Sunday, February 20, 2011

STRATFOR: The Threat of Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case

Via STRATFOR (Security Weekly) -

On Feb. 13, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement demanding that the government of Pakistan execute U.S. government contractor Raymond Davis or turn him over to the TTP for judgment. Davis, a contract security officer for the CIA, has been in Pakistani custody since a Jan. 27 incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt.

Pakistani officials have corroborated Davis’ version of events and, according to their preliminary report, Davis appears to have acted in self-defense. From a tactical perspective, the incident appears to have been (in tactical security parlance) a “good shoot,” but the matter has been taken out of the tactical realm and has become mired in transnational politics and Pakistani public sentiment. Whether the shooting was justified or not, Davis has now become a pawn in a larger game being played out between the United States and Pakistan.

When one considers the way similar periods of tension between the Pakistanis and Americans have unfolded in the past, it is not unreasonable to conclude that as this current period plays out, it could have larger consequences for Davis and for American diplomatic facilities and commercial interests in Pakistan. Unless the Pakistani government is willing and able to defuse the situation, the case could indeed provoke violent protests against the United States, and U.S. citizens and businesses in Pakistan should be prepared for this backlash.


As a contract employee assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Davis was likely not on the diplomatic list and probably did not enjoy full diplomatic immunity. He was probably considered a member of the administrative or technical staff. Protecting himself during a robbery attempt would not be considered part of his official function in the country, and therefore his actions that day would not be covered under functional immunity. So determining exactly what level of immunity Davis was provided will be critical in this case, and the information provided by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry will have a big impact on the Pakistani judge hearing the arguments.

In all likelihood, Davis was briefed regarding his legal status by his company and by the CIA prior to being assigned to post. He also would have been told that, while he had limited immunity, the U.S. government would do its best to take care of him if some incident occurred. However, it would have been made clear to him that in working as a protective contractor he was running a risk and that if there was an incident on or off duty, he could wind up in trouble. All security contractors working overseas know this and accept the risk as part of the job.


And this is the environment in which the Davis shooting occurred. Even though some Pakistani civilians apparently came forward and reported that they had been robbed at gunpoint by the men Davis shot, other Pakistani groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) — the successor to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was presumably banned by the Pakistani government — have demanded that Davis be hanged. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), an Islamist political party, has also demanded that Davis be hanged and has called for large protests if he is released without a court order. As noted above, TTP spokesman Azam Tarik made a statement demanding that the Pakistani government either hang Davis or hand him over to them. Interest in this issue is not just confined to Islamist groups. There are some right-wing conservative nationalists and even some secular liberals who are asking: “If the United States can give CIA shooter Mir Amal Kansi the death penalty, why can’t Pakistan do the same thing to Davis?”

The result is that the Davis case has aroused much controversy and passion in Pakistan. This not only complicates the position of the Pakistani government but also raises the distinct possibility that there will be civil unrest if Davis is released.


Due to the widespread discontent over the issue of U.S. security contractors in Pakistan, if protests do follow the release of Davis, they can be expected to be similar to the protests that followed the Mohammed cartoon case, i.e., they will cut across ethnic and sectarian lines and present a widespread threat.

Physical security measures such as concrete barriers, standoff distances and security cameras can add to a facility’s defenses against a terrorist attack, but they really do not pose much of an obstacle to an angry mob intent on overrunning a property — especially if local and indigenous security forces are unwilling or unable to intervene in a timely fashion and the mob has the time and latitude to assault the facility for a prolonged period. The protesters can scale barriers and their overwhelming numbers can render most security measures useless. Barriers such as hard-line doors can provide some delay, but they can be breached by assailants who possess tools and time.


Once a mob attacks, there often is little that can be done — especially if the host government either cannot or will not take action to protect the facility being attacked. At that point, the focus should be on preventing injuries and saving lives — without regard to the physical property. In most cases, when a mob attacks a multinational corporation, it is attacking a symbolic target. KFC restaurants, for example, have been frequent targets of attacks in Pakistan because of the company’s association with the United States. In many cases, multinational franchises such as KFC and even some hotels are owned by locals and not Americans, but that does not matter to the mobs, which see nothing but a U.S. symbol.

When an issue such as the Mohammed cartoons, the Bhutto assassination or the release of Raymond Davis spirals into violent protests, the only real precaution that many companies can take is to escape the area and avoid loss of life. The best defense is to use good intelligence in order to learn about the protests in advance, to track them when they occur and then to evacuate personnel before they can be affected by the violence.

U.S. diplomatic facilities and business interests in Pakistan are almost certainly reviewing their contingency plans right now and planning for the worst-case scenario. During such times, vigilance and preparation are vital, as is a constant flow of updated intelligence pertaining to potential demonstrations. Such intelligence can provide time for an evacuation or allow other proactive security measures to be taken. With the current tension between Pakistan and the United States, there might not be much help coming when the next wave of unrest erupts, so keeping ahead of potential protests is critically important.


Reuters - Pause in U.S. Pakistan Strikes Seen Linked to U.S. Prisoner
The United States has halted drone attacks on militants along Pakistan's western border in a development analysts believe is linked to U.S. attempts to secure the release of a jailed U.S. consular employee.

After months of frequent strikes from unmanned U.S. aircraft on militant hideouts in tribal areas on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, where bloodshed has hit record levels, reports of covert strikes have gone quiet for over three weeks.

Many analysts believe Washington has stopped the attacks to avoid further inflaming anti-American fury in Pakistan just as it pressures a vulnerable Islamabad government to release Raymond Davis, a U.S. consulate employee imprisoned after shooting two Pakistanis last month during what he said was an attempted robbery.

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