It was in 2011 that an American official killed two Pakistani’s in the name of self-defense. Raymond Davis was sent to jail and charged with murder. However, in some twisted turn of events, the US government claimed diplomatic immunity for him. He was able to pay his way out of the debacle through the concept of blood money and exit “gracefully” back to the US.  Seven years later, another American diplomat stands in Davis’s shoes. Col Joseph Emanuel Hall, US Defence Air Attache, rammed his vehicle into a motorcycle near Islamabad’s Daman-e-Koh area yesterday. The following disturbing video is making rounds on social media, which clearly shows the diplomat broke a red signal before crashing into a motorcycle carrying two people who were identified later as Ateeq and Raheel.

According to news reports, Ateeq died on the spot while Raheel suffered serious injuries and has been shifted to a nearby hospital. An FIR was registered by the victim’s father under Section 320, 337, 279 and 427 at Kohsar police station. It is also being reported that the diplomat was under the influence of alcohol, which makes this a case of sheer criminal negligence.

Image Source: Pakistan Today

As expected, the US diplomat was able to escape the police under the garb of diplomatic immunity. His vehicle, however, was impounded at Kohsar Police Station. Col Joseph reportedly misbehaved with police personnel before leaving the station in another vehicle.

While further developments are underway, there are several things the average Pakistani must be aware of.

Under the limitations of diplomatic immunity as laid out in the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations 1961, Joseph may not be tried in a local court under local laws. Article 31 clearly states the following:

A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.

This is the same law that protected Raymond Davis from being brought to justice in Pakistan. However, this immunity comes with its fair share of power imbalance. Does potentially driving under the influence of alcohol and killing people make one exempt from the law, just because they are white skinned? This is a question as vexing today as it was at the time of Davis. Yet, lawmakers seldom question the gaping loopholes and the possibilities of injustice towards our local people through this law of diplomatic immunity.

Raymond Davis
Image Source: Dawn News

Moreover, the extent of this diplomatic immunity invokes questions of statehood generally.

A strong state, today, rests heavily on the notion of protecting citizens within, no matter what. An American citizen, for instance, will take precedence over a Pakistani citizen any day in the eyes of the US system. This system that seemingly priveledges people based on their passport color, is not only apologetic of criminals but gives free reign to foreign officials to wreak havoc in our country. That too without accountability because there is no way the geopolitical climate will allow people to rally for two middle-class brown-skinned men over a white-skinned ‘American diplomat’. Rally with hopes of justice, that is.

Chances are Col Joseph will quickly be removed to safety before the public begins to even demand justice for Ateeq and Raheel. The power imbalance between the US and Pakistan will become glaringly obvious once again. Yet again, the systemic discrimination perpetuated and naturalized in the neo-colonial order will take force. However, while the public may not be able to do something to radically change the laws of diplomatic immunity, we can ensure that this incident is heard loud and clear. Let’s make enough noise, which at least forces the world to think about the twisted limitations of diplomatic immunity. While we are at it, let’s also question the restraints of elitism that disallow justice to prevail. So that no Davis, Joseph, or even a local, entitled elitist can claim the lives our innocent people ever again.




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