Raymond Davis, a U.S. government contractor, became a household name in Pakistan in January 2011 after killing two people on a busy road in the eastern city of Lahore. Davis claimed the men, identified as Pakistani citizens, were armed and wanted to harm him. Soon after his arrest, Pakistani Islamist political parties turned his case into evidence of Washington’s interference and clamored for severe punishment.
Davis was tried in a lower court but was acquitted in March 2011 after more than $2 million was paid out to the victims’ families under an Islamic law practiced in Pakistan. In an interview with Radio Mashaal, he weighs in on his tell-all book, The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis.
RFE/RL: There is some confusion about whether you were a CIA operative or an employee of a private security company guarding U.S. diplomats in Pakistan when the incident in 2011 happened. Were you with the CIA?
Raymond Davis: I owned my own security company. I came there contracted to the government to provide security for embassy personnel overseas. Everyone has tried to make it much more dramatic than what it is. I was not a CIA employee or a spy or anything. I have never been trained in that. It sounds better for people to say that. It portrays me as a bogeyman for them. That’s what everyone ran with.
RFE/RL: You wrote that Pakistan’s former intelligence chief, Shuja Pasha, was texting court procedures to his then CIA counterpart, Leon Panetta. Many critics do not believe this and say Pasha was too high-ranking an official and could have assigned a junior officer to handle the issue?
Davis: Probably yes. And no, I do not know him personally. But, you know, I told my story in the book. Everyone has a different viewpoint. In Pakistan, [they say] Ray [Raymond] is lying about this and Ray is lying about that. Basically, they say Ray is lying about everything -- except when I talk about stuff that people like [Hussain] Haqqani (then Pakistani ambassador in Washington) say; ‘See, I am vindicated because this is what I was doing and see what he wrote’! So, everyone has their own viewpoint and things they are going to say, but this is everything that happened when I was on the ground.
RFE/RL: But are you not sure the person who was texting from the courtroom was Shuja Pasha?
Davis: No, I am not. I wasn’t reading his text messages. I do not know exactly who, but who else would the high-ranking people be texting?
RFE/RL: You wrote in your book that the idea of paying blood money to the families of those Pakistanis whom you killed was floated after a meeting between Haqqani, Panetta, and John Kerry. Whose idea was this?
Davis: I do not know who came up with the idea. I just know that some ideas were put out to do the exchange. I am not 100 percent sure whose idea this was.
RFERL: You have written that the “ISI orchestrated your exit.” Who pressured the victims’ families to accept the reported $2.4 million in blood money? Was it the civilian government or the Pakistani Army?
Davis: I have no idea if they were pressured and who would pressure them. But as I said in the book, the women who came to receive the money were not happy. I do not know who paid the money. I don’t know who offered the plan, just that’s the plan that was put forward to get me out of country. But the government pushed their hand too far. I had a diplomatic passport. There was a lot of political influence and force going on that was above me. But they overplayed their hand and made the incident way bigger than it should have been.
In order to avoid an Arab Spring situation in their country, the only way was to pay the Diyat (blood money) and let me go to the U.S. It does not matter whether it was the civilian government, army, or the ISI … they overplayed their hand and made the situation much larger than it ever should have. And they had to find a new way to get out [and paying the blood money was the way to do that].
RFE/RL: Some analysts are saying that while the Pakistani state was busy saving an American -- in this case, you -- it was not taking care of its citizens, the men you killed. What do you say to that?
Davis: It is unfortunate. I am sure it [was politician] Imran Khan [who said] that, and I paraphrase, why do Pakistanis believe in conspiracy theories so much? Because when your government always lies to the people, it is easier for the people to believe in conspiracy theories.
So the government lies to its people so much that how can they expect any kind of justice for their people? So the Pakistani people have to live with that, as well. So the corruption and everything that I faced from their government … I won’t say the police. Because the police, at the onset, tried to do their fair and impartial investigation. So I sympathize with them that they had to go through all this and do not have the protection of another government [agency] to help them.
RFE/RL: Punjab’s current and then Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said he had nothing to do with your release. Your book states then President Asif Ali Zardari and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif also helped your release. What sort of help did they provide?
Davis: I find it hard to believe that something this big was going on in Shahbaz Sharif’s territory and he knew nothing about it. As far as Zardari and Nawaz are concerned, no one in the governments of Pakistan [or] the United States briefed me about who helped me and who did not. As far as getting deeper into it, I have no idea. I mean, there were no personal favors from Zardari or Nawaz Sharif but, you know, they are both leaders and were on the ground at the time. Leaving them out of the book would not have made sense. That is why they were included.
RFE/RL: Upon your return to the United States, you had a brawl over a parking spot in Colorado. You went to jail for that, but yet you got away with killing two people in Pakistan. Isn’t that interesting?
Davis: I did not get away with killing two people. It was self-defense. I had a diplomatic passport. There are rules that protect people overseas for doing their job. But everyone wants to negate that and make it sensational.
Bashir Ahmad Ghwakh is a journalist with Radio Mashaal.