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US admits man who shot two Pakistanis was CIA worker

Raymond Davis, in prison in Islamabad for killing two men he said were trying to rob him, is a 'protective officer' involved in giving protection to CIA case officers. it has been revealed, further complicating an already strained relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

ISLAMABAD // The disclosure that an American in custody for shooting two people last month works for the CIA is likely to further complicate an already strained relationship between Pakistan and the United States, analysts said.

The US has put pressure on Pakistan to release Raymond Davis and described him as a diplomat. But American newspapers over the weekend identified Mr Davis as a "protective officer" involved in giving protection to CIA case officers.

His arrest has erupted into a bitter diplomatic standoff between Pakistan and the United States, Pakistan's biggest financial benefactor and its ally against terrorism.

Mr Davis, 36, was taken into custody after a daylight shooting in Lahore on January 27. He shot and killed two motorbike riders, who he said were trying to rob him. Another person was killed when a US backup vehicle hit him. Veiled warnings have been issued that Pakistan can lose the financial and military aid it receives from the US. American delegations, most recently one led by Senator John Kerry, have visited Pakistan to get Mr Davis released.

Pakistan has, so far, tried to deflect the pressure by stressing that the courts will determine Mr Davis's status. But the government has acknowledged that differences persist between the countries as stated by Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani on Monday when he addressed MPs in Islamabad.

A Pakistani court last week delayed a hearing in the case until March 14.

Mr Davis has become a symbol of everything that has gone awry in the relationship between the two countries. He is portrayed by nationalists as a symbol of American arrogance.

Anti-American sentiment has increased steadily in the country. Conspiracy theories are rife, casting doubts regularly on American intentions and actions. There is anger in the country over US drone strikes that target the Taliban and al Qa'eda.

The relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the Pakistani counterpart, has also become strained. The CIA station chief in Islamabad was called back in December after his name was revealed in the media.

Pakistani security officials say that while they continue to cooperate with the US, efforts by the US to establish its own, independent intelligence network in the country would be counter-productive.

"Americans have to work with us, not behind our backs", said an intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Arif Rafiq, a Washington-based analyst and editor of The Pakistan Policy Blog, said: "Washington's admission that Davis is a contract security officer for the CIA gives the ISI an opportunity to restore the balance of power between it and the CIA.

"The ISI has been discomfited by the growing covert and unattended American presence inside Pakistan, which has allowed the US to pursue operations at odds with the Pakistani military's strategic objectives" Mr Rafiq said.

"For Washington to get Davis back, it might have to agree to a new code of conduct for its operatives in Pakistan, including increased monitoring by their Pakistani counterparts", he said. "This could reduce Washington's ability to monitor" terror organisations.

The disclosure that Mr Davis worked for the CIA did not come as a big surprise here. American assertions that Mr Davis is a diplomat held little weight in the eyes of a sceptical public.

Details of Mr Davis's alleged activities and the equipment recovered from his vehicle were leaked by Pakistani security officials to the media.

Nationalists and right-wing Islamic political parties have demanded that the government not release Mr Davis.

The media have continued to give extensive coverage to the shooting.

The government of the ruling Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) has felt the heat as rifts appeared in the party over how to deal with the crisis.

A suggestion last month by President Asif Ali Zardari to hold a conference to deal with the shooting and American pressure was knock down by opposition parties.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a politician belonging to the PPP, lost his job as the foreign minister after he insisted that Mr Davis does not enjoy "blanket immunity".

Fauzia Wahab, another ruling party MP, also lost her job as information secretary of the PPP she expressed a similar view.

Behind the scenes, there have been hectic negotiations between Pakistani and US officials to work out a face saving, according to government officials.

Omar R Qureshi, editor of Karachi's The Express Tribune, said: "The fact that Raymond Davis works for the CIA is not altogether unexpected given Pakistan's strategic significance.

"The fact that he is here wouldn't be something that Islamabad wouldn't know, since it would have issued the visa. However, the Pakistani public may have a hard time digesting this and a solution favourable to the US may now be even more difficult".

Of course, Mr. Qureshi said, "nothing is impossible in Pakistan".

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

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