Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February 14, 2011

Newlsine: Tunisian foreign minister resigns as country faces migrant exodus

As Tunisia marks Monday a month since the ousting of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the interim government battled European pressure to curb an exodus of migrants and a key minister quit. Ahmed Ounaies resigned Sunday in a blow to the new authority a day before a visit by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to focus on democratic reforms since the removal of the strongman leader in a popular uprising. The interim government meanwhile rushed security forces to coastal areas to stop a Europe-bound exodus of people fleeing poverty, a government source said, with thousands of immigrants flooding to Italy in recent days. Immigration will likely be a top issue in talks Monday between Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and Ashton, after Italy appealed for urgent EU aid to halt a wave of North African immigrants. Some 5,000 undocumented migrants, many of them Tunisians, have arrived to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa over the last five days alone. Tunisian authorities have also arrested between 1,000 and 1,500 would-be immigrants in recent days. The immigrants said they were fleeing poverty and continued unrest in the North African state following the uprising that ousted Ben Ali on January 14 after 23 years in power. But Tunisian officials slammed a suggestion by Rome that Italian police could be sent to the country to stem the flow of illegals. Ounaies’ resignation was another blow to the interim government. The 75-year-old retired diplomat, who joined its reshuffled forces less than three weeks ago, had hailed his French counterpart Michele Alliot-Marie as “above all a friend of Tunisia” during a visit to Paris this month. His remarks came as Alliot-Marie faced calls to resign after admitting that she used a private plane owned by a Tunisian businessman with alleged ties to the Ben Ali regime. Three days after the Paris visit, Ounaies was heckled by staff at the foreign ministry who demonstrated for his immediate departure. In response, he took his personal belongings and left.



Newsline: Pakistani police say U.S. Embassy official guilty of murder

A Pakistani police report says a U.S. Embassy official jailed in the killing of two Pakistani men is ″guilty″ of murder, citing investigators’ findings that the official shot each victim five times, including in their backs, and lied to police about how he arrived at the scene. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the five-page report. The document spells out law enforcement authorities’ case against the official, Raymond Davis, whose alleged crimes were referred to two days ago as ″cold-blooded″ killings by the police chief in the city of Lahore. Davis, a former Army Special Forces soldier, has said he fired in self-defense as the men tried to rob him. The report, however, says that while the men were armed, no witnesses saw them point weapons at Davis. The top American official in Lahore, Carmela Conroy, disputed that Friday, faulting police for not considering what she said were eyewitness accounts of the stick-up, which were aired on Pakistani television in the day after the shooting. U.S. officials have maintained that two men on a motorcycle, both with criminal backgrounds, were seen holding up Davis while he was in his car at an intersection in Lahore. The men were found in possession of cash and a cell phone that they had stolen that day, American officials say. But the police report says Davis first shot at the two men from inside his sedan, then got out and shot twice more at one, Faizan Haider, as he ran. Davis then took photos and called the U.S. consulate before fleeing in his car and being apprehended by two traffic wardens, it says. The consular vehicle that came to Davis’ rescue fatally struck an uninvolved motorcyclist on the way to the scene, police say.



Commentary: America’s is taking Davis episode to its heart

Raymond Davis was taken into custody on 27 January by Lahore Police when he was trying to escape after committing a double murder. He has been locked up in Kot Lakhpat jail under tight security and his case is pending in Lahore High Court. He has so far been in police remand for 14 days. For his release, the US officials are distorting facts which amount to indulging in falsehood. When one lie is uttered then there is no end to it. String of contradicting statements has been made to prove that Davis is an administrative and staff member of US Embassy in Islamabad and that he enjoys full diplomatic immunity from criminal jurisprudence and as such his detention and subsequent trial is invalid. They are even hiding the killer’s real name. Reliable resources suggest that Davis is a retired Lt Col who had served in Special Forces. He manages a small private security business in Las Vegas, Nevada in Colorado under the name of Hyperion Protective Services. He is married and has two teenaged kids. He has been visiting Pakistan for the last three years pretending as a defence contractor. All his three visas issued by Pakistan Embassy in Washington including the one of June 2010 are official and non-diplomatic. He has admitted that he works as a consultant in Lahore US Consulate. He is undoubtedly not a diplomat but an intelligence operative employed under a cover appointment. He came to Pakistan with a specific mission of espionage and terrorism. He refreshed his espionage and shooting skills under the auspices of Blackwater managed training centres in USA. Davis is faced with four murders; two by act of terrorism with his own hands in a public place, and the other two indirectly as a consequence to direct murder. The driver of the backup SUV which trampled Ubaidur Rehman to death has still not been handed over to the authorities’ despite repeated requests made by the Punjab government and the police. That way the driver and four others who were sitting in the car are absconders and consul general is guilty of sheltering and protecting criminals. Having committed series of grave crimes, question of Davis’s immunity becomes immaterial. An impression is being built that the two slain persons were gangsters with criminal background who wanted to inflict body harm to Davis and that the latter had to fire in self defence when attacked to save his skin. Earlier on it was said that Davis fired when confronted by two armed men. So far no clue has been found that Faizan or Faheem had attacked him or even pointed a gun at him. Faheem however had a licensed gun which he was carrying on the day of occurrence for self-protection. Another story is that Davis had prior links with the two victims. Tough talk by the two irked him so intensely that he pulled his gun and shot them dead. This piece carries some weight since otherwise there was no earthly reason for Davis to drive in a private car with a fake number plate unescorted and singly and that too in a crowded place like Mozang. He had come well armed to deal with suchlike emergent situations and may have put the backup vehicle in consulate on standby call. Yet another story is that when Faheem and his colleague Faizan stopped their motorcycles next to his car at the red traffic light; seeing a pistol in the hand of one of them, Davis got jittery and imagined that he will be harmed bodily and hence spontaneously pulled out his gun and started shooting at them even when they had moved ahead of him once the traffic light became green. He fired at Faheem from a distance of 4-6 feet and at Faizan from 16 feet distance. Out of nine bullets he fired, four pierced through the back of Faizan while Faheem received two bullets in the back and one in front. Shumaila had got married to Faheem only six months ago. His brutal killing engulfed her in total despair and anguish. For her the life became meaningless. Whatever little strength she had in her got drained away after hearing frivolous stories about her husband that he was a dacoit and was attempting to waylay Davis. Such loose talk together with government’s indifference and possibly her in-laws rudeness blaming her that she brought bad luck seared her soul and she decided to end her life by taking poison. Shumaila’s last words before she breathed her last were that all she wanted was justice for the wanton killing of her husband. Under Pakistan law Davis will be tried for possessing illegal arm and ammunition thus violating Arms Ordnance of 1965; for taking law into own hand to kill; which is punishable under section 7 of anti-terrorism act 1997. Intentional murder is punishable under Section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Killing a person by rash and negligent driving is punishable under section 279 and 320 of PPC, while harboring a criminal falls under Section 216 of PPC. The mood of the US officials has become somber and they are getting impatient and irksome. Each day spent by Davis in the lockup is hurting their ego and the pain of egoism is becoming unbearable. The US has its own compulsions and can ill-afford to leave it’s under cover employee Davis in a lurch since it will have a negative impact on its worldwide intelligence network. Davis-like trigger-happy Rambo’s are found snooping in every nook and corner of the world. Davis conviction by Pakistani court would demoralize them and make them over cautious. American leaders completely forget how the suspects in thousands were picked up on mere suspicion and pushed into Bagram Airbase, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib jails, tortured for years without trials and then released in half-mad conditions after failing to establish that they were terrorists. Afghan’s Ambassador in Islamabad Mullah Zaeef who enjoyed diplomatic immunity was among them who was severely mal treated. Dr Aafia after keeping her secretly detained in Afghan Prison for five years without any legal access, torturing and sexually abusing her, she was shifted to USA where the US court awarded her 86 years imprisonment. In case of double murderer Davis, within 48 hours the US patience began to wear thin. Veiled threats are being hurled that in case Davis is not released speedily it will mar Pak-US relations. Their patience is always at the breaking point when they have to get their demands fulfilled and are always in threatening mood. They started it with ‘you are with us or against us’ in September 2001 and ever since they have been resorting to this tactics of browbeating whenever they found our leaders hesitant to obey their dictates. Ever-smiling and effervescent Hillary Clinton known to be chummy with Shah Qureshi has become stone-cold. In protest, she cancelled her meeting with him in Munich. Sycophant Haqqani is being badgered to prove his claim that he is America’s trusted man. He has been sent to Islamabad and told not to come back without Davis. Reference to a secret deal inked during Gen Musharraf’s tenure in 2006 has no legal validity. Pak-Afghan-US Summit in last week of this month is in doldrums and so is the aid flow. With every passing day trust deficit that had begun to narrow down is again widening and America’s patience is fast running out. It doesn’t behave a super power to take the matter of Davis to its heart and make it a prestige point particularly when it knows that the accused is an imposter, who entered Pakistan under a fake name, carries forged passport and visa and has murdered two innocent Pakistanis in broad daylight. The US is brazenly bullying Pakistan to set aside its laws and release Davis. If his name, identity, place of posting in Pakistan and his diplomatic status has not been established, and he has confessed his crime, why is USA fretting and is in such a rush to get the double murderer freed and taken home? Instead of the US getting defensive, our leaders are feeling sheepish and apologetic for not being able to set Davis free so far. Unpopular ruling regime must think twice before taking an unpopular decision lest it cooks its own goose. Vienna Convention doesn’t provide a carte blanche to a killer under any circumstances. Likewise, diplomatic immunity doesn’t mean license to kill. If he is quietly handed over to USA, it will further fan terrorism and fuel extremism and hasten the collapse of tottering regime.