CIA agent Raymond Davis is arrested in Lahore, Pakistan, on charges of double murder.
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This will constitute a perilous dilemma for both Washington and Islamabad. The former demands Davis’ immediate release on grounds of diplomatic immunity and has menaced Pakistan with the possibility of ending the $1.5-billion annual aid that it issues to that country in return for its cooperation in the so-called War on Terror, but the latter questions the immunity and can’t merely play along, for its people have begun to threaten massive protests like those starting in Egypt on 25 January, should their government knuckle under.
Although conservative groups and Davis’ friends and family may find this disappointing, it is probable that he won’t be released soon: Pakistan has said it will need to hold him until at least 14 March to complete its inquiries. Beyond that, the Obama administration would be ill advised to push too hard. Such pressure is widely perceived as arrogance, and could force Islamabad to distance itself from the U.S. as a matter of survival.
Thus the pragmatic decision awaits: whether to accept Davis’ fate — whatever it may be — as his case is tried before Pakistani courts, or high-handedly to demand his return and risk losing Pakistan as an ally altogether. It is contemptuous to expect Pakistan, as a sovereign nation, to permit its citizens to be killed on its soil and do nothing about it, and this contempt will not be overlooked by an already sensitive populace; nor will any sign of grovelling on the part of Islamabad.
Ultimately, a world all too accustomed to U.S. hubris will keep a close eye on this incident. And if the government in Islamabad bends the knee, and its people rise up to demand its departure, the world will stand with them.
Davis was released on 16 March 2011, after paying the families of the victims $2.4 million in diyya (“blood money”), in accordance with Shariah law. This came after intense U.S. pressure to release him earlier, during which, among other tactics, Pakistani diplomats were threatened with expulsion, and his release prompted numerous protests across Pakistan.
Further investigation revealed that Davis was not a diplomat; he was actually a contractor for the CIA (and reportedly acting station chief at the time of the murders) who worked for Blackwater Worldwide — a company which since its infamous incident in Fallujah has changed its name three times, and is now called Academi.
An intriguing development possibly worthy of further investigation appeared on 6 February, when the widow of one of the victims died of an overdose of sleeping pills, in what doctors and police called a suicide. Subsequently, several other members of the victims’ families have been reported missing. Since diyya is only valid if accepted by the families without pressure, this raises questions that, four years later, remain answered.