With US officials angrily demanding the release of consulate employee Raymond Davis from a Lahore prison from the very start, it seemed inevitable that the Zardari government would eventually cave to the pressure and release him, either on grounds of “diplomatic immunity” or as a blanket pardon for the two murders he is accused of. Indeed, it was so assumed that this would be the case that the widow of one of the slain took her own life in protest before any announcement was even made.
But even as Prime Minister Gilani hinted at the prospect of that pardon, there is a growing movement threatening an Egypt-style revolt against the government if they dare to do so.
The threat seems a credible one, as the Davis affair has struck a real chord across Pakistan and seems to be the sort of issue that could get masses in the streets. This suggests that as much as the Pakistani government would like the situation to go away, they may not dare to do so.
Davis killed the two men on the streets of the major Pakistani city of Lahore, that much is not disputed. However Davis insists that he was acting in “self defense,” while police say he shot both men in the back while they were passing him on motorcycles, and that they even have witnesses who say he jumped out of the car to finish off one of the men after shooting him from his cycle.
The claims of “diplomatic immunity” are also dicey, as Davis was working as a “technical adviser” at the consulate in Lahore at the time. This would not generally grant one immunity for such a crime, but officials insist he also worked for the embassy in Islamabad, which would.
The US has severed some top level diplomatic ties with Pakistan over the incident, and delayed a planned “three way” talk with Pakistani and Afghan officials, also apparently because of the Davis row. It remains to be seen where this will all end, but it seems that any ending will have major consequences for US-Pakistan relations, as well as the internal stability of the US backed government.
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