Once again, Raymond Davis is in the spotlight. This time for his 150-page memoir, The Contractor, which recalls how he landed in a Pakistani prison and ignited a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the US.
The book is being widely discussed in Pakistan with an enormous amount of criticism on the Pakistani military and the political government of that time that initially exploited the situation, and later freed this alleged spy through a forced agreement with the families of the victims.
Six years back, this former American ‘soldier’ was working in Pakistan with the US embassy as a ‘security contractor’. According to his account, he shot dead two street robbers when they tried to rob him in broad daylight while he was driving on one of the busiest streets of Lahore.
Raymond Davis, later portrayed as an alleged spy and Blackwater agent by the Pakistani security establishment, was detained by the local police for killing two men, Faheem and Faizan, at Mozang Chowk in Lahore on January 27, 2011. A vehicle of the US Consulate in Lahore moved in haste to rescue Raymond after the incident crushed another young man who was going on a bike.
The episode brought the Pak-US relations on the lowest level, and a tussle ensued between the two countries: America wanted to free the contractor who was on a diplomatic passport with immunity claims while Pakistan wanted to put pressure on the US by announcing to run his trial in a Pakistani court of justice. Ultimately, he was freed after 49 days from Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore after country’s top spy agency — Inter Services Intelligence — managed a $2.4 million blood money deal with the families of two victims according to Islamic law.
The picture on the cover of this book available, online in PDF form, is of a protest by the Jamaat-i-Islami displaying a banner demanding to “hang Raymond Davis.”
Davis’ three-page epilogue telling his side of the story claims that three weeks after his release, the then Director General ISI Shuja Pasha flew to Washington DC to relay Islamabad’s concerns to Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen. But any progress made during that meeting disappeared three weeks later when the US forces carried out a raid on compound in Abbottabad that left Osama bin Laden dead.
“In the months following my release from Kot Lakhpat Jail, US-Pakistan relations hit one of the lowest points in their long, volatile history, bringing to mind the tension that followed the 1979 burning and ransacking of the US Embassy in Islamabad. Even though I’d acted in self-defense, I still couldn’t help thinking that I’d contributed more than my fair share to the tension between the two countries. I don’t regret shooting those two men in Lahore. I believe it was an appropriate response to a life-threatening situation. But I do regret the turmoil it created,” he writes at the end of the book.
His memoirs tell nothing new. He recalls his side of story, exposing how Pakistani and American political and military establishments acted to rescue him from a murder trial. On the Pakistani side, it exposes the role of country’s top intelligence agency — how it exploited the situation to put pressure on America through orchestrating a huge public and political campaign spreading hate against the US. And, later, when these agencies could not face much pressure or entered secret negotiations with America they forcibly withdrew families from the case. Allegedly, the ISI also pulled strings of different like-minded political groups forcing them to show their street power against Raymond Davis and exploit the situation in public.
Raymond Davis’ book shows the issue was diplomatic and ultimately had to be sorted out but exposes the Pakistani intelligence agency before its own people. His memoirs claim the presence of DG ISI Pasha in the courtroom on the last day when ISI entered into a forced agreement with the families and illegally confined the actual counsel of the victim families, Asad Manzoor Butt, till Raymond Davis was freed that day.
Security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa thinks, “There are lots of issues with the book. I’m not saying he has told the story honestly but there is no large psychological warfare behind it. We knew most of the story except for the details on how he was sent out.”
She adds, Gen. Pasha has come under criticism before too, “so what’s new in the book? Imran Khan probably tweeted it because he heard the book said Zardari and Nawaz were involved — which the book doesn’t say. The PTI guys then retweeted unthinkingly. Everyone followed their personal agendas on social media without really reading the book. I’m sure 99.9 per cent people haven’t read it.”
M. Ziauddin, senior journalist, thinks there is nothing new in the book as people in Pakistan knew most of the story. “It shows how the DG ISI handled the issue.”
He says, “We should understand that back then America was after Osama Bin Laden and Pakistan wanted to protect him. And at that point, the incident of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, happened. This added to the tension.”
Those criticising the ISI after the book should not forget that this was the spy agency that had earlier backed these families, directing them to show determination and pursue the case against Raymond Davis. At some point these two dead men, proved as robbers by police, were propagated as aides of the spy agency performing their duty.
A rickshaw spotted in Lahore during the Raymond Davis case after he was freed in 2011 displayed this couplet which could be read as the most befitting response to his memoir:
“Raymond Davis Ki Rihayi Ki Khushi Mein Har Maal Bikay Ga 2 Aanay
Yeh Shair Yeh Geedar 2 Aanay, Yeh Saaray Leader 2 Aanay
Jazbon Ki Kahani 2 Aanay, Ghairat Kay Fasanay 2 Aanay.”