Pakistan insists American who shot 2 in alleged robbery attempt is CIA agent


ISLAMABAD — The U.S. citizen who shot to death two motorcyclists in the eastern city of Lahore last month works with the CIA,
Pakistani and U.S. officials said Monday — a revelation that could
further aggravate anti-American sentiment within the Islamic,
nuclear-armed nation and complicate Washington’s efforts to secure his release.

Pakistani authorities said they learned of Raymond Davis’ links with the CIA
after his arrest on charges that he murdered two Pakistani men whom he
claimed were trying to rob him at gunpoint, said a senior Pakistani
intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because
he is not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

Until Monday, U.S. officials in Pakistan and Washington repeatedly fended off questions about Davis’ function in Islamabad, instead stating only that he was a member of the “technical and administrative staff” at the embassy in Islamabad and therefore is entitled to diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention of 1961.

After the Pakistani statements Monday, U.S. officials provided some information about Davis’ work in Pakistan.
A senior U.S. official speaking on the condition of anonymity described
Davis, a 36-year-old former Army Special Forces soldier, as a
contractor with the CIA. Another U.S. official said Davis
was a security officer providing protection to U.S. personnel, but was
not running covert operations.

A U.S. official in Islamabad
emphasized that Davis should receive protection from prosecution
because he “was designated by our government as a member of the
embassy’s technical and administrative staff. That’s all that matters.”

Worried about the potential for large-scale unrest
that could erupt if Davis is released, Pakistani authorities have
avoided making any definitive decisions on Davis’ claim of immunity and
have put responsibility for the American’s fate in the hands of the
country’s courts. Davis has been jailed since the Jan. 27 shootings at a busy intersection in Pakistan’s second largest city.

The case has created rifts within the country’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party,
further weakening its already tenuous hold on governance of a country
wracked by militancy and a shattered economy. Party stalwart Shah
Mahmood Qureshi lost his post as foreign minister after insisting that
Davis could not legally be granted immunity, a stance that rankled top
party leaders. The Lahore High Court wants the government to make a final determination on Davis’ immunity claim and report its findings by March 14.

The disclosure that Davis works with the CIA
likely will make it more difficult for the Pakistani government to
justify the American’s release, given the public’s preoccupation with
conspiracy theories about trigger-happy CIA agents and contractors with the American security firm formerly known as Blackwater roaming the streets. News that Davis is a CIA agent would confirm suspicions in the eyes of many Pakistanis and likely intensify their animosity toward Washington.

It may also complicate relations between the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. Cooperation between the two agencies includes intelligence sharing that supports Washington’s ongoing drone missile campaign against al-Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border.

While reports of Davis’ ties with the CIA
first surfaced Sunday in the Guardian, a British newspaper, the
Pakistani media from the start has been rife with speculation that the
American was a spy. Much of that speculation has been fueled by items
found in Davis’ Honda Civic after his arrest: a Glock 9mm handgun, 75
rounds, a Global Positioning System device, bolt cutters, a survival
kit and a satellite phone. When police looked through the digital
camera found in Davis’ car, they discovered photos of Pakistani
government installations near the Indian border.

At the time of the incident, Davis had been working out of the U.S. consulate in Lahore. He claims he fired in self-defense after the two men, Faizan Haider and Fahim Shamshad,
pulled up on a motorcycle and one of them pulled out a gun. Davis fired
several shots through his car’s windshield, then got out of the car and
continued to fire, witnesses said. A police report on the incident
states Haider was shot three times in the front of his body and twice
in the back. Shamshad was also shot five times, twice in the back.
Pakistani police officials have said both Haider and Shamshad belonged
to a local robbery gang and had stolen cell phones with them.

Police believe the shootings were unjustified
because, while both men were armed with loaded guns, their pistols did
not contain a bullet in the chamber. Also, both men had been shot in
the back. “If the accused really acted in self-defense, he could have
fired one or two shots to the lower limbs of the victims, particularly
since he is an expert in using weapons,” stated a police investigation
report recommending that Davis be charged with murder.

Pakistani police had been also seeking the driver of
a consulate SUV that struck and killed a bystander while rushing to the
scene of the shooting. Pakistani media have recently reported that the
driver, a U.S. Embassy employee, has left Pakistan and is back in the U.S.

Davis is being held in Lahore’s
4,000-inmate Kot Lakhpat jail, where most of whom are militants, a U.S.
official said. He has been moved to a separate part of the compound,
where prison guards have been barred from carrying firearms for fear
that one of them may kill Davis, the official said. Dogs are being used
to either smell or taste Davis’ food to ensure it hasn’t been poisoned,
the official added.

“The Pakistanis have a solemn obligation to protect Ray Davis,”
the official said. “If they’re not going to release him — which they
certainly should based on his diplomatic immunity — surely they can
find a safer place for him.”

The case put immense strain on a U.S.-Pakistan relationship already burdened by deep mutual mistrust. At one point during the crisis, members of Congress had threatened to suspend military and economic aid to Pakistan and had curbed diplomatic contacts — though in recent days Washington has struck a more conciliatory tone and has stressed the importance of maintaining strong ties with Islamabad.

The U.S. views Pakistan as a key ally in the war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and in the battle against al-Qaida militants and their allies in Pakistan’s volatile northwest.


(c) 2011, Tribune Co.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.