Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pakistan: Can Raymond Davis case trigger Egypt-like situation in Pakistan?

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In response to readers' questions, I had earlier ruled out the possibility of an Egypt-like mass uprising in Pakistan despite the economic hardships being faced by the people. In support of my argument, I had, inter alia, referred to the disorganised state of the youth and trade union movements in Pakistan.

2. As I monitor the public anger building up in Pakistan over what growing sections of the people see as the bullying tactics adopted by the US Government to secure the release and departure to the US of Raymond Davis a member of the staff of either the US Consulate-General in Lahore or the US Embassy in Islamabad (one does not know which), who allegedly shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore on January 27,2011, I am no longer that certain that there cannot be an uprising in Pakistan.

3. Yes, I still feel there cannot be an uprising in Pakistan over domestic issues and the style of governance. But if the public anger over the Davis case continues to build up as a result of the surprising mishandling of the case by the US State Department, one may be faced with a mass uprising over the issue of the country's relations with the US.

4.The Egyptian people rose in revolt because they were fed up with the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and his corruption and insensitivity to the economic hardships of the people. The US failed to read the writing on the wall. In Pakistan, large sections of the population---including the youth--- are showing signs of getting fed up with the way they think the US has been treating their country as evidenced by its alleged bullying tactics to secure his release and departure.

5. Facts are no longer the issue disturbing the people----whether Davis is a diplomat or not; whether he enjoyed diplomatic immunity or not; whether he is a CIA employee or not. The real issue has become the way the US is seen to be treating Pakistan. Normally, one would have expected the State Department to engage in quiet discussions with the Governments in Islamabad and Lahore and persuade them to let him go in return for an apology by the US Government for his act in allegedly killing two Pakistanis and compensation for the families of the Pakistanis killed. Instead of doing so, the State Department continues to adopt tactics which are seen in Pakistan as nothing but bullying.

7. "No more bullying by the US"----that is the mounting cry in Pakistan. The Drone (pilotless planes) strikes in the tribal belt caused sporadic ant-US anger in the tribal belt, but it remained confined to the tribal areas. It did not spread to the rest of Pakistan. The anger over the Davis case has been in the whole of Pakistan. The elite as well as the common people, the religious as well as the liberal sections of the population are resentful of the manner in which they see the US as dictating terms to their Government.

8. There is an urgent need for the US to make changes in the way it has been handling the case. Otherwise, the public anger could lead to unpredictable consequences creating further instability in Pakistan and making it difficult for the Government to co-operate with the US on issues viewed as affecting Pakistan's sovereignty and self-respect.

9. Previously, critics of the Drone strikes used to accuse the US of not respecting Pakistan's sovereignty. Now critics of the US handling of the Davis case are accusing it of not caring for the dignity and self-respect of the Pakistani State and people. (15-2-11)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.