Martin Luther King Jr. once explained a virtue that is playing out in the streets of Wisconsin to Tahrir Square, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The innate value for justice reverberating amongst people across the Arab world does not seem to be reaching Pakistan or the United States as displayed by the Raymond Davis case. Individuals on both sides are mischaracterizing their political stance on this case as somehow a stand for “justice” but this “justice” does not apply equally to all people. And as soon as one’s perception of justice becomes selective and reserved only for one’s enemies- it becomes a tool for unending injustice
Raymond Davis was arrested after he had shot two motorcyclists in Lahore who he claimed were robbers. He asserted diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention, but was later found to be a CIA agent, rather than a diplomat by modern definitions. He is now being held in Lahore by Pakistani officials who have claimed jurisdiction over this case despite President Obama raising diplomatic immunity.
The State Department, White House, and Pentagon are all attempting to have Mr. Davis extradited or taken back to the United States because they fear that he will face an unfair trial in Pakistan. However the rushed extradition of Mr. Davis requested by the U.S. government exposes an element of selective justice that will cost us support and allies in the region. On the one hand the U.S. is circumventing and disempowering the Pakistani courts in front of their people by requesting the extradition of Raymond Davis.
On the other hand, the American policy in Pakistan over the last few years has been to increase the capability and legitimacy of institutions like the judiciary as a means of limiting the growth of anti-state terrorism. Section 101.2 (c) of the Kerry Lugar Bill pledges U.S. “support for independent, efficient, and effective judicial and criminal justice systems… to enhance the rule of law to all areas in Pakistan.” The idea being that if the Pakistani system can begin to administer justice and services to its people, the people will turn their support away from groups like the Taliban.
However, one cannot develop such a rule of law without at least the appearance of equality, otherwise citizens will not respect such an institution nor follow its dictates. By attempting to circumvent the Pakistani courts when it comes to its own national, the U.S. is feeding the perception amongst common people that the court systems work only in favor of the powerful and rich at the cost of average citizens. If the State Department wishes to have a judicial body that is accepted by the people of Pakistan, they cannot concurrently avoid the same when it attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over a case.
Far more shocking and astonishing for me was the incredible amount of media buzz and conspiracy theory surrounding the Raymond Davis case. For some “theorists” the Raymond Davis case was a late Eid gift, and proved their narrative of Pakistan: namely that Pakistanis are never terrorists, the U.S. continues to fund, train, and direct every terrorist group in Pakistan in order to snatch Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. As with most of these theories, there was as much evidence disproving some of their thoughts as there was in favor of them so I won’t enter that forum.
The important element in this narrative is that many Pakistanis are decrying the abuse of Pakistan’s judicial system by the U.S., but treat the same institution with great disregard when it comes to domestic issues. One should clearly note that many of those enraged by the lack of respect being paid to the independence of Pakistan’s judiciary by the U.S are the same people who advocated for the release of Salman Taseer’s assassin just a few weeks ago. The same voices who are now so loudly advocating for the need to respect the Pakistani judiciary when it comes to Raymond Davis were all silent when it came time to find a prosecutor for the Qadri assassination case. And while any judge or prosecutor in Pakistan would die to take the Davis case and be recognized amongst the people as a champion of justice, those same lawyers feared for their lives when it came to prosecuting Qadri.
Thus there is clearly an element of selective justice not only held by political creatures, but by the public itself as seen with the marches in support of Qadri and the marches against Davis. Both men are alleged to have done the same crime, taking the innocent life of a Pakistani citizen, and yet some in the public believe that while the assassin deserves no punishment, the CIA agent deserves to feel the full wrath of the Pakistani people. That is not a representation of justice, and if Raymond Davis becomes a voodoo doll for the people of Pakistan to poke as a means of getting revenge on the U.S. for perceived and actual failings, then that is what should be publically argued.
We know the power of words as used by Dr. Martin Luther King, but there is also a negative power in the misuse of words. Those who are couching their political arguments in the Raymond Davis case as those of “justice” should understand how they are denigrating the principle itself by misusing it in this situation.
In the current environment, the selective justice myopia of the Pakistani people and judicial body will not allow for an arbitrary hearing for Raymond Davis. On the other hand, the U.S. will not likely produce a fair hearing for the victims of Mr. Davis’s crime as evidenced by the U.S. abandoning its mission of strengthening the Pakistani state in favor of saving one of its nationals from prosecution there. Thus, if both nations wish to pursue justice on a real level, they should direct this case to the international courts to carry on unbiased apolitical evidentiary hearings, determinations of immunity, etc. By mischaracterizing their political motivations in this dilemma as those of preserving justice, both parties malign the values of justice.