Case Of Jailed Diplomat In Pakistan Fuels Anger

February 3, 2011

Julie McCarthy

In Pakistan, a judge in the city of Lahore ordered an American at the center of a delicate diplomatic dispute to be held in police custody another eight days.

The jailed American allegedly shot two Pakistani men after he said they threatened his life.

The United States insists he is a diplomat entitled to immunity, but the case has deepened distrust of the Americans and made granting immunity a tall order.

The American identified as Raymond Davis was brought to the Magistrate Court in Caant, an upscale area of Lahore that is normally well protected. He was escorted under heavy police protection to the court that opened an hour early — an extraordinary measure to ensure his security and avoid the glare of the media.

A Show Of Anti-Americanism

The case of Davis has gripped Pakistan's headlines and spilled into the streets in a show of anti-Americanism.

"Oppressor, give us an answer," the demonstrators cry. "Account for the blood you shed."

The crowd of a couple hundred gather at the spot where the jailed American shot dead two Pakistanis who he claimed were armed robbers. The small gathering that included many students takes up an ominous chant aimed at Davis. One newspaper called the drama "an avatar of the Ugly American."

Davis has been depicted in banner across town as a bloodthirsty terrorist.

"Hang Davis. Hang Him," the demonstrators shout.

They talk of "revenge" for the fatal shooting of the two men fired on by Davis, and the death of a third man who was struck by an SUV reportedly coming to Davis' rescue.

Yasmin Raashid is the secretary general of the Punjab chapter of the party of former cricketer Imran Khan. Raashid says many Pakistanis do not believe Davis is a diplomat as the Americans say, but more likely a security operative along the lines of the much-loathed Blackwater, now called Xe.

"There is a lot of resentment that Blackwater, or whatever security people, they are around here in Pakistan and they are trying to undermine our sovereignty. A person takes the law into his own hand and shoots to kill," Raashid says. "There was not a single witness who said that those boys pointed anything to him, said anything to him, and according to the forensic report... they've been shot in the back."

Rashed Rahman is the editor of the Daily Times, which was owned by the late Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who was killed by his body guard because he sought to reform the country's blasphemy laws.

Rahman says the hostility erupting over the case of the jailed American is an extension of the furor over the blasphemy debate where, in defense of Islam, the radical right has whipped an anti-Western fervor.

"An issue like this is just going to add more ammunition to that anti-American sentiment, and Mr. Davis has provided a most wonderful opportunity to raise the bar even higher and I think the mood on the street is something that needs to be watched," Rahman says. "I'm not saying its Egypt or Tunisia, but I'm just saying the street, at least the religious right, could explode."

The U.S. Embassy Thursday night repeated that the jailed American was a member of its administrative and technical staff, and says Davis deserves diplomatic immunity.

Former UN Ambassador Donald McHenry, currently at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, notes that the aid pouring into Pakistan requires an expanded embassy staff, which McHenry says creates problems of its own.

"It's probably unwise to have every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a diplomatic passport. There probably are too many people walking around with diplomatic immunity," McHenry says.

Unanswered Questions Raise Suspicion

Many questions remain unanswered — and they are fueling suspicion. Questions like: What exactly is the job of the jailed American? Why is a U.S. diplomat armed to begin with? And who came to the American's rescue?

As for the whereabouts of the SUV that is reported to have run over a Pakistani man, the embassy declined to comment.

What it the embassy said Thursday night is that the continued detention of the "American diplomat is a gross violation of international law." And that he "was remanded in court without notice to the U.S. government, without his lawyer present, and without translation." In short he was denied "due process."

The diplomatic stand-off shows no sign of being resolved soon. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.