Meeting each other halfway

In a dramatic change in stance, the US is apparently toning down its aggressive rhetoric concerning the Raymond Davis issue. Following in the footsteps of Senator John Kerry’s recent flying damage control visit, a US junior congressional delegation arrived in Islamabad on Saturday to meet Prime Minister Gilani and other government officials in an effort to ease the impasse between the two countries following the mishandling of the Raymond Davis debacle. This flurry of diplomatic traffic in the present scenario is indeed extraordinary. Stressing the need to move forward and come up with “out-of-the-box” solutions for the resolution of this issue, the delegation agreed that the US-Pakistan relationship was about much more than a single issue and said that the US was going to deliver on its economic and social aid pledges. This is comforting news because the diplomatic stalemate was becoming a thorn in both sides.The two most prominent casualties of the aftermath of this affair are the ex-Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab who has now resigned (or been dismissed). Qureshi has shown his displeasure by issuing provocative statements concerning this extremely delicate manner. By claiming that he was under pressure to declare Davis had immunity but the American does not possess complete diplomatic cover, the ex-minister has exposed deep fissures in the PPP ranks. Maybe he possesses the ambition to take a solo flight into the political arena. It is not recommended he try this on the basis of an issue that has so polarised society and could come at the cost of national security. Ms Wahab also issued reckless statements out of turn by speaking up about the case and categorically declaring Davis enjoyed immunity.

It seems as if the abating of the initial furore has provided the space for reaching some sort of compromise. This could take the shape of the Pakistani authorities conceding the argument, releasing Raymond Davis and handing him over, after which complete criminal investigations will commence on US soil, and compensation being offered to the aggrieved family of Davis’s victims. If compensation is accepted, the family may need protection as, reportedly, they have been told to refrain from any such compromise. It is astounding that the right-wingers, so concerned with ‘justice’, would threaten the family with a backlash if compensation were accepted.

It must be stated that Pakistan-US relations have never been free of mistrust and the Raymond Davis incident has caused the relationship considerable long-term damage. Past and present political mistakes — there are many legacies of the Musharraf era that are still haunting the present regime — that have given the US carte blanche on our soil will need to be addressed in the aftermath of a solution to the Raymond Davis affair. It is then that Pakistan and the US must look towards each other on a more equal footing. Arrangements will need to be revisited where checks and balances and proper diplomatic processes are ensured for the appropriate handling of American personnel posted to Pakistan. Pakistan will need to reassert its dignity and self-respect to ensure visas are not issued en masse and without stringent checks. Pakistan needs to reclaim as much sovereignty as it can, given its dependence on the US. After Davis, when we go forward we will need to do so as more equal partners of the US than in the past – Dailytimes