Saturday, January 29, 2011


On Thursday (January 27), Raymond Davis, an employee of the US Consulate in Lahore was involved in a shootout that resulted in the deaths of two Pakistani citizens, while a third was crushed to death by a jeep that came to his aid. According to police sources, Mr Davis tried to flee the scene but two traffic wardens intervened and escorted him to a nearby police station. A case for murder was registered against Mr Davis.

On Friday Mr Davis was presented in court, where he said he was being robbed and only acted in self-defence. The court, after hearing initial arguments, ordered a six-day physical remand of the accused.

The police and the court have a tough task at hand. The facts of this case are conflicting. According to the victims’ families, the victims were unarmed and the weapons found on them were planted after they had been killed. However, some media sources claim that these two individuals were involved in street crime. Two of the cell phones found on them were reported stolen earlier — one belonging to an army officer and the other to a female resident of Lahore. If true, then Mr Davis might be right in his assertion that these men were following him and were in fact trying to rob him at gunpoint. Lahore and most major cities in Pakistan have seen an exponential increase in street crimes such as mobile snatching, motorbike and car theft, robberies and kidnappings for ransom. The court will have to find answers to whether Mr Davis in fact acted in self-defence. If so, did he use the right amount of force or was it excessive? The federal government has been quiet on the matter.

However, the Punjab government has rightly spoken about the rule of law. But major media organisations, religious and political parties have played to the masses in an attempt to gain popularity. Chief Minister (CM) Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, has said that the life of Pakistanis is not cheap. It is not a matter of how ‘cheap’ Pakistani lives are but rather pertaining to a murder case and its circumstances.

Given that Pakistan is rife with anti-American sentiment, this incident, unless dealt with objectively, will only make matters worse. However, it will impact the functioning of US diplomats in Pakistan. Diplomatic security in general must be questioned, particularly due to our precarious law and order situation in the light of the war on terror. But above all else, the police and the court must be allowed to carry out their work without prejudice.

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