The bizarre Raymond Davis saga finally comes to a close. The CIA spy, who murdered two Pakistani’s in a busy street in Lahore in a fashion that would have resembled something from a James bond movie, was acquitted today by a Pakistani court. This comes after weeks of intense pressure from the Pakistani people to hang him and from the American government to release him on grounds of ‘diplomatic immunity’.

America as usual threatened Pakistan by cutting off the billions of dollars in aid, and the Pakistan government being a slave to this money obviously had to comply; so the release of Raymond Davis shouldn’t surprise anyone. What is surprising, however, is how quickly this man was released and the means employed in the process.

Although Pakistani law isn’t based on the Shariah (Islamic Law) in its entirety, aspects of it have been incorporated into it. The part of Shariah which came to the aid of the Americans is the concept of blood money in the case of a murder. Islamic law allows for the relatives of the murdered to pardon the accused in return for monetary compensation in certain circumstances. This is essentially what happened and families of the victims were reportedly paid out in the millions; whether or not they were compelled into this agreement remains uncertain considering they were isolated from their lawyers during the deal.

The irony of this outcome is that it happened at time when there is a huge anti-shariah movement in the United States. This movement which is rooted in ignorance has succeeded in introducing bills banning Shariah from a number of states in America. Little do the bigots behind this initiative know that about 95% of the Shariah deals with laws relating to things such as prayer, fasting, charity, dietary requirements and business transactions; banning the Shariah would essentially disallow Muslims from practicing their faith.

Another ironic aspect of this episode is that the religious right which lead the protests in Pakistan can’t really accuse its government of misappropriation since the settlement was based on Islamic law. Its a solution that appeases America and is inline with the principles the protesters supposedly stand for; who would have thought the Pakistani government could have wiggled its way out of this mess so smoothly.

One aspect of this incident that troubles me greatly is the motivation behind the protests that demanded Raymond Davis to be punished. One would think these people were seeking justice for the deceased but really they just wanted to avenge America and punishing a CIA spy was symbolic of it. Hundreds of innocent people are killed in terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Pakistan regularly; where are these protesters when its comes to demanding that the government bring the instigators of these crimes to justice? Pakistan is a country of dichotomies and this is just one face it.

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Pakistan has been ravaged by catastrophic floods over the past few weeks. Thousands of homes and schools have been destroyed and millions left homeless. The UN estimates that so far at least 2000 people have died and about 20 million people have been effected by the floods. The number of affectees in this disaster is greater than the combined total of the 2004 Tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

The aid response from the government has been more sluggish than usual. What is more alarming, however, is the slow response from the international community. The UN launched an initial appeal of $469 million to help the flood victims; less than half the money Canada spent on the G20 summit. Considering the scale of the disaster and the number of those effected, this isn’t an impossible amount to raise. However, governments have so far only donated 36% of this amount. A quarter of this aid was provided alone by the UK who described the response from the remaining international community as ‘pitiful’ and ‘lamentable’. UN’s secretary general Ban Ki-moon surveyed the area and described the catastrophe as the worst disaster he had seen. Millions have those effected so far haven’t received any aid at all.

The apathy shown by the international community saddens me, but intrigues me as well. Why was is it that people have reacted in a such a fashion? Aid agencies have expressed difficulty in conveying the scale of disaster to people. Perhaps its due to the fact that the disaster was not like an an earthquake or tsunami that happens over night and kills thousands of people. The floods started with heavy rains and gradually reached to levels where they wiped out entire villages. Perhaps it is due to the lack of casualties that people aren’t sympathizing with the victims. While the number of people that have died is significantly lower than other major disasters, the number of those effected is far higher. Hundreds of thousands have been left homeless and this should logically garner a larger response as the victims are still alive and are in dire need of help.

Either ways, it shouldn’t matter how many people died and how many are homeless compared to other disasters. The bottom line is that these are people in extreme need and the response from the international community needs to be strong, swift and generous; no one should be sitting at home weighing out whether its worth while to donate. So if you’re reading this and haven’t donated yet, please go ahead and donate whatever you can to the relief effort; its the month of Ramadan so there couldn’t be a better time to donate. I’ve attached links to charities that I know are active in the region.

Islamic Relief Canada
Canadian Red Cross
Pakistan Red Crescent

ICNA Relief Canada
The Humanitarian Coalition