WASHINGTON: Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two men in Lahore in January 2011, claims that former ISI chief Shuja Pasha was “clearly committed” to ensuring that the deal for his release was successful.
In his book The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis, Davis recalls that Gen Pasha was also “responsible for replacing” the original prosecutor, Asad Manzoor Butt, who was working pro bono at the behest of Jamaat-i-Islami with Raja Irshad, “who was more beholden to ISI than any religious group”.
Davis explains that the plan to rescue him by paying blood money hinged on the acquiescence of the 18 family members of his victims and “ISI agents applied as much pressure as needed to get them to accept the diyat”.
With the support of the first prosecutor, several relatives resisted the plan. One of them was Waseem Shamshad, Muhammad Faheem Shamshad’s brother, who “did not come on-board for weeks”.
Another dissenter was Mashhod-ur-Rehman, a UK-educated lawyer, whose brother had been killed by the SUV that came to rescue Davis.
“To separate the family members from the radical Islamists whispering in their ears and the lawyer who endorsed a hard-line Islamic agenda, ISI operatives intervened on March 14, 2011, detaining and sequestering all 18 of them,” Davis writes in the book published this week.
“For the two days preceding the March 16 trial that would decide my fate, Butt (the first lawyer) was unable to reach any of them by phone, and their neighbours confirmed that they had disappeared.”
The other victim Faizan Haider’s cousin Aijaz Ahmad, who also opposed the deal, complained that “there’s a padlock on their door” and “their phones are all switched off”.
Davis claims that the night before the March 16 trial, ISI agents took the family members to Kot Lakhpat jail and encouraged them to accept the deal. They were told that if they forgave Davis, they would be given a large sum of money in return.
If they did not, “the consequences of that decision were made clear the following morning when they were reportedly held at gunpoint just outside the prison’s courtroom for several hours and warned not to say a word about it to the media,” Davis writes.
“When Butt (the lawyer) arrived at the prison that morning, he received similar treatment. … Butt was never able to see or talk to any of his (now former) clients.”
Davis says that “the shock of being denied access to the man who’d guided them through their country’s convoluted legal system for more than a month, and forced to agree to a deal that many of them did not want, was evident on their faces as they shuffled to the front of the courtroom on March 16”.
Carmela Conroy, then US consul general in Lahore, whose name has been mentioned in the book, observed that “the women were indeed the ones taking it the hardest. Some of them had tears in their eyes. Others were sobbing outright”. The new prosecutor, Raja Irshad, presented a signed document to the judge, showing that all 18 legal heirs of the two victims had agreed, at least on paper, to forgive Davis.
The judge asked the relatives to prove their identity and then gave them $130,000 each for a total of $2.34 million, “the largest amount of blood money ever awarded in Pakistan,” writes Davis.
After each relative had signed the papers, the judge asked if any of them had been coerced into doing it. All 18 relatives said no. The judge also reminded both the defence and the prosecution that they were entitled to object. Neither did.
Davis identifies himself as a military, not a CIA, contractor who had pledged to defend the United States and its Constitution. He says that before coming to Pakistan, he was part of a team that protected former Afghan president Hamid Karzai during his first election campaign.
At one place in his book Davis says that the two men he shot were robbers, had been arrested more than 50 times on various charges and were carrying stolen mobile phones and unlicensed guns when killed.
He says that on Jan 27, 2011, when he killed the two men, he was not on a particular mission. He drove out of his compound in Lahore’s Scotch Corner neighbourhood in a white sedan to survey the “route I would be taking someone on three days later”. His main job was to protect US visitors to the town and to provide protection to diplomats and US officials working at the Lahore consulate.
Davis also says that the visitor he was supposed to protect three days later was on an apparently secret mission, and even during interrogation he made sure that he did not disclose the visitor’s name or the purpose of his or her visit to Lahore.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017