Monday, February 28, 2011
The Pakistani government apparently considers US contractor Raymond Davis a hostage who can be horsetraded.
Davis, you'll recall, is an American contractor for the CIA covered by a diplomatic passport who was arrested by Pakistani authorities after he gunned down two armed agents with Pakistan's notorious ISI intelligence service who were were tailing Davis as a spy.
The ISI is noted for aiding and abetting Islamist terrorists. My own reading of this is that Davis, who has a Special Forces background, was in fact likely doing something covert that needed doing, something the ISI didn't want done. He was apparently doing too good a job, and when the ISI sent out two hired guns to make him conveniently disappear they both wound up on the receiving end instead.
The proposed swap by the Pakistani government was Davis for Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-educated Pakistani neuroscientist currently serving 86 years in federal prison for attempted murder.
Siddiqui was convicted of trying to shoot F.B.I. agents and military officers in an Afghanistan police station back in 2008. She'd previously been arrested after being found with a list of New York city landmarks and instructions on how to construct explosives.
Siddiqui was on the US radar for quite some time.In 2004, F.B.I. director Robert Mueller described Siddiqui as an "al Qaeda operative and facilitator" and had issued a global alert for Siddiqui and her first husband for their suspected ties to al Qaeda. Siddiqui later remarried to an al Qaeda operative named Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of the 9/11 kingpin Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. Al-Baluchi is currently a guest of our tropical resort for Islamist terrorists, Club Gitmo.
Thankfully,the US Government let the Pakistanis know that the deal was a non-starter.
Davis for his part is covered by diplomatic immunity and he has so far refused to sign a charge sheet or make a legal plea in the matter.
The case has created a huge furor in Pakistan, especially after the wife of one of the deceased ISI agents committed a nasty, dramatic and very public suicide by taking poison on Pakistani television after voicing an anti-American rant in front of the cameras.
This is essentially an old -style Mexican Standoff. Pakistan is a basket case of a country who desperately needs the baksheesh we give them and can't really afford to anger the US. On the other hand, over 75% of the supplies for the AfPak War come through the Pakistani port of Karachi and into Afghanistan via highway through the Torkhum Pass, a lifeline the Pakistanis have already closed a few times when they've been upset with us.
The most likely outcome will be the one suggested by anonymous Pakistani officials in the linked ABC story. They'll wait for the public frenzy to die down and then lean on the families of the two dead ISI gunsels to accept blood money from the US in exchange for 'pardoning' Davis, something that's allowed under what passes for Pakistani law.
Meanwhile, it's highly significant that Pakistan, our supposed ally would propose a swap involving an al-Qaeda agent. I at least them credit for being honest about where their sympathies lie.