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In Pakistan, U.S. Diplomat’s Arrest Related to 2 Deaths Stirs Tensions

February 9, 2011 at 7:11 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: the story of the American diplomat who killed two people in Pakistan and the new tensions it’s created between Islamabad and Washington.

Jeffrey Brown has that story.

JEFFREY BROWN: This bullet-ridden car is at the center of a brewing diplomatic incident — at the wheel on Jan. 27, former U.S. Special Forces soldier Raymond Davis. He says two Pakistanis on a motorcycle tried to rob him in dense traffic in Lahore, and he shot and killed them in self-defense through his car windshield. A third Pakistani, a bystander, was struck and killed by a car from the U.S. Consulate rushing to the scene.

Pakistani police arrested Davis, and he appeared in court for the first time the following day. But almost immediately, the U.S. State Department insisted Pakistan has no right to hold him at all.

U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE P.J. CROWLEY: We continue to make clear to the government of Pakistan that our diplomat has diplomatic immunity, in our view, was acting in self-defense, and should be released, and Pakistan should fulfill its international obligations under the Vienna Convention.

JEFFREY BROWN: U.S. officials first said Davis works for the U.S. Consulate in Lahore but then said he’s actually employed at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. The exact nature of his work and why he was in Lahore remains unclear.

This week in Washington, leading congressional Republicans upped the stakes, suggesting billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan could be at risk if Davis is not released. And there was talk that a state visit by President Asif Ali Zardari to Washington at the end of March may also be in jeopardy.

Anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has further complicated matters. It’s especially intense in Punjab Province, where Lahore is the capital.

MAN (through translator): The American citizen who killed those Pakistanis, he tried to take the law into his own hands. He should be punished very severely.

MAN (through translator): He killed the innocent Pakistanis. He should be punished, and he should be hanged. Why did he commit this crime, and why was he carrying the weapons here? Would any Pakistani be allowed to carry a weapon in the United States?

JEFFREY BROWN: Adding to the tensions on Sunday, the widow of one of the men killed by Davis committed suicide. She reportedly said she feared Davis would be allowed to go free, and justice would be denied. Davis is expected to appear in court in Lahore again on Friday.