The Raymond Davis case in Pakistan has tarnished the United States’ image at a time when it needs the country’s support more than ever, writes Francis Ventura, a 20-year-old journalism student from Melbourne, Australia.
My friend Zafar once told me that ‘anything is possible in Pakistan’. Notwithstanding, I still felt shocked when I found out that CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the man charged with the murder of two young Pakistani men in Lahore, had been set free.
Although his release was entirely legal and in accordance with Pakistani Sharia law as the family of the victims can pardon the accused – which they did after reportedly being paid 200 million rupees – the perception within the Pakistani community is that an American man came and killed two of their own and got away with it.
As the saying goes, perception is reality in politics. This issue has created negative consequences in a nation already overheating with anti-US sentiment.
I was in Pakistan earlier this year, so was fortunate to see first-hand the effects of the Davis case. I conveniently touched down in Islamabad not long after the incident, which meant suspicion and even hatred of westerners had reached new heights during my visit. It was no coincidence that I didn’t see a single other westerner during my time there.
Flown proudly on buses, cars and buildings were Jemaat-e-Islami flags. This is of course an Islamist party which is no fan of the United States. Politics is often described as a zero-sum game, thus their gain is the west’s loss.
The government, led by the centre-left Pakistan People’s Party, struggled to balance appeasing the United States and giving the impression publicly that it was standing up for Pakistan’s interests as a result of the debacle.
The outcome is that parties with platforms unfavourable to Western interests and ‘stability’ are able to use the occasion to their advantage by riding on people’s frustrations, thus gaining public support at the detriment of our allies.
Pakistan is a key ally of the west and must remain that way. It is located in a strategic location in Central Asia, bordering both war-torn Afghanistan and emerging superpower China. It plays a vital role in the battle against Islamic extremism. Oh, and to ice the cake, they also have nuclear weapons. We may just want to make sure they’re in safe hands.
An editorial in Pakistan’s Daily Times sums it up quite well. Dated February 3rd, it states that “this murder has given the many anti-democratic forces and anti-US elements out there a reason to come out onto the streets and berate the government for not protecting Pakistan’s sovereignty”.
This infamous event has caused irreparable damage to the United States’ image in Pakistan, at a time when it needs Pakistan the most. Even though the case seems to have been handled legally, it has proved to be a loss-loss scenario for us in the west.