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 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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Mertze Dahlin   

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March 19, 2011

Has US accepted the Sharia principle by securing
Raymond Davis’ freedom under a controversial Diyat law?

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Not unexpectedly, a Pakistani court last Wednesday (March 16) released the CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the killer of two ISI agents in Lahore on January 27. The US secured his release under a controversial Diyat law under which 18 relatives of the two victims, Faizan and Faheem were paid $2.352 million as blood money. The release of Raymond Davis, through a hush hush, court proceeding left many questions unanswered that will haunt Pakistan as well as the US for a long time.

First of all, how a pro-US judgment was maneuvered. The trial was held behind closed door in secrecy and the court order releasing Raymond Davis was announced only after he had left Pakistan in a special aircraft that was waiting for him at Lahore airport.

According to media reports, some intelligence operatives shifted heirs of the victims of Davis shooting to some unknown location three days before the trial. They are missing since then. Interestingly, the court did not hear arguments of lawyers from any side and quickly framed charges against Davis and passed the release order.

Advocate Asad Manzoor Butt, who was supposed to represent the victim parties, was not allowed to appear before the court. Butt says he was kept in detention for four hours in a separate room by the jail authorities on the pretext that the court will call him in. After four hour when he was set free, the proceedings were over, he told The Nation expressing strong apprehensions that the legal heirs have been coerced into accepting Diyat as till last nothing in this regard was told to him by any member of the victim families.

According to the News, the Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, through the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif played a key role in ‘convincing’ the families of Faizan and Faheem that Raymond Davis would be released in any case and they would get nothing, so the best course was to accept money and forgive the American killer.

Blood Money

The US says that the blood money was not paid by Washington. It is reported by Pakistan’s leading newspaper, The News, the blood money was actually paid out by the Pakistan government on the understanding that the US would ‘reimburse the amount later at an opportune moment.’

However, the fact remains that the CIA contractor was released under the controversial Diyat law that was introduced in 1990 by ‘enlightened’ Benazir Bhutto to please the religious lobby.

The Nation reported that Washington agreed to pursue Raymond case before the Pakistani court after Islamabad had suggested that the payment of ‘blood money’ to the families of the victims was the only and best solution under present circumstances.

Ironically the Diyat principle was rejected by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in 1979 when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was tried and sentenced to death in a murder case. Bhutto was executed in April 1979.

Diyat is a controversial law as opponents have argued that under the law a rich person can easily get away with cold blooded murder as happens in the case of Raymond Davis. Besides Pakistan, this law is enforced in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Somalia, according to Wikipedia.

Judiciary tainted

Raymond Davis verdict has once again tainted the corrupt judiciary of Pakistan that was gaining some respect under Chief Justice Iktikhar Ahmed Chaudhry who was sacked by President General Musharraf when he refused to endorse General’s re-election in military uniform. Chief Justice Chaudhry was reinstated in March 2009 after a mass campaign.

The release judgment by Additional Session Judge, Mohammad Yusuf Ojla, who was sent on leave to save him from public wrath, also reaffirmed perception that the US client government of President Asif Ali Zardari is toothless and Pakistan’s army remains the main arbiter.

According to the Nation, Davis was released after Pakistan’s ISI and American CIA reached an agreement to clear the dust in an attempt to safeguard strategic partnership between the war-time allies.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner, while welcoming the judgment said the United States was “deeply appreciative of the victim families’ generosity in pardoning” Davis. “We respect Pakistan for resolving the case within its own legal system,” Toner said.

Has US accepted the Sharia principle by securing Raymond Davis’ freedom under a controversial Diyat law? By accepting the controversial Diyat law the US has lost its moral authority to criticize harsh laws introduced in Pakistan and elsewhere under the rubric of Shariah laws by such dictators as General Ziaul Haq of Pakistan and General Nimery of the Sudan to exploit the religion for political purposes. If Diyat law is acceptable then why not the blasphemy law of Pakistan?

Anti-Muslim laws

Tellingly, Washington’s acceptance of the Diyat law came at a time when anti-Shariah legislations are being introduced in a dozen US states to defame and demonize Islam and Muslims.

Last November, Oklahoma voters by a 70-30 percent margin passed a ballot question that barred “state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.” The new law — which was widely considered as unfairly targeting the Muslim community and blaming it for the non-existent threat of Sharia law in the United states — was blocked by an injunction issued just a few weeks later by federal judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange. The judge argued that the Sharia ban was unconstitutional because it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment and unfairly singled out Muslims.

Yet despite the injunction of the Oklahoma law, legislators in at least 13 states across the country have introduced or passed similar bills designed to protect us from the non-existent threat of Sharia law being imposed on the United States. According to Think progress, all these bills have one common thread: they originate with white supremacist David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based lawyer and founder of SANE (Society for Americans fro National Excellence) who has previously called for a “war against Islam.”

Last month, legislators in Tennessee introduced a bill that would make "material support" for Islamic law punishable by 15 years in prison. If passed, critics say even seemingly benign activities like re-painting the exterior of a mosque or bringing food to a potluck could be classified as a felony. Yerushalmi’s draft legislation served as the foundation for the Tennessee bill like anti-Islam measures in other states.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of America.