The crisis sparked by US “consular employee” Raymond Davis shooting and killing two Pakistani citizens in Lahore on January 27 heightened on Monday, when it was revealed that his victims were part of Pakistan’s “security establishment”, that a second Congressional delegation had intervened with the Prime Minister on Davis’ behalf and that the widow of one of the victims had committed suicide. Developments in the case continue at breakneck pace, with the story once again breaking into the Washington Post for Tuesday, where we learn that the US “has suspended all high-level dialogue with Pakistan” over the incident. Dawn fills in more detail on that suspension, noting that Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had been scheduled to visit Washington next month, but that trip now appears endangered. Further, we learn that Pakistan has added three more consular employees to the exit control list, preventing their departure from Pakistan. The unidentified employees are believed to have been in the car that rushed to Davis’ defense after the shooting, hitting and killing a third Pakistani who was on a motorcycle.
Here is how the Post describes the heightened tensions:
The Obama administration has suspended all high-level dialogue with Pakistan, a key U.S. partner in the Afghanistan war, over the case of an American diplomat the Pakistanis have detained on possible murder charges, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.
The case of Raymond Allen Davis, who has admitted he fatally shot two Pakistanis he said threatened him from a motorcycle while he was driving in Lahore on Jan. 27, has severely strained relations between the two governments and threatens to scuttle a planned summit among U.S., Afghan and Pakistani leaders scheduled for the end of this month in Washington.
The article goes on to describe some of the sources of tension:
In Pakistan, the issue has become embroiled in widespread anti-Americanism and suspicions, fanned by the Pakistani media and used for political advantage, that U.S. spies and intelligence contractors are secretly operating in the country. It has also posed a challenge to Pakistan’s weak civilian government as it struggles to wrest control of national security policy from the powerful military and fends off opposition political parties.
Further description of the various tensions within in Pakistan comes from the Times of India (it hardly needs noting that India is seen as benefiting from internal discord in Pakistan, but the newspaper had a hilarious editing failure, with the headline for this article staring off with “Tinkered, Tailored, Soldered, Spied”):
For instance, it turns out that even as Islamabad is publicly resisting American pressure, a section of the Pakistani establishment has revealed that the two men who were shot were in fact agents of the ISI, its spy agency. Adding to the confusion, the wife of one of the alleged robbers/spies died under mysterious circumstances in a Pakistani hospital after consuming poison, but not before she met journalists and issued a revenge call, demanding “blood for blood.”
Meanwhile, unnamed Pakistani officials also told the Express Tribune newspaper in Lahore that the Pakistani government’s “tough stance” on the whole issue was also a “reaction to the attempts by certain elements in Washington to implicate…the ISI in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks,” including the decision by an American court to summon top ISI officials in connections with the attacks.
This description goes beyond what was in the Express Tribune, which merely said the victims were part of the “security establishment” by stating outright that the victims were ISI. The article continues:
All this now makes it even more difficult for Pakistan’s civilian government to release Davis even if it now transpires, as was reported by the Express Tribune, that the two motorcycle borne men who were killed were ISI agents. An unnamed security official told the newspaper, which is brought out in collaboration with the International Herald Tribune, that the duo belonged to the security establishment and “found the activities of the American official detrimental to our national security.”
The Washington Post article also follows up on Pakistani accusations against Davis:
Further complicating the situation, a Pakistani intelligence official said that the two men Davis killed were not, as he has said, armed robbers intent on stealing money, his telephone and perhaps his car, but intelligence agents assigned to tail him. This official said the two intended to frighten Davis because he crossed a “red line” that the official did not further define.
It would be very interesting to know just how one crosses the “red line” to prompt an armed confrontation with security agents who most likely are ISI. The attempts to tie ISI to the Mumbai attack appears to me to be a more general accusation against US interests, so it doesn’t seem on first glance to fit as a triggering event caused by Davis himself, although it should be noted that Lahore is on the border where Pakistan and India meet, directly across the country from Afghanistan, so it is possible that Davis was investigating the attack.
More perspective on the widening diplomatic rift comes from Dawn:
The United States has put all bilateral contacts with Pakistan on hold until Islamabad releases an employee of the its consulate in Lahore, arrested for shooting down two men, diplomatic sources told Dawn.
The sources said that the dispute could affect three major events planned this year: President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington, the next round of US-Pakistan strategic dialogue and trilateral talks involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States.
They also want [sic] that the US Congress is currently considering budget proposals for the next fiscal year and the diplomatic row could affect $1.5 billion of annual assistance for Pakistan as well.
Escalation of the crisis is also seen on another front, with three more Americans being placed on the exit control list, banning them from leaving Pakistan:
Three more Americans, besides US official Raymond Davis who fatally shot two Pakistanis in Lahore, have been prohibited from going abroad, said an official.
The government barred the three more US nationals from going out of the country on allegations that they were in the vehicle that crushed a man to death in Lahore after Davis was involved in the shooting, the Express Tribune reported Monday.
Davis was arrested after he shot dead two people riding on a motorbike at a busy intersection in Lahore Jan 27. He called up the US consulate after the shooting and a team rushed to help him. The team’s vehicle collided with a motorcyclist, killing him.
The article does not identify the consular employees.
Stay tuned for further developments.