On February 23, at a beach resort, Gen Ashfaq Kiyani, Pakistan army’s chief assisted by a two star officer met with Admiral Mike Mullen, US Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, assisted by Gen. David Petraeus, and three other high ranking officials, to find a military-diplomatic solution to untangle this web that CIA operatives had spun around both governments. This has been a fairly consistent tradition. On every occasion when relations between Pakistan and the United States have soured (a not infrequent occurrence) the militaries have remained in contact and, invariably, have found a way forward.
The day after this meeting, a military officer posted at the US Embassy in Islamabad travelled to Lahore and met Davis in Kot Lakpat jail. Within 48 hours of this meeting, almost 50 individuals associated with the Tehreek-eTaliban Pakistan (TTP), including Pashtuns, Punjabis, and some foreigners (nationalities unknown, though one of them is said to be an Aryan) who had been in contact with Davis were arrested. Presumably, Davis ‘sang’, though probably to only a limited degree, on instructions.
Within the same period, a large number of Americans, estimated at between 30 to 45, who had been residing in rented accommodations (like Davis and his associates who had killed a motorcyclist while unsuccessfully attempting to rescue Davis) outside the Embassy/Consulate premises in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, and Quetta left for the US. It is safe to conclude that these were either CIA, Black ops, or associated personnel from security agencies like Xe.
The intelligence business is broadly divided into two categories: human intelligence, known as HUMINT and electronic intelligence, known as ELINT. The latter has numerous subdivisions: SIGINT (Signals intelligence, also known as COMINT; communication intelligence), Imagery intelligence etc. It appears, therefore, that the deal struck between the military leadership included a shut down of CIA’s HUMINT operations in Pakistan, retaining only ELINT, Davis would ‘sing’, within limits, of course, and only then could Blood Money be negotiated for his release. And the US would be bled in that final deal also so as to ensure the safety and the future of the immediate families of both Davis’s victims.
At the height of the debate on the question of Raymond Davis’ immunity from trial for murder, this writer emphasized that Pakistan could not release him without a trial. A trial took duly place and, in accordance with prevalent law in Pakistan, the next of kin of the deceased young men, pardoned Davis in return for ‘Blood Money’. However outlandish this law might seem to those peoples whose countries have their based on Anglo-Saxon principles, such is the law in Pakistan and so there was nothing underhand in what transpired.
Amongst analysts and journalists there were basically two opposing responses to his release, though there was (and is) an occasional sane voice to be heard, throughout the saga. One category of people had been arguing since Davis’ arrest that he should be granted immunity since Pakistan, given its precarious economy, weak government, and the prevalent security situation, could not afford to fall afoul of the US. For this factionhis release through the judicial system was the next best outcome of the disastrous mistake that had been committed in arresting him!
The opposing view was that it is time and more, that Pakistan asserts its sovereignty and national pride to ensure that Davis is awarded no less than his due: the death penalty. It is ironic that the bulk of those who held this view are all supporters of the imposition of Islamic laws including those on blasphemy, Blood Money (the law that ensured Davis’ pardon), and a host of other issues and, even after Davis’ release under these laws, any attempt to get rid of such laws would be opposed by them, tooth and nail.
While the accusations leveled by the prosecution that the families of Faizan and Faheem, the two men killed by Davis, were coerced into accepting the deal offered to them in exchange for their pardoning Davis, is a pack of nonsense, since the entire family was under the active protection of the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, there is absolutely no doubt that the ISI (and, therefore, GHQ) assisted in brokering the deal. In fact, I would be very surprised if both families had not been continuously advised by fairly senior-level representatives of the ISI as to what and how much they should ask for.
Accusations leveled against the provincial government for being complicit in brokering this deal are, in my view, unfair, since both, the central and provincial governments were helpless bystanders. Both governments might, however, have heaved a sigh of relief, at the final outcome, since the official stand that both governments took was that the case was to be decided by the courts and, to that extent, they stand vindicated. It was the court that released Davis.
What is more, if the dirt poor next of kin to both deceased decide to take a pragmatic view and accept, what would be for them, a fortune, in exchange for two loved ones; but dead loved ones, who is anybody to tell them nay? While details of the settlement vary in estimate, I am reliably informed that about $ 1.5 million per family has been paid, with US citizenship (the Promised Land; however unpromising it might be in real life!) for a dozen or more members of each family, with job guarantees for those of age and education opportunities guaranteed for children — more than they could ever dream of and sufficiently tempting for them to pardon the killer.
But how did all this happen so suddenly? After all, it seemed that not only had the CIA and ISI fallen out, but US-Pak relations were endangered by the arrest of such a low ranking individual. Even Obama had to lie about his diplomatic status, seeking immunity from trial for Davis!
Let me state quite categorically that no one outside those who negotiated this deal are privy to what actually transpired and they aren’t talking. What is more, neither side (American or Pakistani) would know the discussions that took place within each side. Having said that; there are some things that some of us do know.
It is my considered opinion that, after Musharaf opened all doors permitting CIA and its contract agents unlimited access to Pakistan, Pakistan’s GHQ/ISI could not have struck a better deal! This was a priceless opportunity to get rid of the CIA; it was also a success that could hardly have pleased Langley, on which subject, more below.
With Davis milked, even if not for everything he knew, all that Pakistan could gain from letting the trial run its course would be to humiliate the US further. On the other hand, though the ISI would have compensated the families of its operatives killed by Davis; it could not have dreamt of providing them with a tithe of what they have received. To add icing to that cake, CIA HUMINT operatives have, more or less left (it is a virtual certainty that there are plenty left, but they are confined to the Embassy/Consulate compounds); and to put cream on the icing, all aid is resumed, withheld payments are being made and mutual relations are close to normal.
There was however one strong jolt to the spirit of renewed amity, administered by the CIA.
When the US began drone strikes in Pakistan in 2006, drone attacks were notoriously inaccurate. Their kill ratio was approximately 2 militants to 8-10 ‘collateral damage’. This was in the Musharaf era. In 2007, after Kiyani took over as the army chief, a US drone was threatened and it pulled back, another was fired upon. Pakistan’s central government, however, reined Kiyani in and the drone attacks recommenced. However, from about March/April 2008, they became increasingly accurate, probably due to more accurate HUMINT. In recent times, the kill ratio swung dramatically; 8-10 militants to 2 in collateral damage.
While public protests against drone strikes continued, privately there was considerable support for them. In fact, it would surprise readers in the US to know that, off the record, even tribesmen were also reconciled, so long as the strikes had this degree of precise success.
Following Davis’ arrest, there was a lull in drone strikes before they resumed, with the same deadly accuracy.
Three days prior to his court appearance on March 16, the strikes again stopped and on March 17, the day after Davis was whisked away, another drone attack occurred in North Waziristan, but this time it did not target a single militant. It killed 41 people, including women and children; all ‘collateral damage’. The drone was initially chasing a vehicle crossing the Durand Line to approach a village, where a local Jirga (council of elders) was gathered to settle some disputes. Having hit it, the drone deliberately turned its missiles towards the gathering in the village and let loose a barrage. Eyewitnesses cannot agree whether these were four or six, but not less than four missiles; sufficient to cause the carnage. Nor was there any evidence found to support the possibility that the four passengers in the vehicle the drone was chasing were militants. Locals are usually well-informed on such matters.
About a month ago, some helicopter-borne snipers killed nine children in Afghanistan who were out gathering firewood. An ex-marine turned journalist accused the snipers of deliberate murder. He argued that, with the technology available, it was impossible not to be able to differentiate between children aged nine to thirteen, carrying sticks, and armed militants.
It is my judgment that the drone attack on March 17 was deliberate, not only because of the technology available, but also because the CIA was furious over the deal negotiated between the two militaries to oust them from Pakistan. Given their record of pretty consistent accuracy for over two years, during which, never more than a total of twenty people have been killed, the majority being militants, and the manner of the attack, no other credible conclusion comes to mind.
My contention is lent credence by Pakistan’s reaction. Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington DC, Husain Haqqani, delivered the most strongly worded protest that he could muster. The US Ambassador in Islamabad was summoned to the Foreign Office and was told in no uncertain terms that Pakistan will ‘have to reconsider its relations with the US’. So forcefully was he told that, while leaving the FO, he was overheard cursing! But most of all, for the first time since he took office, three and a half years ago, Gen Kiyani personally condemned this attack and, since March 17 , the Pakistan air force is on alert and again patrolling the Durand Line.
This drone attack killed forty one; though unlikely, it might also cause some temporary problems between the Pakistan army and the Wazir tribe. However, if this is deliberate provocation, what the CIA does not appreciate is that it has cut off its own nose (or, to be more accurate, the nose of US forces in Afghanistan) to spite itself. Members from forty one families will swell the numbers of the Wazirs engaged in fighting US forces in Afghanistan; and, in this part of the world, the term ‘family’ is a very extended one and their memories are very long.