An edited version of this piece first appeared on the Dawn Blog
While flipping through the channels the other night , I stopped at an image of a woman lying on a hospital bed, tubes stuck to her nose as she tried hard to stay conscious and speak into the camera. At first I had thought she was yet another rape victim, owing to the increased incidence of rape these days. But it did not take long to figure out that she was in fact, the widow of Faheem Ahmed, one of the two men shot dead in Lahore by Raymond Davis. Worth remembering the adage in this instance: adding fuel to the fire.
Davis, an employee (contractor) of the US government, is still under detention. The US claims that Davis’s detention is illegal according to the Vienna Convention and that he should be freed immediately. Such claims have caused much uproar in Pakistan.
In the past week following the killings, countless scenarios have been speculated from copies of Davis’s passport to cries of comparison between Aafia and Davis – much has been discussed and analysed, but of course without reaching a substantial conclusion.
While public support and mobilisation can strengthen a struggle, politicising an issue can lead to complexities rather than a concrete solution. This seems to be a common problem with us. The incident in Lahore is still being investigated while US pressure builds up. The Lahore High Court (LHC) passed clear statements that Davis will not be handed over to the US, and that a full investigation as per Pakistani laws will be carried out. Well done, I say. No one should have the right to surpass the courts’ decision. No one should be allowed to take law into their hands.
But despite reassurance from the LHC, Shumaila Kanwal committed suicide and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Faisalabad. In her last interview, Kanwal spoke of her doubts in the judicial system and the fear that her husband’s killer may never be punished. She succumbed to her doubts and ended up taking her own life. As I write this, threads have already been started on public forums, comparing her to the Tunisian fruit seller whose self-immolation sparked a revolution.
While her death should and will trigger a response from the public, it should be a response that is devoid of political agendas and hate-mongering. It should be a call for the rule of law to be upheld and justice to be served. After all, it is the hate-mongering, the conspiracy theories, the knee-jerk anti Americanism that made Kanwal believe that justice would never be served in her case.
Kanwal was not looking for justice from the US instead she was expecting her own government and the judicial system to rise to the occasion, to which they did. Regardless, her hopes were shattered by constant reminders that ‘the country has been sold to America’ and that the ‘Government is planning a safe passage for their ally’. References that Davis might be a part of a mercenary force, Blackwater or XE Services only fed her doubt.
On the part of the US, it would be exemplary if they let the Pakistani courts decide whether Davis is guilty or not. In case his guilt is proven in the courts, it would be most apt for the US to lift diplomatic immunity on ethical and moral grounds. Not only will this go well with the US-Pak relations but will be an opportunity for the US to show that they respect the law of the land.
However, these references will be repeated again, now much louder than before. Rallies will be arranged, flags and effigies will be burnt for the umpteenth time. It is evident, for those convinced that the country is being run by foreign powers, that this case is a prime example.
Incidents such as these make a very clear statement; there is a lot of bottled-up anger, concerns and insecurity amongst the masses – concerns which are cashed by religious and political parties to garner support. But what about justice? What about the real issue amid all the political rhetoric and anti-American sentiments?
If we allow ourselves to look past the fury, we may be able to make demands that will resolve issues rather than create complexities. By not allowing this case to be politicized for personal agendas, we can push for a campaign that focuses more on getting justice- minus rhetorics. Rather than fuming at American policies let’s focus on demanding our Government to uphold the rule of law.
Somewhere in Lahore another widow is slowly losing hope for justice. Her name is Aamna Taseer. Her case too, has fallen prey to political maneuvering. Shifting focus from the crime to political hogwash and growing extremism.
The sole reason for the comparison is to reflect how politicising certain incidents not only changes our perspective but also diverts attention from the core issue – the crime itself. In recent days, I have been asked whether I would speak up against the killings in Lahore just as vocally as I did against Salman Taseer’s assassination.
My answer is a resounding yes. May it be Qadri or Davis, justice should be served. The state and its institution should refuse to bend laws in the face of international or political pressure. This is the ultimate test.
Our job then is to ensure that the state and the judiciary refuse to kowtow to any (international or religious) pressure and pass a judgment upholding the rule of law. For I believe that no one should be allowed to take law into their hands, and I know that you do too.