An American male going by the name of Raymond Davis was recently arrested after shooting dead two civilians in a busy Lahore neighbourhood. Davis was initially described as a 'technical advisor' by the US government. In subsequent statements the US government 'changed' his status into a diplomat, thus claiming diplomatic immunity for Davis.
Yes, the American government is asking for diplomatic immunity so its citizens can kill young boys on Pakistan's streets. The incessant drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas are obviously not killing enough people to satisfy the US security establishment.
Following the incident, the US administration is acting with all the subtlety of a marine charged with breaking down the front door of a suspected Taliban insurgent's house in Kandahar.
To Pakistanis, the 'Lahore shootout' reflects the disdain with which Americans treat Pakistan. Pakistanis get the impression that American security experts in Langley and the Pentagon treat their nation as another 'occupied' country, along the lines of Iraq or Afghanistan. American 'technical advisers, 'often carrying a Blackwater visiting card, operate with an arrogance that only serves to diminish US interests within Pakistan.
Clearly, Pakistan's political establishment cannot wish the Davis case away. Simultaneously, President Zardari's weak People's Party government can ill afford another confrontation with either the US government or its domestic political foes. In effect, the Americans have handed another political gift horse to Pakistani Islamists and anti-US forces.
Unfortunately for the Americans, Pakistan is not as compliant a client state as Iraq or Afghanistan. Davis especially must be learning this lesson the hard way; in a Pakistani jail where his judicial remand has just been extended by another eight days.
Opposition politicians, a vibrant media, an assertive judiciary and a politically aware population are difficult constituencies to appease for an ineffective people's party government. Even if Zardari and his cohorts wish to appease the Americans, back door dealings will have wait until after national emotions have cooled. Davis, meanwhile, will likely have to spend another few months in a Pakistani jail contemplating his own actions.
The Lahore shootout is a test case for Pak-US relations.
The Americans have behaved badly, not just in allowing their security contractors to equate Pakistan's streets with Kabul's but also in their subsequent statements.
The 'dirt' associated with the episode just keeps oozing. There are constant questions about Davis' real identity, the authenticity of his passport, false statements to the Lahore police about withdrawing money from a local bank, possession of illegal weapons, carrying six cellular sim cards of various mobile phone networks and so on.
However, one thing is clear, if a Pakistani 'diplomat' shot and killed two persons on the streets of any American city there would be hell to pay – and international media headlines would not forget the matter for weeks. But perhaps the Pakistani Foreign Office and the US State Department disagree on the job description of a diplomat.