Will Shakil Afridi follow Raymond Davis?

Raymond-Davis-Shakeel-AfridiRustam Shah Mohmand

Shakeel Afridi has only gone through a few months of incarceration. But “voices of dissent” have started creating ripples all over.

Such is the overwhelming fear and awe regarding American might and the United States’ intrusive capability that questions are being raised about the timing of the order of conviction and the type of signals that it will convey to the West.

As if the retreat on the supply routes issue was not enough, another red line will soon be obliterated. And we have seen how the unanimous verdict of parliament was ridiculed – the prime minister saying that “the dead soldiers of Salala would not be born again by the US tendering an apology.” And this statement came in the wake of repeated government pronouncements that a formal apology will have to be part of a deal to reopen the routes.

What is not deliberately being projected before the people is that Afridi, by agreeing to become a quisling and thereby engage in treason, brought humiliation to the country.

Those in authority, however, feel otherwise. The fact that the case has been tried under the FCR is very revealing. The occurrence took place in Abbottabad and Afridi is a Pakistani citizen. Why was he not booked under the normal laws of the country and tried in the courts of law? There was a strong case for him to be tried by the military courts. Any punishment handed down by such courts would have carried greater credibility.

A trial under FCR gives the government any degree of manoeuvrability it needs. An appeal would go to the commissioner and a further appeal or a review to a Fata tribunal. These institutions are easy to manipulate. Therefore, should the pressure become “unbearable,” as indeed it could, escape routes are open to an ever pliant dispensation.

It will not be surprising therefore to see Afridi and his family follow Raymond Davis to the United States. If that happens and the doctor is allowed to go, in the “supreme national interest,” no one should be surprised. Such things have been happening for six-and-a-half decades, so why should there be an exception now?

The troubling thought is that such “sellouts” have not paid and will not in the future. The rules of the game in the harsh international climate of inter-state relations are rooted in more fundamental considerations of enduring and lasting interests or gains. Further, it is obvious to many people, in the country and abroad, that Pakistanis do not wish to refer back to instances of “sacrifices” or “accommodations” in the formulation of policies. Policies are changed at the drop of a hat after midnight telephone calls.

Institutionalised policy formulation process has eluded Pakistan since the inception of the country. In such an environment of “personalised” decision-making, a nation renders itself wholly susceptible to pressure and intimidation. A plethora of pretexts are manufactured to justify an act of submission and the “grave risks” that would follow if an alternative course were adopted.

One preposterous argument advanced is: “Can we fight America?” But who is suggesting that course? A country that is facing pervasive lawlessness, insecurity and problems like poverty, illiteracy, graft, income inequalities, breakdown of systems, institutions can ill afford to choose a policy of confrontation, be it against the US or India.

But safeguarding national interest and national pride in the face of wholly ridiculous demands and not surrendering every step of the way is not confrontation. A nation of 180 million should not fall by the wayside at the slightest threat of retaliatory consequences.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: rustammohmand@hotmail.com

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