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Raymond Davis recalls courtroom drama that led to his acquittal

Updated June 30, 2017
RAYMOND Allen Davis says then US ambassador Cameron Munter was in the plane that flew him to Kabul.
RAYMOND Allen Davis says then US ambassador Cameron Munter was in the plane that flew him to Kabul.

WASHINGTON: “First pointed at the grille of my car, then at the hood, before inching its way upward until it was level with, and pointed directly at, me,” writes Raymond Davis in his book The Contractor, which arrived at some bookstores in the US on Thursday.

Raymond Allen Davis was contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) when he shot two men in Lahore on Jan 27, 2011. A car coming to rescue Davis killed a third man, Ibadur Rahman, in a hit-and-run while speeding on the wrong side of the road.

On March 16, 2011, Davis was released after the families of the two killed men were paid $2.4 million as blood money. Judges then acquitted him on all charges and Davis immediately returned to the United States.

In his memoir, titled The Cont­ractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis, Davis talks in detail about his experience in Pakistan.

In a tell-all memoir, the CIA contractor recollects details of the Lahore shooting, his arrest and release

Focusing on the incident that put him in the centre of the diplomatic row between the United States and Pakistan, Davis writes: “As soon as I saw the gun’s muzzle moving in my direction, I unclicked my seatbelt and started to draw the gun.”

He says that the two men on the motorcycle who pulled in front of him at Lahore’s Muzang Chowk could not have known how fast he was at drawing his weapon.

“My fastest time — including lifting my shirt, drawing my gun, aiming it and firing — was .95 of a second, while my average was 1.1 second. That’s about as long as it takes a hummingbird to flap its wings fifty time or a plane to travel 800 feet.”

Davis used a brand new Glock17 gun, issued to him on his arrival in Lahore. Other things — camera, phone and Motorola two-way radio — he received from the CIA contractor he replaced.

“I had left the house that morning with 17 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, and while defending myself at Muzang Chowk, I squeezed off 10 as I aimed for the two men on the motorcycle.

“And in a matter of two or three seconds, the entire engagement, from the moment I saw the threat to the moment it had been eliminated, was over.”

Claiming that he had never killed a man before, Davis writes: “Thankfully, all 10 rounds I fired found their intended targets.”

He also refers to the autopsy report, showing that he hit one victim, Muhammad Faheem, once in the left thigh, once in the right thigh, twice in the chest and once in the back of the head. He died instantly.

The other victim, Faizan Haider, took five rounds in the back. He tried to run away but collapsed and died in the median about 30 feet away from Davis’ car.

In the last chapter, Davis claims that “ISI … orchestrated my exit. Several guards led me out of the courtroom through a back entrance. … One of the men opened the door, stepped out into a courtyard, and scanned the horizon … once he’d cleared the area, I was waved through door and directed to the SUV idling in the courtyard.”

In the SUV, he met Dale Rush, a doctor from the US Embassy, and a Pakistani man who introduced himself as a colonel. The driver was also from the US Embassy.

The SUV drove him to an airport where a dual-engine Cessna was waiting for him at the runway, with its engine running, and all set to take off.

Davis says that (then) US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, also was in the plane that flew him to Kabul because “with the ambassador onboard the plane, the Pakistanis would not dare mess around with by denying it clearance to take off”.

Davis claims that the US administration wanted to bring him out of Pakistan because it had plans to take out Osama bin Laden and knew that it would be impossible to get him out once that operation was carried out.

“The reason for the US government to get me out sooner rather than later was growing increasingly urgent, and the reason was even more secretive than the efforts to get him out,” he writes.

“In June 2010, after nearly a decade of searching for bin Laden without success, the CIA picked up some valuable intel about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who was believed to be bin Laden’s personal courier,” he writes. “It was the agency’s most promising lead in the hunt for bin Laden since 2001.”

That’s why, he adds, “those…responsible for my welfare needed to get me out of the country first, and they needed to do it fast before bin Laden could slip away once again.”

Panetta-Pasha role

Davis also highlights the role that former CIA director Leon Panetta and ISI’s former director general Ahmed Shuja Pasha allegedly played in securing his release. He also briefly mentions former Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani.

“No two characters in this unfolding drama worked farther below the waterline than … Panetta and … Pasha,” he writes.

Davis introduces Mr Panetta as a longtime Washington insider but claims that President Obama’s decision to appoint him head of the CIA in January 2009 was “a bit of a surprise” as he had “very little experience in the military and intelligence communities.

Gen Pasha, however, was “nearly his opposite”. Gen Pasha “began serving in the Pakistan Army in 1974 and climbed all the way up the military’s ladder”.

Davis writes that relations between the CIA and ISI were already tense and “my situation escalated it to an even higher level”.

Davis later found that shortly before former Secretary of State John Kerry’s Feb 15, 2011 visit to Pakistan, Gen Pasha had flown to Washington and asked Mr Panetta “point-blank if I worked [for] the CIA. Panetta responded that I didn’t and that the State Department, not the CIA, was handling the matter.”

“Gen Pasha was angered by Panetta’s response and grew even more so when Ambassador Munter, after clearing it with officials from the White House and State Department, explained to him the exact nature of my job.”

“Pasha understood how important it was — for both sides — to get me out of Pakistan as soon as possible, but like his country’s president and prime minister, he was happy to let me remain in jail until an acceptable solution to this increasingly vexing problem could be found.”

Working on the problem from the opposite side of the table, Mr Panetta “sat down with Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, on Feb 21, 2011, and asked for his assistance in getting me out of jail. Haqqani was largely viewed as being pro-American, but in this instance he was not so accommodating”.

Secret meeting in Oman

Davis writes that two days after this meeting, the top military brass for both countries met at a luxury beach resort in Oman. The top-secret meeting had been scheduled months before Davis’ arrest to discuss the war in Afghanistan. But his arrest consumed a large partition of it. “Both sides left saying all the right things.”

Davis claims that his book had been approved by the CIA after major redaction, which delayed it by more than a year. Yet, the CIA allowed him to keep the passage where he talks about Gen Pasha sitting in a courtroom in Lahore and texting the proceedings to Mr Panetta.

On March 16, 2011, which was his 49th day in incarceration, Davis appeared before a makeshift courtroom inside Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, not knowing that this would be his last appearance.

He describes the scene in some details:

“I imagine that at least one of his (Gen Pasha’s) texts described the entrance of a man in a suit, whom I recognised but whose name I could not recall,” he writes.

“As soon as this man entered the courtroom, the room went silent. No one spoke a word. If a cell phone rang, the person to whom it belonged got up and walked outside to answer it. The only thing you could hear was the ceiling fan.”

Davis asked a US embassy official who this man was who identified him as an ISI colonel and said: “He’s a fixer”

“What’s that mean,” Davis asked.

“Let me put it this way. It’s either really good that he’s here or really bad,” the embassy official said. “Well,” I said, grinning at the official, “let’s hope for option number one.”

It was during this session that the court decided to apply the Sharia law, instead of the penal code.

“What’s going on here Carmela,” Davis asked another embassy official.

“They’ve switched to Sharia law, Ray,” she replied.

“I can’t believe they can get away with this. I’m toast, right? They’re going to drag me into this prison’s courtyard and stone me to death,” Davis said.

“No, Ray. That’s qisas. Sharia law also allows for diyat, which the families of the victims have agreed to accept,” Carmela said.

“I could hear words coming out of her, but they made no sense to me, Qisas? Diyat? Huh?” he writes.

“Qisas basically means ‘en ye for an eye,” Carmela explained and Davis gulped as he assumed this would be his fate.

“Carmela must have seen that fear in my eyes because she hurriedly continued: ‘There’s also diyat, known as blood money. In this case, compensation gets paid to the victim or the victim’s heirs, and the accused goes free.”

Davis writes this plan had been made several weeks before his final appearance in the court, originated perhaps in a meeting between Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Haqqani four weeks earlier.

Davis also refers to another report, which says that this plan was devised during a meeting between Gen Pasha and Ambassador Munter.

“The Pakistani military was also rumoured to have had a hand in it. So, too, President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif.”

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2017