On Thursday, 27th, an American shot down two motorcyclists in Lahore, while another car apparently connected with the same overran a civilian within minutes. The one who had shot the motorcyclists escaped from the scene but was chased by the traffic police and arrested. He was identified as Raymond David, an American who had once been intercepted while trying to enter the cantonment with a weapon (which diplomats are not usually supposed to carry).
The law minister promised the people that access will also be gained to the driver of the other car by the next evening. This did not happen.
In Washington, the State Department announced that the person arrested was a diplomat but the name given by the media was not correct. Following this, the media soon changed the name to Raymond Davis (hopefully getting it correct this time?).
The next day, the police got a six-day remand of Davis from the court. He pleaded self-defense. However, the autopsy reports showed that the victim who died on the spot had received four bullet wounds, the one who died in the hospital had received three, and the one ran down by the other car died of head injuries.
The following day, the US embassy demanded Davis' immediate release under diplomatic immunity. This was turned down by the Pakistani government since the issue was sub-judice and the embassy was asked to present its argument in the court. In the meanwhile, the Supreme Court chief justice Javed Iqbal ordered that Davis should not be allowed to leave the country.
Incidentally, this development has occured at a time when the Supreme Court had given hint that it would press criminal charges against officials involved in the abduction of the "missing persons". On separate charges of corruption, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had started investigations against its own chief on orders from the Supreme Court. Hence, there is a high expectation in the public that the law of the land would be upheld even against odds.
The unfortunate debacle created over the case of Aasia Bibi has also had a sobering effect (to put it mildly). It seems that a tactical mistake committed by some, including the late Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was that in their zeal to support an accused whom they perceived as underdog, they went ahead to question the very law under which the accused was being tried. In some ways, this created a situation where two messages got mixed up: "Free Aasia Bibi" and "Never mind the law of the land." The public outrage against this is well-known.
"Respect the law, and trust the judiciary to dispense justice." This is the noblest and, arguably, the safest approach for those who can influence public opinion in the case of Raymond Davis in Pakistan, US or elsewhere. Pakistan and US are allies, and both are facing many difficulties at the moment. Falling back on an ideal that ought to be equally dear to all civilized societies can be a good way of responding to this latest crisis.
US was the only foreign country whose representative attended the birth of Pakistan on August 15, 1947. The Case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui appears as an epitome of entangled issues which seem to threaten this proverbial alliance, and hence also prospects of peace in the region. This blog is about saving a bridge.