when Pakistani President Pervaiz Musharraf shook hands with his US counterpart George Bush in a partnership on the latter’s war on terror, little did Pakistanis realize that some of that terror would be imported to their soil by their partner.
There is no denying the underlying resentment with which many Pakistanis view the US-Pakistan relationship: That their country is a reluctant and often bullied US ally dependent on American charity. Ten years on and with a change of government in both countries, those feelings haven’t improved. Today, the chasm of distrust in the infamous alliance between the two allies is deepening.
The latest incident to prompt this surge of suspicion in Pakistan has been the arrest of an American official, Raymond Davis who has been charged with shooting down two Pakistanis in cold blood on the streets of Lahore. A frenzy of public protests in Pakistan has strained relations to very critical edges. The public’s fury was not allayed by the fact that Davis was arrested with a gun and other security gear, and was driving alone in a run down area of Lahore, where he killed two motorcyclists he claimed were trying to rob him.
The 36-year-old Davis is a former member of the US Army Special Forces and had been employed by security firm XE Services, previously known as Blackwater. Davis began working for the CIA nearly four years ago, and came to Pakistan in late 2009. He was living with other security personnel at a safe house in Lahore before the shooting incident.
The Americans immediately claimed that Davis should be granted immunity from prosecution on the basis of his diplomatic status. With each passing day, the rhetoric levels increased with President Barack Obama jumping in to claim publicly that Davis had immunity, and sent over Sen. John Kerry to Islamabad to carry out his message.
Meanwhile, unnamed officials in Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said that the government has already determined that Davis does not have blanket immunity.
During his visit, Kerry who is the chairman of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated that his purpose was to “help tone down the rhetoric and reaffirm the US partnership with Pakistan,” in the wake of the Davis detention row. But the new revelations of Davis’ CIA affiliation points to something more sinister.
Some newspapers cited unnamed sources to link Davis with “terrorist activity” and the Pakistani Taleban. It was alleged that Davis actively aided and abetted terrorism.
The headline in The Express Tribune blared, “CIA agent Davis had ties with local militants.” Quoting an unnamed “senior police official”, the Tribune said that Davis was suspected of masterminding terrorist activity.
“His close ties with the TTP (The Pakistani Taleban) were revealed during the investigations, and he was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taleban to fuel the insurgency.” The police official said Davis had joined hands with the Pakistani Taleban in a bid to stir up uncertainty in Pakistan and support the argument that its nuclear weapons were not in safe hands. Call records of Davis’ cell phone allegedly establish his link to 27 Taleban militants and a sectarian group known as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the police source said.
The South Asian news agency ANI reported that — according to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service — Davis was giving nuclear and biowarfare materials to Al-Qaeda. Davis had been found in possession of top-secret CIA documents or linked with the feared American Task Force 373 (TF373) operating in the region.
ANI stated that the SVR claimed that the apprehension of 36-year-old Davis had fueled this crisis. Documentation seized after his arrest point to his being a member of TF373 black operations unit currently operating in the Afghan War Theater and Pakistan’s tribal areas, the report said.
Pakistan says that the duo were ISI agents sent to follow him after it was discovered that Davis had been making contact with Al-Qaeda, after his cell phone was tracked to the Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan, the paper said.
The most ominous point in this SVR report is “Pakistan’s ISI stating that top-secret CIA documents found in Davis’ possession point to his, and/or TF373, providing to Al-Qaeda terrorists “nuclear fissile material” and “biological agents”, which they claim are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to re-establish the West’s hegemony over a global economy that is just months away from collapse,” the paper added.
A provincial court in Lahore has since given the Pakistani government three weeks to decide whether the US official in custody for killing two Pakistanis has diplomatic immunity as claimed, a delay that has disappointed the United States and could further erode the last vestiges of trust between the two countries.
Many Pakistanis are outraged at the idea of an armed American rampaging through their second largest city; and have warned of mass protests if Davis is released. Whatever the final outcome, it does not bode well to a decade-old partnership.
*Published in the Saudi-based ARAB NEWS on Feb. 26, 2011