C. Christine Fair
This much is clear about the latest convulsion in U.S.-Pakistan relations: an American man, operating under the name of Raymond Davis, shot and killed two men in Lahore in the populous province of the Punjab. After the event, an “emergency vehicle,” presumably from the U.S. consulate, rushed to rescue Davis and careened into a crowd. The as yet unidentified driver of the rescue vehicle killed a third person. Davis is currently being held in Pakistani custody in Lahore. He has been added to Pakistan’s exit control list while his status is being determined in Pakistan’s courts, which precludes his exit from the country.
The U.S. government maintains a simple account: he was an employee of the U.S. consulate in Lahore who shot two men in self defense. Since he has “diplomatic immunity,” he should be released under the Vienna Convention immediately. President Obama has himself argued that he should be released for these reasons. Concurrent with Obama’s appeals for the man’s diplomatic immunity, U.S. Senator John Kerry travelled to Pakistan this week to resolve the ever more complicated row. With such high-level demands, the very credibility of the U.S. presidency is at stake. This is not lost upon Pakistan or its citizens.
Pakistan has its own stylized, yet starkly divergent, account from that heard in the United States. Whereas Raymond Davis is a niche topic of the chattering classes in Washington D.C. in the United States, he is the mainstay of conversation across all stratum of Pakistani society and has become a national obsession in Pakistan’s print and television media. Pakistanis have called for the hanging of Davis in public rallies.
From the Pakistani viewpoint, the “facts” are far less clear. Davis was first described in peculiar, ambiguous terms as a “U.S. consulate employee.” He was driving his own unarmored vehicle and carrying a gun. Most diplomats in Pakistan — American or otherwise — now travel in armored cars. They certainly do not drive their own cars, and they generally don’t carry guns.
Despite Pakistanis’ assertions that he is a spy, he does not have the profile of a bona fide operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. CIA case managers are well-trained and are unlikely to conduct themselves as Davis did. However, some U.S. officials concede that he is likely a security contractor with ties to the American intelligence apparatus. This is consistent with his resume.
Speculation is rife in both countries that this dispute over Davis may come down to a showdown between Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and American intelligence agencies. Both Pakistani and American analysts have told me that the two men shot likely were Davis’s Pakistani intelligence detail or perhaps informants or operatives gone sour.
The view from Pakistan: “Raymond Davis kaun hai?” Who are you?
The Pakistani press raises different issues that generally are not raised in the United States and reflect the conspiracy theories that grip many Pakistanis. First, Pakistani officials doubt that Raymond Davis is the true name of the man in question.