The Raymond Davis affair, that had become a major irritant in US-Pakistan relations, was resolved today by a creative deal that saved face for both sides. Davis was accused of murdering 2 Pakistanis on January 27 at a traffic light in Lahore, Pakistan. The United States claimed that Davis was a diplomat, deserving of diplomatic immunity. and that he had shot two robbers in self-defense.
This cover story was maintained, although it became abundantly clear that the former Green Beret was a CIA contractor, and the 2 robbers at the traffic light were probably related to Pakistan's all-powerful military Inter-Services Intelligence – the ISI.
The ISI was none too pleased that the US was running intelligence operations in Pakistan without keeping it in the picture. The Americans are not completely confident about the ISI's loyalties.
Back in 2006, a report issued by a British Ministry of Defense think tank accused the ISI of supporting terrorism and extremism in London, Afghanistan and Iraq and recommended the dismantlement of the ISI. Britain later claimed that this was an independent viewpoint that did not necessary reflect the official view.
US secretary of Defense Robert Gates, interviewed on the CBS 60 Minutes program in May 2009, acknowledged "to a certain extent, they (the ISI) play both sides." Gates and others suspect that ISI maintains ties with the Taliban as insurance for the day the US forces depart the region.
As the deal unfolded Davis was indicted for the double murder and was acquitted shortly afterwards by a Pakistani court. The court did not have to hear witnesses or sift through evidence to reach the decision, as it had already been settled by the payment of blood money compensation to the victims' relatives. The amount paid ranged between $700,000-$1 million per family and even with the decline of the dollar, that amount still buys a lot of forgiveness.
The fact that the United States was forced to secure the release of its agent by resorting to Muslim Sharia law undoubtedly helps quiet Islamist opposition. On the other hand, while Pakistan did put Davis on trial, the court did not explicitly invalidate the American argument of diplomatic immunity, playing along with the charade that Davis was a normal diplomat. He was free to go and he went to London.
Pakistan had an interest to resolve the affair because it is the recipient of billions in US assistance and the American establishment, from President Barack Obama on down, had gone public on the issue in demanding Davis' release.
Pakistan has also recently been put in an unfavorable spotlight due to the murder of liberal officials by Islamist groups and charges that Pakistan was persecuting its Christian minority.
Yesterday, the Catholic primate of Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, accused Foreign Secretary William Hague of conducting an anti-Christian foreign policy instead of protecting persecuted Christian minorities. O'Brien singled out Pakistan which was receiving £445 million in the form of British assistance without Britain making the aid contingent on Pakistani tolerance..