‘The Contractor’ is not the story of one man called Raymond Davis who shot three Pakistanis in Lahore in 2011 and how he, literally, got away with murder. It is actually a story of love and hate between the US and Pakistan. It is the story of a forced marriage between the CIA and ISI, both intelligence agencies, which hasn’t ended in a divorce yet. Truth is, the two partners in the ongoing war against terror hate each other so much, but they can’t say goodbye for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes the two use dirty tricks to blackmail each other. ‘The Contractor’ is a perfect example of this perfect blackmail between intimate partners. Imran Khan, the head of the Pakistan’s Tehreek-i-Insaaf party, tweeted on July 1 to say that “This book should be read by Pakistanis to understand why we are treated with little respect internationally”.
Imran termed it a “shameful account of how our top political and military leadership collaborated to let a cold blooded killer, responsible for 4 deaths, go scot-free”.
There is nothing new in this book. Most of the so-called juicy details have already been published in US and Pakistani media in last six years – interestingly, the book also makes clear who Raymond Davis’ real target is.
In the book, Pakistan’s retired ISI chief, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, has been given credit for having Davis released from prison. But Davis is also making the point that Gen. Pasha manipulated Pakistan’s entire legal system to get one American citizen out of jail – that too a US citizen who had murdered three Pakistanis in Lahore.
It seems as if Davis is trying to destroy Pasha’s image. But many people in Pakistan think Davis’ actual target isn’t Pasha at all, but the Pakistan Army and the ISI.
My role in the whole affair began when I interviewed Shumaila, the widow of one of the three men killed by Davis, who later committed suicide in protest against the deal between the US and Pakistan that let Raymond Davis off, scot-free, in exchange for $2.43 million in blood money, or ‘diyat’, that was given to the three families of the victims.
But Shumaila refused to accept money. She wanted justice. I aired her statement saying as much from her death-bed, and soon after, received a call from then Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari. He expressed his disappointment over the hype created by the media against his government on the Raymond Davis issue.
He said his Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, was not ready to accept US dictation but the media was still criticizing him day and night. Zardari told me about the immense amount of US pressure on him and added, We are not ruling Punjab. It is ruled by Nawaz Sharif. He is on board. We cannot pressurize ISI, but they are also on board. We are all on the same page and all of us want to get rid of Davis.
But the truth is that dear Raymond Davis forgot all the services given to him by Pakistan’s several political leaders. He mainly targeted Pasha in his book.
This book is a nightmare for Pakistan’s military leadership. Davis claimed that he was not working for the CIA. But the book has been written like a typical CIA operator who tries to kill two birds with one stone. He gives credit for his release to Pasha and tries to discredit the ISI in the eyes of Pakistanis. Everyone knows that ‘The Contractor’ was cleared by the CIA.
We also know from the co-author of this book, Storms Reback, that the CIA forced them to remove some important details in the name of safeguarding US interest. The authors agreed to accept CIA’s dictation because former CIA chief Leon Panetta also helped Raymond Davis in writing this book. The agency held back the manuscript for a long time. The book was supposed to come out in September 2016 but the CIA clearly didn’t want it to get lost in the noise of the US Presidential election campaign.
We don’t know what details were removed, but we can understand why many stories about Gen Pasha were included. The timing of the release is also important. Once again Washington is putting pressure on Pakistan to “do more” in Afghanistan. The CIA seemed unconcerned even when none other than Pakistan army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, accompanied a delegation of US Senators to South Waziristan on Monday, and tried to show them that there were no more terrorist hideouts in Pakistan’s biggest tribal agency.
The visiting US Senators said some nice things about the Pakistan Army during their visit, but many Pakistanis remain sceptical about their praise. Many defense analysts think the US is playing a double game. They believe it doesn’t really want peace in either Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Former defence secretary Lt. Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi was a witness to several events relating to the Raymond Davis crisis. A Corps Commander at the time, Gen Lodhi participated in many meetings where Davis’ future was discussed. Today, he says, he isn’t willing to trust one word of what US Senators are saying about the Pakistan Army in South Waziristan.
“They have tried to create a gulf between the Pakistan Army and the people of Pakistan through this Raymond Davis book. They want instability, not peace in this region. If there is peace, who will buy their weapons,” Gen. Lodhi told me.
Question is, what do the Americans want from Pakistan these days? Army sources say the US wants Pakistan to release Dr Shakeel Afridi who helped the CIA track down the location of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Second, the US thinks that Pakistan can force the Afghan Taliban to make a peace deal with Kabul but that Pakistan wants to continue holding leverage. (The US also wants peace between India and Pakistan, but right now its priority is Afghanistan.)
The Trump administration increased pressure on Pakistan first through drone attacks and then by declaring Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin an international terrorist. The Pakistani military establishment and the Foreign Office believe that ‘The Contractor’ is only the latest episode in the series of pressure points the US is seeking to apply on Pakistan.
To be sure, Raymond Davis has created a cocktail of truth and lies, setting off a storm of misunderstandings and misconceptions in Pakistan. “I was not a CIA agent,” is one famous line in the book, but what about the February 21, 2011 story in the ‘New York Times’ headlined “American held in Pakistan worked with CIA”.
Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist Mark Mazzetti wrote in his book “The Way of The Knife” that US Ambassador in Pakistan Cameron Munter told Gen Pasha that Davis was CIA and the US wanted to get him out of Pakistan.
I can tell you much more, dear reader, but here’s another aspect of the drama-that-never-ended. Several ministers in the Zardari government who once strongly defended the “dirty Raymond David deal” with the US, suddenly joined Imran Khan only a few days before the release of ‘The Contractor.” These include then law minister Babar Awan and information minister Ferdous Ashiq Awan. It is clear why they have made this jump. All these politicians now want to secure their future – precisely because they were once part of the “collaboration” which resulted in Davis’ release from a Pakistani prison.
Certainly, these “collaborators” will be treated shabbily inside PTI. Imran Khan may have tried to target his political opponents through “The Contractor,” but it is clear that his party will also face collateral damage.