TEHRAN, Apr. 18 (Press Shia) – Last week, a 22-year-old Pakistani man was killed by an American diplomat in Islamabad. It was a cold-blooded murder but since the victim was a Pakistani and the perpetrator was an American, it did not draw anger or outrage outside Pakistan.
International human rights watchdog bodies, which made Malala Yousufzai a global icon for being a victim of terrorism, did not deem this news important because the crime was committed by an American citizen. Apparently there are different yardsticks for different people.
The incident took place last week when the US military attaché Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall jumped a red light on a busy Islamabad street and rammed into a motorcycle, killing one and injuring other. Ateeq Baig died of head injury and his cousin Raheel Ahmad is presently battling for his life in hospital.
According to Pakistani media, the diplomat tried to run from the scene after the accident but the police intercepted him at a nearby checkpoint. He introduced himself as an American embassy official and refused to cooperate with the police. He asked the police to clear the way for him as he enjoyed ‘diplomatic immunity’, a euphemism for ‘license to kill’, and when the police refused, he quite brazenly put up resistance.
While the diplomat drove home following the intervention of senior US embassy officials, a case was filed against the diplomat on the complaint of the victim’s father, a cleric at a local school in Islamabad. The devastated father had to plead with the police officials to get the case filed, hoping against hope to get justice.
The incident was reported widely in Pakistani media, and next day irate protestors poured into the streets, demanding stringent action against the American diplomat. Protestors carried posters and placards, condemning America and American officials. The posters read ‘Diplomatic Immunity Means License to Kill’, ‘Will Justice Be Done’, ‘Why Killer Is Not Behind The Bars’, ‘Stop This American Terrorism’ etc.
Following the widespread protests, the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan summoned the US envoy to Islamabad David Hale to lodge a formal protest. In a statement released to media, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said the law will take its course in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 and added that the envoy expressed his “deep sympathy and sadness”.
However, in a shameless defense, the U.S. Embassy also issued a statement, reiterating that the culprit, like all diplomats, was “immune from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of Pakistan and cannot be arrested, detained or banned from leaving the country”.
Pertinently, it is not the first such incident in which an American official has been accused of murder in Pakistan. Every time, they have managed to escape the clutches of law because of the ‘diplomatic immunity’ and political influence in the power corridors of Islamabad. In 2011, a CIA contractor Raymond Davis had killed two young men. He was briefly detained and released following the intervention of higher authorities.
Diplomatic immunity essentially means ‘license to kill’ and American officials have used this ‘license’ with full liberty and in utter contempt of law in Pakistan, in other South Asian countries, in Middle East. Civil society in Pakistan has rightly demanded action against the diplomat because a strong message must go across that our lives matter as much as their lives. If a Pakistani official had killed an American citizen in New York City, it would have led to political and diplomatic crisis. But, since the victim is a Pakistani, his life has lesser value than an American citizen.
When you don’t value human values, the slogans of humanity, equality, justice are rendered meaningless. Because of their warped worldview, Americans see us as ‘others’ and they think ‘others’ can be killed, tortured, humiliated, exploited. That is primarily why they don’t think twice before ramming into motorcycles, launching unilateral military strikes, dropping deadly bombs, firing drones and leaving trails of death and destruction.
As Noam Chomsky argues in ‘Western State Terrorism’, there are many terrorist states in the world, but the U.S puts its rivals to shame when it comes to perpetuating ‘international terrorism’. And ‘international terrorism’ implies everything that the Americans do in our part of the world.
It is time we start valuing our lives too and seek action against those who have blood of our brothers and sisters on their hands. It’s time for us to wake up, stand up, and speak up. Our lives matter too.