Pakistanis Keep American In Custody Despite U.S. Pressure

Ray Davis will be held at least 2 more weeks for 'cold-blooded murder.'

January 27, 2011, 8:04 PM

LAHORE, Pakistan Feb. 11, 2011 — -- If there was any question that Pakistan intended to bow to U.S. demands and quickly release a U.S. official who killed two Pakistanis last month, the public answer came back today as an emphatic no.

The U.S. wanted Davis released before his court appearance this morning, but the court said he would remain detained for two more weeks. The U.S. has requested Davis be treated well, but the court sent him from a relatively comfortable police station into a crowded jail. And the U.S. continues to argue Davis acted in self defense, but the Lahore police chief today accused Davis of "intentional and cold-blooded murder."

After the court's decision today, Carmela Conroy, the U.S. Consul General in Lahore, said that the Jan. 25 incident was a tragedy, and extended her sympathy to the family of the men killed, but said that Davis is "entitled to full immunity from prosecution" as a member of the U.S. Embassy staff in Islamabad.

"Under the rules, he should be freed immediately," said Conroy, who visited Davis in prison today. She also said she regretted that authorities "did not consider ... eyewitness accounts and physical evidence" that indicated Davis acted in self defense.

Davis' continuing detention, his move to a prison, and the apparent impending murder charge could infuriate the United States. A senior U.S. official said that so long as Davis is detained, any major U.S.-Pakistan meeting would be dominated by a discussion about Davis -- making normal bilateral discussions right now difficult to impossible.

But the embassy in Islamabad rejected the claim made by Pakistani officials in an ABC news report that pressure to release Davis included a meeting between National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani in which Donilon threatened Haqqani with expulsion and the closure of U.S. consulates in Pakistan if Davis wasn't released by today.

"ABC News carried a story regarding a conversation in Washington between senior U.S. and Pakistani officials," said the statement, released by embassy spokeswoman Courtney Beale. "Although we are unable to discuss the substance of a private diplomatic meeting, U.S. Embassy Islamabad can state categorically that the description of the conversation in this report is simply inaccurate."

U.S. officials declined to specify which details in the story were inaccurate.

Haqqani also denied that he had been threatened.

"The characterization of my conversation with White House officials by ABC News borders fabrication," he said in a statement to ABC News today. "It is not our policy to reveal details of diplomatic conversations. I can say, however, that National Security Adviser Tom Donilon did, indeed, convey the US government's views about the case of Mr. Raymond Davis during a meeting on Monday evening but no ultimatum or threat was given. I conveyed the government of Pakistan's commitment to resolve the matter in accordance with Pakistani and international law. Both sides are working together to resolve the case expeditiously and to continue our multi-faceted strategic partnership."

U.S. Declines To Provide Details About Ray Davis

Davis has become a political and intelligence football: he is caught between a federal government ruled by the Pakistan People's party and a Punjab government led by the opposition, which is more skeptical of U.S. policies; and he is caught in an intelligence game because he killed two men working for Pakistan's premiere intelligence agency, according to four Pakistani officials.

The U.S. continues to decline to answer questions about Davis' precise job in Pakistan, saying only he was a "member of the administrative and technical staff" of the Islamabad embassy and traveled on a diplomatic passport.

But Pakistani government officials are beginning to chafe at the way the U.S. government is going about that. They complain that U.S. pressure is disproportionately falling on them and not on the country's powerful military and intelligence service.

A congressional delegation from the House Armed Services committee visited Pakistan last weekend and raised the possibility that Davis' continuing detention would threaten military aid, according to a committee aide. But a senior Pakistani military official denied that was true.

"There were no threats," he said casually, shrugging his shoulders.

But there have been threats delivered to government officials, and the larger problem, those officials say, is that the pressure is boxing them in -- because it is eroding overall support for the United States.

Speaking in private drawing room conversations or in high-end coffee shops, even some of those who support the United States say they feel like they can't support Davis' release, especially not publicly. In their minds, the ambiguous nature of Davis' job, his killing two Pakistanis in broad daylight, and the wide coverage given to U.S. anger in Pakistan has shrunk the public acceptance of all U.S. policies in Pakistan.

'More Aggressive Anti-American Sentiments'

"I think the response to the U.S. anger is more aggressive anti-American sentiments," said Ahmed Malik, sitting at the upscale Gloria Jean's coffee in Lahore. He and his friends said the U.S. was "bullying" Pakistan. "I think people feel it's totally unjustified for the Americans to ask for a man who's done something like this" to be released, Malik said.

Their increasing skepticism of U.S. diplomacy was echoed by the senior military official, who discussed Davis' detention on the condition of anonymity.

"It should disturb the U.S. when the liberal class, on the account of U.S. attitude and bullying… is showing a lot of frustration, anger, reservations," the official told ABC News.

He argued that the U.S.' repeated and public condemnations of Davis' detention was decreasing its support across Pakistan -- and that would inevitably decrease the military's ability to support U.S. policies.

"The U.S. should help the state and the foreign office rather than putting out one statement [calling for Davis' release] after another. It will multiply the public anger," he said. "No military can take a position that is contrary to the public perception."

And if the anger increased, he argued, the U.S. was risking its already weak popularity among the public and among its most vocal Pakistani supporters.

"If that space is being lost," the official said, "then it's the last nail in the coffin."

Pakistanis Fear Releasing Ray Davis Would Spark Protests

Fears of anti-American protests in Lahore were apparent starting at 7:00 a.m. local time, when broadcast reporters began setting up their cameras outside not one but two courthouses, hoping to catch a glimpse of Davis. Police, judicial, and political officials misled journalists over the previous 24 hours, suggesting Davis would appear before different courts -- apparently an attempt to reduce security threats and media presence.

Police went so far as to send an empty armored personnel carrier to one court as a decoy as the armored personnel carrier carrying Davis arrived at another court.

In Karachi, the radical group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is banned in Pakistan and which U.S. officials tie to the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, led a rally with political parties. "Anyone who is a friend of America is a traitor," read one poster, according to the Associated Press.

In Lahore, government officials believe releasing Davis would spark huge protests. The family of one of the men Davis killed warned the government not to release him, and told ABC News today that they wouldn't rest until they had "blood for blood."

"In Islamic law and in Pakistan's law, the punishment for death is death," Imran Haider, Faizan Haider's brother, said in Lahore today. "And god willing, the court will have him hanged."

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