x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

US-Pakistan ties are larger than one man

Whether or not Raymond Davis remains in Pakistani custody, the ties between Pakistan and the United States are too important to be held captive by the growing dispute

The events that led to the shooting of two Pakistanis in Lahore last month by an American diplomat, Raymond Davis, remain murky. This much is clear: whether or not Mr Davis remains in Pakistani custody, the ties between Pakistan and the United States are too important to be held captive by the growing dispute over his status.

Mr Davis confessed to killing the men but said that he did so in self-defence. He claims that they drove alongside him on a motorcycle and demanded that he pull over, intending to rob him. So far, he has not been provided an attorney or an interpreter to argue his case, much less diplomatic immunity. The United States has suspended all high-level dialogue with Pakistan as a result. A meeting scheduled later this month between officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States is now in jeopardy.

Diplomatic immunity is an important pillar of foreign relations, but the more a country relies on it, the less sacrosanct it becomes. That Mr Davis was carrying a loaded weapon and that the US government has only described his work in Pakistan as "technical and administrative" also raise concerns.

There are hundreds if not thousands of Americans in Pakistan performing what could be considered "technical and administrative" work; some are employed by the US government, others by private security firms. Their prevalence continues to be a thorn in the side of the Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, who would be even more vulnerable to the charge that he has given Washington too free a hand if Mr Davis is allowed to return to the United States.

While the US ambassador to Pakistan met Mr Zardari yesterday to plead Mr Davis's case, a security checkpoint was bombed outside of Peshawar. The United States and Pakistan should not need to be reminded about the importance of the challenges that they share.

Pakistanis deserve a full account of these events and an explanation why Mr Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity, if indeed he does. Likewise, he deserves the chance to make his case. But bilateral relations need to move forward while this case is being worked out. Spring arrives soon; the Taliban won't wait for the US and Pakistan to make up.