A Pakistani court has pardoned detained CIA contractor Raymond Davis of double-murder charges after families of the deceased accepted a "blood money" deal. The issue had become a source of tension between Pakistan and the United States.
Davis, 36, was arrested in late January in the eastern city of Lahore shortly after he gunned down two Pakistanis he said were attempting to rob him at gunpoint.
What led to decision
Police investigating the incident rejected his statement and recommended the American be tried on murder charges. On March 16, though, Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters the trial court freed Davis after a hearing inside Lahore's central jail.
The minister said that shortly after the court indicted Davis for murder, relatives of the victims testified before the court they have forgiven the accused under the Islamic law of compensation, also known as "blood money." He said the heirs also presented a copy of the settlement agreement before the judge, leading to the acquittal and release of the American.
U.S Ambassador Cameron Munter also confirmed in a statement that the families of the deceased have pardoned Davis, saying he is "grateful for their generosity."
The American ambassador again expressed his regret for the incident and the suffering it caused. He also confirmed the United States Justice Department has opened an investigation into the shooting incident.
The shooting incident involving Davis has fueled anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. Islamic parties have staged rallies against the release of the American without putting him on trial. But analysts, like Professor Sajjad Naseer at the Lahore School of Economics, say right-wing groups may now find it hard to mobilize crowds, keeping in mind the nature of the settlement agreement.
"This has been done according to the Islamic provisions. So if the rightist and the conservative forces decide to mobilize public opinion and agitate about it, it can be countered that since the Islamic law provides for such a remedy, so that remedy has been provided, according to the Islamic law," said Naseer. "That may take away some of the punch out of the kind of mobilization that the rightist parties may try to do."
Washington has been demanding Pakistan release Davis, saying he had diplomatic immunity. But authorities in Lahore maintained the Pakistani court would determine the fate of the American.
Both U.S and Pakistani officials have admitted that the Davis case has undermined relations between the two allies in the war against terrorism.
Naseer said the resolution of the issue is a positive development and bilateral ties are expected to get back to their normal level. "The relations had really touched [their] lowest during this Raymond Davis case. But when high stakes are involved and the national interests are involved, so naturally they have to be weighed and you have to take [a] decision in the larger national interests. So I think this is, in a way, a positive development."
The cooperation of Pakistan, particularly of the country's main spy agency, ISI, is seen as vital for the U.S-led anti-terrorism efforts in neighboring Afghanistan. The Pakistani government and military also receive financial assistance from the United States to support its economy and to strengthen anti-militancy efforts in the country.