WTF Friday 4/22/11

Five out of the six men accused of raping a Pakistani woman, Mukhtaran Mai, were acquitted this week after being found guilty in 2002. According to Mai, “The release of the suspects has put [her] life in grave danger.”

Syrians enter Great Friday protests, are met with violence. Somebody’s getting their thunder stolen…

Lastly, what is it with these Cambodian divas?!?!

Really, Greg Mortenson? Really?

Since it’s the middle of a Thursday afternoon and I’m technically very busy with other work, this seems like as good a time as any to jot down my thoughts on Three-Cups-Of-Tea-Gate. In no particular order:

  • Good lord, remind me never to make Jon Krakauer mad. (Unless I have nothing better to do than respond to meticulously-researched 50-page takedowns of my life and dealings.)
  • While I am not willing to assume that either 60 Minutes or Krakauer got everything right, the available information tells me that Greg Mortenson and CAI have not been meeting their obligations as stewards of other people’s charitable donations. “I don’t know” and “I won’t tell you” are not, to my mind, reasonable answers to the question “what did you do with the money I gave you to build schools with?”
  • It is clear that the success of Greg Mortenson’s book has brought tremendous benefits to CAI, by increasing donations to it and raising its profile. However, that does not mean that it’s okay for the charity to foot the bill for promoting the book, when all the revenue from it goes to Mortenson and his publisher. This isn’t a “grey area,” it’s “tax fraud.” You can’t use the funds from a tax-exempt nonprofit to pay for your personal for-profit activity.
  • Also, private jets? Seriously?
  • When I first heard about 3 Cups of Tea and CAI, I wondered if they were actually running schools, or just building them. The emphasis on the latter seemed weird. Buildings are nice, but surely “lack of freestanding dedicated structures” wasn’t the main barrier to education in poor, rural areas that lacked infrastructure and transportation links? I actually read the book, ages ago, in the hope of finding out how CAI was handling teacher recruitment, salary, and curriculum issues. It did not answer my questions, but at the time I didn’t see that as a sign of foul play. I figured that either (a) such bureaucratic details had been sacrificed in service of narrative, or (b) they were just building buildings, which is kind of lame.
  • I guess it turns out that the answer was (c), “all of the above.”
  • And while we’re on the subject of things-that-get-sacrificed-in-the-service-of-narrative, if the books really contain the “factual inaccuracies” alleged by Krakauer and 60 Minutes, then to me, that is even more upsetting than all of the private jet malarkey. What, exactly, was the thought process there? “Oh, these brown people will never read this book, so it doesn’t matter if we call them terrorists and accuse them of kidnapping”? “Why would anyone check this story with actual Pakistanis or Afghans, when we have white people they can talk to right here?” Not cool, man. You can’t just do that.
  • Well, it turns out you can, but I don’t like it.
In short, for the time being, Greg Mortenson and CAI are on my bad list. As per usual bad-rules, they will remain there until they do something to convince me that they should be taken off of it.
Further reading: Krakauer’s medium opus, The American Institute of Philanthropy’s evaluation of CAI, Nick Kristof urges restraint, Chris Blattman agrees, Megan McArdle reminds us that when we demand “messianic development projects and neat stories with happy endings,” what we get is development done by people with messiah complexes, and neat stories that aren’t actually true.

Adventures in International Law: Diplomatic Immunity Edition

On January 27th, an American citizen named Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistani men in Lahore, Pakistan.  Davis was arrested at the scene and has subsequently been charged with murder.  He claims he shot the men in self-defense.

Davis is a U.S. official, which means that this incident poses a major challenge to U.S.-Pakistan relations and to one of the international community’s most settled legal rules.  The U.S. says that Davis, a former Special Forces soldier, is a member of the American Embassy and is therefore protected by diplomatic immunity.

Under Article 31 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (to which both the U.S. and Pakistan are parties), diplomats have absolute immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of their host states.  International law is frequently derided as not being particularly law-like, but diplomatic immunity is the area of international law where this is least true.  Every nation that sends diplomats abroad has a powerful incentive to respect the rule in their treatment of other nation’s diplomats. Consequently, diplomatic immunity is taken very seriously by the international community.  That a potential breach would arise in the case of two closely allied nations like Pakistan and the U.S. is particularly troubling.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has so far not certified Davis’s immunity, and officials have stated that the issue will be dealt with by the courts.  U.S. Senator John Kerry was dispatched to smooth things over earlier this week, but following his departure, the Lahore High Court announced today that it would grant the government a three week postponement of the proceedings to determine whether or not Davis has immunity.

The coverage of the case has raised a number of arguments about why Pakistan has not confirmed Davis’s immunity.  Here’s a selection:

(APer one of the lawyers in the case: “The actions of Raymond Davis are not covered by blanket immunity because he has committed a heinous crime.”
(B) Davis might actually work at the American Consulate, not the Embassy.
(C) Davis might be a spy.
(D) The men Davis killed might have been Pakistani intelligence operatives.

Most of these arguments are nonsense.  There is no exception to diplomatic immunity related to severity of the crime or identity of the victim.  In the case where a diplomat commits a heinous crime, the host country has two courses of action:  (1)  request that the diplomat’s home government waive the immunity so that the diplomat can be prosecuted in the host country’s courts, or (2) declare the diplomat persona non grata and then seek extradition once the diplomat has left the country.

Whether or not Davis was a spy posing as a diplomat is also immaterial.  Spies under official cover as diplomats have diplomatic immunity.  This is a big piece of why it’s so common for governments to use diplomatic posts as covers for intelligence agents.  Because it’s illegal in most countries for diplomats to spy, when they are found out, they are declared persona non grata and sent home.  But the host country doesn’t get to prosecute them.

The possibility that Davis was actually a consulate worker, not an embassy worker, is the only potential game changer here.  That’s because consular officers aren’t covered by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.  They’re covered by a different treaty:  the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.  Consular officers have more limited immunity than diplomats do.  They are protected from the civil jurisdiction of the host country’s courts for acts performed in connection with their official functions, but they are not immune to the host country’s criminal jurisdiction.  Host countries aren’t supposed to arrest or detain consular officers except in cases of “grave crime” (like murder).

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry insists that Davis was not on the official list of diplomats submitted by the U.S. Embassy and that U.S. officials in Pakistan have given conflicting statements about whether Davis is affiliated with the Consulate or the Embassy.  They therefore argue that his immunity status is not clear.  However, the U.S.’s 2009 application to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry for Davis’s posting lists him as “technical and administrative staff” of the Embassy, a status that grants him immunity from criminal (although not necessarily civil) prosecution.

The U.S. has made a clear claim that Davis is protected by diplomatic immunity.  Admittedly, Pakistan is in a rough position:  Zardari’s government does not have a particularly firm grasp on power, and popular opinion in Lahore, an opposition stronghold, is calling for Davis’s blood.  But the conduct of diplomacy, like many other areas of international law, relies heavily on a norm of reciprocity.  In choosing not to certify Davis’s immunity, Pakistan is potentially destabilizing one of the bedrock principles of international law and diplomatic relations.

How to Write About Pakistan

Building on the success of Binyavanga Wanaina’s brilliant How to Write About Africa, Granta enlisted Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Kamila Shamsie to teach us How to Write About Pakistan. Apparently, mangoes are crucial:

“1. Must have mangoes.
2. Must have maids who serve mangoes.
3. Maids must have affairs with man servants who should occasionally steal mangoes.
4. Masters must lecture on history of mangoes and forgive the thieving servant.
5. Calls to prayer must be rendered to capture the mood of a nation disappointed by the failing crop of mangoes.
6. The mango flavour must linger for a few paragraphs.
7. And turn into a flashback to Partition.
8. Characters originating in rural areas must fight to prove that their mango is bigger than yours.
9. Fundamentalist mangoes must have more texture; secular mangoes should have artificial flavouring.
10. Mangoes that ripen in creative writing workshops must be rushed to the market before they go bad.”


On the subject of women, they never have agency. Unless they break all the rules, in which case they’re going to end up dead. I don’t think there’s anything else to be said about them, is there?”

I thank my lucky stars every day that my parents sent me to good schools so that I could be a lawyer when I grew up, instead of a clichéd fictional character destined to sigh herself passively into her own doom.

WTF Friday, 8/27/10 and 9/3/10

I purposely withheld last week’s WTF Friday just to hit you guys with a double whammy this week.

Omar al-Bashir made a surprise appearance at the celebration for Kenya’s new constitution. The ICC has reported Kenya to the UN Security Council, but in the words of Kenya’s foreign affairs minister, “He is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest. That is not African.” Well thank you, Miss Manners.

Africa: Land of Rape and UN Condemnation of Rape

In non-African rape news, the rape of a transgender woman in the Vietnamese province of Quang Binh may not be prosecuted. The judicial authorities in Quang Bin province are apparently under the impression that rape law in Vietnam only covers the rape of women by men, and “the victim had not reclassified her legal gender from male to female.” According to the chief judge of the provincial People’s Court, “Even if the group raped her ten times, we would not be able to sentence them.” I sure hope the perpetrators haven’t seen that quote! (Vietnamese law actually says nothing about the gender of rape victims or perpetrators.)

Double secret reverse genocide in the DRC? Say it ain’t so, Pauly K.! (via FP Passport).

I don’t think it’s premature to name this photo the “Cutest/Saddest of the Pakistan Flood.” Disaster porn at its finest.

I find it kind of unfortunate that the Football Association elections in Sudan seem to have been run more fairly than the actual elections. And that the Sudanese government seems to take FIFA more seriously than the ICC. Just saying.

So Wyclef seems to be taking his disqualification from the Haitian Presidential Election well: “‘Do you intend to continue supporting people who have no respect for Haiti’s Constitution?’ read the message on his Twitter account, which was later translated into English. ‘Do you continue to support people violating the right of the person who [do] not believe in the value of mankind, that every man is a man, and everybody has to live decently?'” And of course, he’s dropped a protest song and video in record time. This whole thing is starting to make more sense to me now that I realized Wyclef is dropping a new album on December 4 (less than a week after the election) featuring two songs with “Haiti” or “Haitian” in the title, another called “Political Correctness,” and I believe an album cover in which the Haitian flag is wrapped around his head. In fact, and I am definitely delving into conspiracy theory here, his last 3 albums seem to be quite a bit more Haiti-centric than his earlier offerings. Has he been planning this since 2004? I think I need to find a new internship/use for my brain.

Lastly, Fidel Castro has issued an apology and taken responsibility for the discrimination faced by homosexuals during his time as President. He claims to have been too busy with food, medicine, the CIA, traitors, etc, to worry about homosexuality, which wasn’t decriminalized until 1979. You gotta make time to worry about rights and stuff, dude. I take like a whole 45 minutes out of my schedule every week!

Quiz Time!

As you may have heard, most of Pakistan is currently underwater. Approximately 20 million people have been affected by the floods, which have been going on for three weeks now. 1600 have died and millions have been displaced from their homes.

Despite the epic scale of the disaster, the response has been slow. As Laura Freschi reports over at Aid Watch (citing an article from The Chronicle of Philanthropy) eleven U.S.-based charities say that they have received only $5 million in donations for the victims of the flood. Contrast this with the $560 million raised in the 2 1/2 weeks following the earthquake in Haiti in January and you might find yourself wondering “what gives?” So I say to you “what gives?” Why the slow / small response?

Vote early and often.

And meanwhile, while you wait for Intern Chris’s WTF Friday post, consider checking out the flood-related content in Changing Up Pakistan’s “WTF List of the Week.” (Hattip to Anil Kalhan)

Feral Lawyers Terrorizing Pakistan’s Cities

From the BBC’s department of “serves our former colonies right for kicking us out” news stories, I learn that hordes of rogue attorneys are on the rampage in Lahore, Pakistan.

According to Lahore’s superintendent of police, Sohail Sukhera, lawyers have committed 18 assaults in the last month. He hypothesizes that some of them may have been overcome by mob mentality while participating in the protest movement two years ago and have now gone mad with power. Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to draft a constitution…

If you think your day would be improved by watching some “Lawyers Gone Wild” footage of three attorneys ganging up on a cop, see below:

Things I Didn’t See Coming: Chaudhry Gets Chief Justice Gig Back

Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced this morning that Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will be reinstated as Chief Justice of Pakistan on March 21.

Former president Pervez Musharraf suspended Chaudhry in March 2007 after several prominent cases didn’t go the government’s way. It didn’t really take, though; in July 2007, the Supreme Court reinstated him, ruling that Musharraf had been way out of line.

But then Musharraf got fancy. In November 2007 he declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution. An eight member Supreme Court panel led by Chaudhry quashed the order, and probably weren’t too surprised when Musharraf’s guys busted into the court and arrested them all. Chaudhry remained under house arrest until Gilani took office last March.

Here’s the really cool thing, though: I know everyone hates lawyers and all, but Pakistan’s bar did us all proud. Those dudes just did not let up. They started kicking up a fuss when Chaudhry was initially suspended two years ago (an early rally is shown in the photo on the right); stepped up their protests when Musharraf declared martial law, despite literally thousands of them being scooped up in the crackdown; and kept right on agitating for an independent judiciary when president Zardari backed out of his deal to restore the judges after taking office last year.

Last week the opposition called a “long march” of protestors to travel to the parliament building and stage a sit-in today demanding the restoration of Chaudhry and an end to interference with the judiciary. Unsurprisingly, the police didn’t respond well and many marchers were dragged off to jail. Things were looking dire. (For an excellent overview of the situation as it existed pretty much until yesterday, check out Anil Kalhan’s post at Dorf on Law.)

But apparently we’ll be adding “never get into a game of chicken with a bunch of incensed Pakistani lawyers” to the list of classic blunders.* Because it totally worked.

*If that didn’t ring a bell, seriously, stop reading the blog and go watch the Princess Bride.

Banana Fana Fo Fardari

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one whose response to John McCain’s Pakistan-related babbling on Friday night was: “Wait what?” and “Meah? ‘Failed state’? Wasn’t that some other ‘-stan’?” and “Hold up, I could’ve sworn that President Zardari’s name started with a ‘Z’.”

But look! It’s Anil Kalhan to the rescue with a blistering critique of McCain’s total failure to say anything that made sense. And he even manages to resist making fun of McCain for getting his running mate’s new BFF‘s name wrong. (Obviously, I don’t have that kind of forebearance.)

Nothing to See Here, Folks!

Hey, guess what I just discovered? It turns out, human rights norms work totally differently depending on where you put them. Especially if where you put them happens to be Pakistan. It’s a little known by-product of the Coriolis effect, actually. When you flush civil liberties down the drain in Europe, it’s a violation of human rights, but when you do it in Pakistan, it’s not!

(Yes, I know that whole hemispheric variations in toilet flushing thing is a myth, and Pakistan’s not in the southern hemisphere anyway, but I like the analogy, so please just play along.)

As Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf explained at Davos today, we crazy Westerners have got the whole universality of human rights thing wrong. Quoth Musharraf: “Your error is always that you try to impose your views on every environment.” We’ve all apparently failed to realize that any number of our fancy norms don’t apply to Pakistan at all. For instance, according to Musharraf, there was nary a human rights implication to be found in last year’s judicial crisis. The suspension of the constitution and the destruction of the independence of the judiciary were just a teensy little blip on the way to democracy, and besides, those judges were corrupt and nepotistic, or possibly anarchists. Or wait, soft on terror! Yeah, that’s the one.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was to discover that none of those lawyers and judges had their human rights violated when they were ousted from their jobs, detained, and/or placed under house arrest. And I’m certain that it’ll be a load off Munir Malik’s mind to learn that the kidney and liver damage he suffered after being imprisoned and poisoned was a completely acceptable punishment for his rule of law advocacy, because “Pakistan is more important than human rights.”