Pakistan: The strange case of Raymond Davis
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Pakistan: The strange case of Raymond Davis

A shadowy US official, jailed in Lahore, embodies the tensions in US-Pakistani relations, writes Asia Sentinel’s Urmila Venugopolan

Not many people can claim to have had a sitting US Senator fly half-way across the world to bail them out of prison, but Raymond Davis can.

Before he shot dead two men allegedly trying to rob him at gunpoint in Lahore on Jan. 27, no one had ever heard of the former US Special Forces soldier turned consular officer. Today, however, Davis has become the most visible embodiment of the tensions and contradictions that have come to characterise US-Pakistan relations.

Despite optimism on the part of US Sen. John Kerry that he could bring Davis home with him, a Pakistani court stated on Feb. 17 that it would delay a decision on Davis’s diplomatic immunity until Mar. 14. Kerry told reporters Davis would be subject to a criminal investigation upon his return to the US.

The US is obviously putting enormous pressure on Islamabad for Davis’s release. But the case has struck a nerve across Pakistani society. In contrast to the ongoing drone strikes in the tribal areas, the consequences of which remain largely remote and abstract, Davis has given a name, a face, and a narrative to the sense of humiliation that many Pakistanis feel as a result of US policy in the country.

Why, many in Pakistan are asking, was an American civilian driving around Lahore with a loaded Glock 9mm pistol in his car? And if he is, as Washington is claiming, a mere “consular officer,” then why is there such secrecy surrounding the precise nature of his duties?

Such questions resonate loudly in the echo chamber of local media, which regularly conflates fact, fiction and conspiracy theory. More importantly, they shine a bright light on what many Pakistanis see as the fundamental inequality in the bilateral relationship between Washington, DC and Islamabad.