The Saga Of Raymond Davis

The US spy was set free by Pakistan, and thereby hangs a tale

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published:July 15, 2017 12:20 am
cia, isi, raymond davis, contractor raymond davis, india pakistan relations, contractor, india news, indian express opinion Former CIA contractor Raymond Davis (AP Photo)

In January 2011, a CIA “contractor” carrying a diplomatic passport was caught in Lahore after he had killed two men. Raymond Davis has now written a book, The Contractor: How I landed in Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis, which will predictably cause a lot of self-flagellation about how Pakistan didn’t kill an American spy after catching him “in the act”. The week’s gem came from ex-interior minister Rehman Malik saying Davis wrote a false account and that, “India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had paid Davis to write the book in order to malign Pakistan’s army and democratic institutions.”

Davis tells a lot but doesn’t say what he was doing in Lahore, apart from one giveaway phrase: “I only know how to shoot guns and blow things up”, he had told his wife. He had killed two motorbike-riding boys at Lahore’s Mozang Chowk after they aimed a gun at him. He rang the US Consulate in Lahore for help as people gathering around him started looking like a lynch mob. His buddies from the consulate drove an SUV to reach him but ended up killing another man on the road. Thus, the Americans killed three Pakistanis during a period of bilateral tension between the two old allies.

In 2013, writing in The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti reported what Davis was up to in Pakistan: Get at Hafiz Saeed, the boss of old Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Mazzetti wrote: “Davis wasn’t just another paper-shuffling American diplomat. His work in Pakistan was much darker, and it involved probing an exposed nerve in the already-hypersensitive relationship between the CIA and Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI… Ever since the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked Mumbai, India, in November 2008… CIA analysts had been warning that the group was seeking to raise its global profile by carrying out spectacular attacks beyond South Asia. This spurred the agency to assign more of its expanding army of operatives in Pakistan toward gathering intelligence about Lashkar’s operations — a decision that put the interests of the CIA and the ISI in direct conflict.”

In The mind of a Terrorist: David Headley, the Mumbai Massacre, and his European Revenge (2016), Kaare Sorensen had found that Headley had confessed that he got to al Qaeda in North Waziristan through Lashkar’s proxy warriors disgusted with the ISI for abandoning a forward policy on India and the US. Lashkar was the outfit developing an outreach that America feared. In Pakistan, the court had accepted that Saeed had nothing to do with Lashkar anymore, but no one really believed it. Headley, once an acolyte of Saeed, was finally jailed in America for working for al Qaeda.

Was Raymond Davis looking to assassinate Hafiz Saeed and were the gun-toting boys he killed a message to him from the ISI? That’s what some spook-watchers thought in 2011. Davis was in jail. The judges waited for signals. The Americans meanwhile had discovered Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and didn’t want to rock the boat till they had killed him. The embassy claimed diplomatic immunity from prosecution for Davis because he carried a diplomatic passport; Pakistan didn’t agree. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi resigned rather than accept immunity for Davis, keeping his ear cocked to signals like everyone else in the Foreign Office. Finally, CIA chief Leon Panetta worked with ISI counterpart General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and both agreed to break the impasse. The meeting took place in Oman and it was agreed between Pakistan army chief General Kayani and his American counterpart Admiral Mike Mullen to free Davis under Islamic law.

Raymond Davis whose Pakistani defence lawyers heretofore tended to disappear mysteriously was “forgiven” by the numerous family and relatives of the three killed. Those who didn’t want to forgive under the law of diyat (blood money) were also made to disappear, till the 18 of them agreed to accept the $2.3 million paid to them by the ISI. Today there is much chest-beating in the social media in Pakistan about not hanging Raymond Davis. But, in statecraft, people like Raymond Davis and Kulbhushan Jadhav can’t be killed to satisfy dubious national honour.

The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan

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