust did not develop on May 1st or when Raymond Davis shot two men in the streets of Lahore. It is the result of past failures by US policymakers to foresee the inevitable perception among their Pakistani counterparts that the US could not be trusted to support them in their time of need.

Despite these setbacks and the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, today presents a unique opportunity to remedy past mistakes and help Pakistanis stabilize their young democracy. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his determination to reign in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency by placing it under civilian control, but as yet has not received the political support necessary to do so.

The discovery of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory has resulted in open discussion of a civilian inquiry by both coalition and opposition politicians in spite of insistence by military leaders for an internal review. In order for change to take place, however, the civilian institutions must have the support necessary to stand up to and reform the outsized influence of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. Cutting civilian aid to Pakistan will only reinforce a failed status quo. The US should reaffirm it’s commitment to civilian democracy in Pakistan – the bold projection of a new order.

Ambassador Munter Statement on Raymond Davis Confirms DoJ Investigation

The US Embassy in Islamabad released the following statement by Ambassador Cameron Munter today.

Ambassador MunterThe families of the victims of the January 27 incident in Lahore have pardoned Raymond Davis.  I am grateful for their generosity.  I wish to express, once again, my regret for the incident and my sorrow at the suffering it caused.

I can confirm that the United States Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the incident in Lahore.

I wish to express my respect for Pakistan and its people, and my thanks for their commitment to building our relationship, to everyone’s benefit. Most of all, I wish to reaffirm the importance that America places in its relationship with Pakistan, and the commitment of the American people to work with their Pakistani counterparts to move ahead in ways that will benefit us all.

Democracy At Greatest Risk in Raymond Davis Affair

Anti-democratic groups protest in PakistanHeadlines across the world note that the diplomatic crisis resulting from Raymond Davis’s shooting of two men in Lahore last month is straining US-Pakistan ties. A month after the incident, a solution acceptable to both nations continues to be elusive. But something more fundamental than US-Pakistan relations is at great risk as positions harden – democracy in Pakistan.

Despite the nationalist sentiment surrounding the controversy, the fact is that US-Pakistan relations will only be affected at the political level. According to a report in Stars & Stripes, a Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper, senior leaders of the US and Pakistani militaries held secret meetings at a secluded resort in Oman this week. The meetings were described by one attendee as “very candid and cordial, and very productive discussions.” Even a split between the CIA and the ISI would likely only temporary as all intelligence agencies must interact with each other in order to be effective. Regardless of popular political opinion, military and intelligence officials will continue to cooperate based on the nations’ mutual security interests.

But Pakistan’s civilian population, and the civilian government they elected, is far more vulnerable. The latest United Nations Human Development Report, released on Tuesday, found that 51 percent of Pakistanis are living in multidimensional poverty and 54 percent are suffering intense deprivation. Cutting aid to Pakistan would have devastating consequences, not for the entrenched military-intelligence establishment, but for the civilian government and the Pakistani people.

“There’s no choke on aid yet,” says a senior Pakistani official. But if the standoff continues, and especially if Davis is convicted, it could be reduced to a trickle. And that could have a potentially catastrophic impact on an economy threatened by hyperinflation and the devaluation of its currency in the coming months.

A civilian government unable to provide basic services, much less show an improvement in economic opportunity, would quickly find itself rejected by Pakistanis already frustrated with uncertain security and lagging economic progress. While it is unlikely that militant groups would have the resources or influence to fill the role of government nationwide, it could create an environment in which the military-intelligence establishment – until now content to sit on the sidelines – decides to intervene. Such an event would not only undo the progress towards a more just and democratic government made over the past three years, it could set back Pakistan’s democratic movement for a generation or more.

Thankfully, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley reiterated the Obama administration’s long-term commitment to the people of Pakistan on Wednesday by insisting that the White House is not considering cuts to aid.

“We’re building a strategic partnership with Pakistan. It’s important to the future of the region. It’s also important to the security of the United States. We are engaging Pakistan in good faith. We want to see this resolved as soon as possible so it does not become an impediment in our relationship and it does not measurably interfere with the work we are doing together in fighting extremism that threatens Pakistan and threatens us,” he said. “We are not contemplating any actions along those lines,” Crowley said when asked if the US government is considering curtailing any of its military or economic assistance to Pakistan over the Davis row.

Whatever the outcome of the Raymond Davis affair, it is certain to have implications far beyond the short-term cooperation between the CIA and the ISI. As political leaders and intelligence officials work to find a solution, we should all remember that Pakistan’s fragile democratic government, and the Pakistani people, stand to lose the most from deteriorating relations between our two countries.

AP Report Highlights Role of Respect in Raymond Davis Affair

An Associated Press report on Wednesday highlighted the role of dignity and respect in the ongoing struggle over the fate of American Raymond Davis, accused of killing two Pakistani citizens in Lahore last month.

Discussing the organization’s mounting frustration over the Raymond Davis situation, one ISI official explained the general feeling that the CIA was not treating their Pakistani counterparts with due respect.

The ISI official said his agency knows and works with “the bona fide CIA people in Pakistan” but is upset that the CIA would send others over behind its back. For now, he said, his agency is not talking with the CIA at any level, including the most senior.

To regain support and assistance, he said, “they have to start showing respect, not belittling us, not being belligerent to us, not treating us like we are their lackeys.”

We wrote last week that the US needs to view 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. That advice applies to inter-agency relations as well. The CIA needs to consider whether its current approach to relations with Pakistan’s ISI are self-defeating. While there may be some frustration over the ISI’s perceived unwillingness to adequately respond to militant groups that they do not consider a direct threat to Pakistan, making end runs around domestic intelligence agencies could undercut the broader cooperation required to secure the US and Pakistan’s mutual security interests.

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.

Do Not Cut Aid Over Raymond Davis

Questions about the fate of Raymond Davis continue to complicate US-Pakistan relations. Today, President Obama called on Pakistan to release the American pursuant to the Vienna Conventions. The Pakistani government continues to call on the question of Davis’s immunity to be decided by Pakistan’s courts. While Tuesday did see some potential progress on the issue, it remains to be seen how the situation will ultimately play out.

Bradley Klapper’s report for The Sydney Morning Herald makes an important observation:

[Raymond Davis’s] detention has become a point of honour for both nations, and a rallying point for anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

According to Klapper, the US government is considering several options in response to Pakistan’s refusal to return Davis, some of which center on isolating the South Asian nuclear power.

US officials hinted broadly that they may cancel or postpone an invitation to Pakistan’s foreign minister to visit Washington this month.

The Obama administration also is reportedly considering a slowdown in visa processing for Pakistanis seeking to come to the US. That would be hugely unpopular in Pakistan, where grievance already runs high over the perception that the US discriminates or holds back in granting visas to Pakistanis.

The US is also considering suspending or cutting back on military and educational training programs with the Pakistani armed forces and suspending or cutting back on civilian educational, scientific, cultural and local and state government exchanges, one official said.

Cutting aid and attempting to isolate Pakistan would not only be a huge mistake, it would result in a policy failure of immense proportions due to two important realities: Pakistan’s geography and demographics.

Pakistan is on the verge of a demographic explosion.

If current demographic trends continue the country’s population is projected to reach 238 million in 2030 and 335 million in 2050. Of the current population of 172 million, 66 per cent is below 30 years. 39 million are between the ages of 15-24.

Simply put, a nation of 300 million people cannot be contained. Past attempts to influence Pakistan by cutting aid reinforced the narratives of Islamist militants and resulted in nuclear proliferation. The US is going to have to engage Pakistan, and engage them as peers, not as patrons.

Pakistan is also bordered by two nations that would be more than happy to step in and fill any space left by an American withdrawal of engagement: Iran and China. As China passes Japan as the second largest economy in the world, it is also moving to expand its influence in Asia. At the end of 2010, China signed $30 billion in trade deals with Pakistan, and announced plans to build a fifth nuclear reactor in the country.

While less able to provide Pakistan with economic and military assistance than China, Iran poses potential difficulties of its own. Its own isolation at the hands of US policy would create an opportunity for the two nations to overcome sectarian differences to help each other through the construction and control of regional energy infrastructure as well providing leverage for Iran to influence Pakistan to trade in nuclear technology as a means of securing much-needed state revenue.

Thankfully, calls for cutting aid to Pakistan appear to be going unrecognized by the White House. President Barack Obama this week proposed over $3 Billion for Pakistan in the 2012 budget. This investment includes $1.5 billion in funds allocated under Kerry-Lugar-Berman, $350 million in military financing, and $1.1 billion in counterinsurgency funding. It is imperative to building trust between the US and Pakistan that the US to make good on its promises to provide economic, civilian, and military assistance. This funding should not be made conditional on the release of Raymond Davis.

Diplomatic problems require diplomatic solutions – not diplomatic freezes. Sen. John Kerry’s apology to the people of Pakistan was an important first step in overcoming confusion about Raymond Davis’s diplomatic status and American respect for Pakistani lives. Making good on obligations to invest in Pakistan’s national security and economic growth are another important part of the solution.

Quality of US Reporting on Pakistan is Lacking

The quality of US reporting on Pakistan is lacking. This is increasingly evident from the number of reports filed by respected, award-winning journalists at mainstream media outlets that end up proven inaccurate. While some of the confusion may be due to the generally complex nature of US-Pakistan relations,  producers and journalists need to re-examine their processes for vetting sources and confirming information before it is released. With the stakes as they are, we simply cannot afford to keep making mistakes.

TV CameraIn the most recent example, ABC News reporters Matthew Cole and Nick Schifrin reported yesterday that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon threatened to send Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani back to Islamabad if Raymond Davis is not released. This report was immediately denied by the Pakistani Ambassador via Twitter, “Read my tweet: No US official has conveyed any personal threats 2 me or spoken of escalating tensions.”

When ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper responded, “That’s not a denial,” the Pakistani Ambassador reiterated his denial: “This is: Read my tweets: No US official, incl the NSA, has conveyed any personal threats 2 me or spoken of extreme measures.”

What is curious about the report by Cole and Schifrin is that they didn’t seem to ask the Pakistani Ambassador who, as demonstrated by his Twitter feed, is quite accessible to journalists. Instead, they cited “two Pakistani officials involved in negotiations about Davis” and “a senior U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.”

Ambassador Haqqani noted that the Pakistani officials Cole and Schifrin spoke to could not have known what was said in the meeting with NSA Donilon as he was the only Pakistani present. As for the senior U.S. official who confirmed the report, we would be wise to remember that senior government officials have been known to feed high profile journalists statements designed not to inform, but to influence public opinion. Examples of this behavior were well documented in Bob Woodward’s most recent book, Obama’s Wars1.

Following the ABC News report, Pakistani English-language daily Dawn spoke with the US Embassy in Islamabad which described the ABC News report as “not true”, a position confirmed by an official press release from the Embassy early this morning which describes the story as “simply inaccurate.”

But ABC News is not the only major media outlet that’s come under fire for its reporting on Pakistan recently. We have observed in the past that The New York Times has occasionally published problematic coverage of Pakistan, and Pakistani blogger Syed Yahya Hussainy earlier this week criticized The New York Times for relying on the same individuals for comment on issues despite evidence that they may not be neutral observers.

Additionally, as we noted on Wednesday, news reports have suggested that tensions over the fate of Raymond Davis threatened trilateral meetings scheduled for later this month, but this assertion too has been denied by the US government.

Beale also said that there was no change of plan in President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to the US, and nor was President Obama planning to cancel his trip to Pakistan. The spokesperson said that the US embassy and consulates will continue work as per usual in Pakistan.

We wrote on Wednesday that “Both nations’ needs deserve respect and attention, and the only path to a solution that satisfies both nations is open and constructive dialogue.” In order to facilitate such a dialogue, we need the press to cut through the rumor and speculation that clouds public perception about international relations.


1 See: Woodward, Bob. Obama’s Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 157-159.