Raymond Davis Freed

by Joshua Foust on 3/16/2011 · 16 comments

“Shariah” saves the day, sort of. Raymond Davis was released from prison after agreeing to pay so-called “blood money” to the families of the two men he killed.

“The court first indicted him but the families later told court that they have accepted the blood money and they have pardoned him,” Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Reuters. “The court acquitted him in the murder case.”

Since my Pakistani friends are already working themselves into a frenzy over this, lets’ just say right now: stop. This was just about the only possible solution to that mess, considering the U.S. government’s dogged insistence that Davis had diplomatic immunity and the Pakistani courts’ decisions to play political football with the case. That left only a few outcomes: convicting and imprisoning Davis and allowing the protests, riots, and media frenzy to continue, convicting and executing Davis and ruining what’s left of the Pakistan-American relationship, or giving everyone a way out through some gestures toward Islamic law.

Everyone involved was smart to play this last card. I don’t know what there is to say about the particulars of Davis’ case—he most certainly did kill those two men, but it remains unclear if it was murder or self-defense, as he insists. What is clear is, there was no way in hell he could have possibly had a fair trial inside Pakistan.

In a way, the Raymond Davis case exemplifies the dysfunctional relationship between the two countries. Rumors were flying fast and free that the CIA was working overtime to get the ISI to give everyone an out using the Kissas and Diyat laws—which allowed Davis to pay money, the families to forgive him, and everyone to go home thankful there weren’t more deaths from the riots that a full-blown show trial would have brought.

It’s also a very public example of the specific relationship between the CIA and ISI, wherein Americans working for U.S. intelligence agencies in Pakistan get a lot of leeway (more than anyone else in almost any other place on earth), and in return the CIA doesn’t use its drones to target ISI facilities where the Afghan Taliban train. The two intelligence services have a nasty quid pro quo in place, where they bend on issues they’d ordinarily act upon to achieve other, more important goals—killing al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban for the CIA, and supporting the Afghan Taliban for the ISI.

What’s terrible about this outcome is, now there will be no justice in the Raymond Davis case. The best solution would have been for the Pakistani legal system to allow Davis to be extradited on the condition he be charged with murder in the U.S., and allow that trial to proceed away from the burning effigies and chants for his lynching. Unfortunately, both sides dug in their heels—first when Pakistan decided to reject the U.S.’s claims to Davis’ immunity, and then when President Obama called him “our diplomat in Pakistan” (which was clearly untrue). As both countries went further down these paths, the rhetoric became worse and worse until it seemed the two countries were heading toward a serious standoff. And now, since charges were brought and dropped, because the families of the victims have forgiven Davis, there will be no trial, and no justice.

It is to both government’s credit that they eventually backed off from this. I suspect the rumors of the CIA working overtime with the ISI to avoid an “incident” have a lot to do with this. But while this is the only real outcome we had left, it is far from a good one. Pakistan needs justice. While Davis shouldn’t be the first place to seek that—they should start with the ISI, TTP, TNSM, Jamaat, and LeT—that doesn’t mean Davis’ release is just. Pride turned this into a boondoggle, when wisdom could have made it cathartic.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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TLW March 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

The Pakistanis are relieved. This case was stupid and reality has thankfully prevailed. This damn case was turning into the OJ/Lewinsky of Pakistani politics and you have no idea how relieved serious Pakistani newswatchers are that Ray Ray has been transferred out of the country. It is deeply disturbing that a figleaf of Shariah to solve a real world diplomatic crisis, so maybe now the manufactured-over-three-decades Islamist rightwing can have their religious fantasies thrown at their face. Personally we’re glad that these religious fanatics no longer have Ray Ray to use as a public punching bag, and intellectual masturbatory aid. Good riddance to Raymond Davis. Back to abusing the Pakistani fascist right.

TLW March 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

To summarise how relieved we are here is Nadeem Farooq Paracha’s tweet on the denoument of the Raymond Davis affair:

Chalo jee, ghairatmandoon ki yeh daidh eenth ki masjid bhi gai. Weisey sunah hai, Hamid Mir* or Ansar Abbasi* chai achi bana lay tein hein.

*Geo TV hosts notorious for acting as ISI conduits.


Well it looks the honour brigade’s mickey mouse mosque just sank into the ground. I hear that Hamid Mir and Ansar Abbasi make a mean chai.

And with that gentlemen, good night.

briandot March 16, 2011 at 10:29 am

This was the only way to play to Pakistani domestic audiences demanding justice while keeping a U.S. national working on behalf of the USG from being executed; The GOP can say it didn’t back down, and we can say we saved our man. Everyone saves face and goes home. Personally, I think the only two things not ideal about this are it this took so long, and that two men died in the first place.

Unfortunately, it will make working in Pakistan considerably more difficult for western NGOs, journalists, and (obviously) intel people.

USINPAC March 16, 2011 at 10:55 am

The Raymond Davis affair had complicated relations between the US and Pakistan. Should one expect a improvement now that the issue is resolved?

ketie March 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

finally his nightmare is over! good to be free for any person! thanks for this news!

marc March 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Whatever one can say about Raymond Davis’s professional bona fides his Rambo act certainly torpedoed what ever CIA project he had been hired to assist with. The ISI would have by now rolled the whole thing up and any Pakistani nationals who may have been involved will have some serious explaining to do. You can bet it will be a much more unpleasant experience for them than it was for Mr Davis.

Iftikar Chaudry no likey Shariah March 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Praised be to Allah, Our shariah has freed the very infidel we wanted to perform necro-sodomy to and make a public spectacle with.

I'm proud to be an American, Where at least I know I'm FREE March 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm

To quote the great MC Hammer from Oakland, CA: “You can’t touch this!”

Ofcr. Jim Niles March 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm

If Raymond Davis was a police officer in Los Angeles, with the same facts and outcome of said case, he’d fry.

He would fry.

anan March 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm

You are kidding right? Davis probably killed to Pakistani army/ISI officers. Chances are that the two of them weren’t on the up and up.

In the US, at best he would be tried for involuntary manslaughter due to negligence, and mistakenly killing two members of a rival security agency.

i.e. not death penalty material. But possibly a limited prison sentence. Problem is that Pakistani prisons aren’t safe. So he would probably need to be held in a home arrest type prison, as allowed by British Raj hand me down Pakistani law.

Ofcr. Niles March 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm

He’s a train government agent (like police officers).

He was caught up in a tight situation. He shot two guys who were following him (whether surveillance or robbery).

The two Pakistanis (whether they be ISI or robbers) did not point their weapons at Davis.

So, basically, you just have a trained US government agent who shot two men, without meeting the “imminent threat” criteria.

If he was LAPD, Davis would fry.

James O'bannon March 17, 2011 at 1:51 am

Couldn’t our State Dept. have bargained for less? I mean 2.3 Million for a couple of uneducated third-world fellas, I think we could’ve gotten them for a couple of thousand a piece.

TLW March 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Pakistanis have learnt to hang together. Yippeee XD

Oh and a polite fuck you for the implicit racism.

Atlanta Roofing March 17, 2011 at 4:57 am

If this is really true, we are really screwed. The families of these people killed by Davis will end up working for the CIA or dying in some “accident”. It is interesting that the poor people in America and Europe end up paying the price for all this chaos being created by the CIA/Mossad in the Arab world. We have more refugees, more social problems, more ethnic conflicts, etc.

Chitatel' March 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

There were no remotely good outcomes to this situation. Further destabilization and loss of political economy for US allies in the Pakistani civil government may result from this decision.

But if Davis would have been tried and executed that might have provided a cassus belli for further US action in Pakistan. Considering US frustration in Afghanistan, it is conceivable that hawkish US policy makers would seize on such an intervention. It is true that Pakistani institutional duplicity is key in understanding the Afghan quagmire, but it isn’t an explain-all excuse. Far too many Afghans and Americans have seized on Pakistani to excuse their own peoples’ malfesiance and mistakes.

Sadia March 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm

The debate on the release on Raymond Davis is motivated by the rightist political parties to make out a capital of an otherwise legal relief provided in our laws when the the amendment in the penal provisions relating to offenses against body was made in the PPC on the insistence of these rightist parties which privatized the murder as a crime against individual and not against State and the same can be be bargained between the parties.
It was really a consternation to me when Ameer of Jamat-e-Islami gave the statement that the the murder committed by Raymond Davis was an offense against the State, then what jibe he has to say that 60 people have been killed in one week in Karachi and the same right wing leaders get the murders released in scant cases if they apprehended on the basis of the law of Qisas and Diyat.

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