Wed March 16, 2011

American's Release Doesn't End Turmoil In Pakistan

A CIA security contractor jailed in Pakistan was acquitted Wednesday of the January shooting deaths of two Pakistani men in Lahore, in a case that has seriously tested U.S.-Pakistani relations.

The dramatic incident came to a close when the families of the deceased pardoned Raymond Davis in court. In exchange, an attorney for the relatives says they received more than $2 million in compensation.

Davis has since left the country. But the controversy over the killings is far from settled.

A Sudden End To A Contentious Affair

Many believed this would be the day Davis, 36, would be officially indicted for murder. Instead, inside a closed courtroom, family members of the men Davis said he killed in self-defense were called one by one before the judge. Lawyers inside the hearing said the judge then questioned each of them, asking: Do you accept this agreement to pardon Davis voluntarily?

Each of the 18 relatives said yes and signed an affidavit that ended one of the most contentious episodes in recent Pakistani-U.S. relations.

According to the law minister of Punjab province, Rana Sanaullah, the judge also asked another question: "You have received the money?"

They said yes.

Islamic law allows compensation in exchange for forgiveness. The families have not been heard from since, nor could they be located at their homes Wednesday night.

Initially, they had received backing from religious parties that are deeply opposed to the United States. Political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi says they may have gone into hiding after agreeing to the deal that freed Davis.

"A lot of these Islamist political parties would be after them," says Rizvi. "It is also possible that the families that got the money have also flown out of Pakistan."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Egypt on Wednesday with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, said the United States was "very grateful" for the families' decision to pardon Davis. But Clinton denied that the United States paid any so-called blood money to the families.

"The United States did not pay any compensation," Clinton told Inskeep. When asked whether someone else paid the money, Clinton said, "You'll have to ask whoever you are interested in asking about that."

An official with Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, called Clinton's denial "intriguing," and asked: "If the United States didn't pay, who did?"

'Turmoil Is Simmering'

The mood on the streets of Lahore on Wednesday night alternated between acceptance and anger. The case of Raymond Davis came to symbolize for many Pakistanis what they say is wrong with the relationship between the U.S. and their country.

For 20-year-old student Shahid Imran, the freeing of Davis represented one more offense that the Americans had gotten away with.

"The turmoil is simmering in the hearts and brains of the young generation, and this young generation is against America!" Imran says. "If I go to America and I fire in your country, what would your feeling be?"

But for some members of Pakistan's older generation, the case ended as it should have.

Farooq Ahmad, 63, says the settlement "is an excellent thing — that forgiveness is good." And he hopes that "Davis looks into his heart and sees what he has done." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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