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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Uproar in Pakistan over release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis

By Babu Ram-SLAMABAD: With people across Pakistan protesting the court decision of releasing the USCentral Intelligence Agency contractor Raymond Davis in a twin-murder case, the country's top government functionaries preferred to remain tight-lipped on the unpopular issue in a bid to avoid wrath of the masses.

The release of Raymond Davis has ended a diplomatic standoff between the US and Pakistan but also brought the weak PPP-led coalition government on the verge of popular backlash. So far, no comment was heard on the issue from Presidency, PM's office, foreign affairs and home ministries. Well aware about the sensitivity of the issue, leader of the country's main opposition party Nawaz Sharif and his chief minister brother of Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif left the country for London ahead of the court decision.

Thursday saw countrywide demonstrations by the rightist parties, president Musharraf created PML-Q, and Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). They condemned the government, saying that families of the two men killed by Raymond Davis were forced to accept blood money in return for pardoning him. Critics of the deal pointed out that as recently as four days ago, the families of the victims said that they wanted justice not compensation.

A petition was also filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday, challenging the release of Davis. The petitioner Barrister Iqbal Jafri requested the court to invalidate the decision and direct the authorities to initiate proceedings against those who brought about CIA operative's release.

Davis was released by a prison court on Wednesday after the heirs of the slain men accepted $2.34 million in compensation. In most of the cases, blood feuds are settled in Pakistan's rural parts through the Islamic law of "Diyaat".

According to the law, a convicted killer could be pardoned if the victim's heirs agree to accept blood money. For weeks, Pakistan's federal and Punjab governments were working in collaboration with the country's military establishment to convince families of the dead men to pardon Davis in return of blood money and US green cards. The efforts for his release was essentially started whenPakistan army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani met his American counterpart at the beach resort in Oman last month. 

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