Pakistani Christians are bracing for possible attacks on their churches following the release of Raymond Davis, a U.S. CIA contractor after acquitting him today (Wednesday, March 16, 2011) of two counts of murder at a hearing held at a prison in the eastern city of Lahore.
Davis, 36, was alleged to have shot dead two men in Lahore on January 27, 2100, following what he said was an attempted armed robbery and he claimed that he acted in “self-defense.”
The American, who had been at the center of a huge controversy between Pakistan and the United States, was detained in in Lahore, Pakistan, on charges of killing two Pakistani young men on January 27, 2011.
However, Under Pakistani Sharia law, relatives of a murder victim can pardon the killer and the Pakistani media is now reporting that the families received 200 million rupees ($2.34m) but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied that the U.S. government had paid any “blood money.”
The US State Department, President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Senator John Kerry, among others, had been demanding that the government of Pakistan should release Raymond Davis for being a diplomat saying that he holds immunity under the Vienna Convention.
The case was registered under Pakistan Penal Code Section 302 (the act of murder) and Islamic religious parties organized countrywide protest rallies against Davis and demanded that the Pakistan government should not release him.
Reports say that about 18 family members of the two dead men were in court on Wednesday and confirmed that they wanted Mr. Davis to be freed and pardoned because they had received “blood money”.
Reports say about 18 family members of the two dead men were in courtand confirmed that they wanted Mr. Davis to be freed and pardoned because they had received “blood money”.
Now the court has released Davis but, because everything was done so secretly and nothing was brought into the notice of the media, many here are now trying to unravel the facts.
The BBC’s Orla Guerin in Islamabad said that Mr. Davis – a former U.S. special forces member – has already been released from jail but his exact whereabouts were unknown. She added that there were unconfirmed reports that he had already left Pakistan.
The deal to release him – made by the court sitting in his Lahore jail – ends a long-simmering diplomatic stand-off between Pakistan and the United States which had severely strained relations. It will come as a relief to both governments.
“The court first indicted him but the families later told court that they have accepted the blood money and they have pardoned him,” Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, told Reuters.
As soon as news of the acquittal got out to the public, protests took place in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. In Lahore demonstrators clashed with riot police near the U.S. consulate.
Six people were injured and several others were arrested after police baton-charged the crowd.
In other parts of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad demonstrators set tires on fire and disrupted traffic.
The BBC has reported that Cameron Munter, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, said that he was “grateful for the generosity” of the families.
“I wish to express, once again, my regret for the incident and my sorrow at the suffering it caused,” he said.
Mr. Munter said that the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the incident.
Washington has always insisted that Mr. Davis had diplomatic immunity and was acting in self-defense.
Faizan Haider, a lawyer representing the family of one of those killed, told the BBC that the “blood money” deal was done without his knowledge and that he was in detention when it was made.
M. Ilyas Khan, writing for BBC News in Islamabad, said, “It was high drama. For nearly seven weeks the media and the [Muslim] religious right in Pakistan waited for the indictment of Raymond Davis.
“On Wednesday, they waited four hours for a session that normally would not last an hour. And then there was a burst of protests, not so much on the streets, but on the Pakistani TV channels.
“The Raymond Davis affair touched a deep chord with the anti-U.S. section of the Pakistani population and provided more fuel to an increasingly assertive [Muslim] religious right which organized demonstrations demanding that Mr. Davis be hanged.
“The issue also brought the US-Pakistan relations to their lowest point in recent years. Many thought that Mr. Davis would be finally freed, but nobody expected this to happen so suddenly.
“This is because nobody expected the families of the men Mr. Davis killed to go for a blood money deal, an option which they had been rejecting apparently due to pressure from religious groups.
“Although protests have now taken place, the [Muslim] religious lobby was initially unusually quiet on the issue. The fact that Mr. Davis’ release came under a clear Islamic law may be a reason.”
Now Christians all over Pakistan are worried about situation and feel insecure as militants or terrorists may now attack Christian worship places.