How Pakistan could be made to pay for an American killer

Veiled threats over US aid as court accuses consulate adviser of cold-blooded murder
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The Independent Online

Pakistani police believe an American official who shot dead two men in the city of Lahore committed "cold-blooded murder" and have rejected his claim that he was acting in self-defence.

A judge has ordered that he be detained in custody for a further 14 days.

In the latest development in an incident that is rapidly turning into a diplomatic stand-off between Washington and its regional ally, the police chief in Lahore, Aslam Tareen, said his team's inquiries had led them to reject Raymond Davis's claim that his life had been in danger.

"His plea has been rejected by police investigators. He gave no chance to them to survive. That is why we consider it was not self-defence," said Mr Tareen. "We have proof it was not self-defence. It was cold-blooded murder."

The police chief's comments followed a 30-minute closed-door court hearing in which a judge ordered the 36-year-old American, who worked at the US consulate in Lahore, be detained in jail for another two weeks. Judge Anik Anwar also demanded the Pakistani government tell the court whether or not Mr Davis has diplomatic immunity.

In the aftermath of the incident on 27 January, in which Mr Davis shot dead two men who approached him on a motorbike using a semi-automatic Glock pistol, the US has insisted the former special forces soldier was employed as a "technical adviser" at the consulate and had immunity from prosecution under the Vienna Convention.

As Pakistan has continued to refuse to accommodate Washington's request, so the arm-twisting has increased with veiled warnings about the possible impact on American aid to Islamabad and the possible cancellation of a meeting planned for next month between President Asif Ali Zardari and Barack Obama. On Thursday, Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, was forced to deny a report that US national security adviser Tom Donilon had threatened to expel him from the country if Mr Davis was not released.

But Pakistani politicians find themselves in a difficult position. While they do not wish to lose out on the billions of dollars of US military and non-military aid, they do not dare antagonise a Pakistani public that is increasingly anti-American by being seen to give in to US demands. Most political parties favour Mr Davis being tried in Pakistan and yesterday morning in Karachi, protesters from an Islamist party burned a US flag and called for him to be hanged. "The Pakistani government is really in the soup," said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a political and strategic analyst. "They should have settled the matter of his diplomatic immunity within a day. But now the political parties have jumped in and the courts have jumped in. If they release him now, they will face a lot of opposition in the streets."

Much remains unclear about the incident and the precise role held at the consulate by Mr Davis, who many believe is an intelligence operative. Public records reveal he and his wife own a Las Vegas-registered company called Hyperion Protective Services.

While he initially told police he feared for his life, investigators have said he shot the second Pakistani in the back as he tried to flee. Photographs that Mr Davis took of the two men he killed along with a video recording of him taken by police shortly after the incident have been leaked to the media.

Public anger has been heightened by the US's refusal to act on a police request for information about the driver of a second American vehicle that sped to Mr Davis's aid, killing a pedestrian. The wife of one of the two men killed by Mr Davis has also committed suicide. Meanwhile, the incident received a further twist when local media claimed the two men were actually employed by Pakistani intelligence.

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