Daily brief: Pakistan puts Davis on trial for murder

The AfPak Channel is honored to be a finalist in the Online Department category in the 2011 National Magazine Awards for Digital Media by the American Society of Magazine Editors. Controversy continues Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot and killed two men he said were trying to rob him late last month in Lahore, ...

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

The AfPak Channel is honored to be a finalist in the Online Department category in the 2011 National Magazine Awards for Digital Media by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Controversy continues

Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot and killed two men he said were trying to rob him late last month in Lahore, refused to sign a charge sheet in a closed session of the Lahore High Court earlier today, asserting that he has diplomatic immunity and would not participate in the proceedings (AP, Reuters, Guardian, AFP). The hearing to decide whether he does have immunity is scheduled for March 14, and the murder case has been adjourned until March 3. Pakistani authorities have reportedly submitted an examination of Davis's cell phone and other devices, allegedly indicating that he has traveled to Islamabad, Peshawar, and some of the tribal areas (ET). A Taliban commander, Maulana Abdul Khaliq Haqqani, issued a press release threatening members of the ruling PPP government if Davis is released, and the uncle of the widow of one of the men Davis killed reportedly survived a mysterious attempt on his life in which attackers forced him to eat pesticides and hit him on the head with rocks (Daily Times, ET). The families of the two men have come under pressure from religious groups and political parties not to strike any deals that would facilitate Davis's release (ET). 

The AfPak Channel is honored to be a finalist in the Online Department category in the 2011 National Magazine Awards for Digital Media by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Controversy continues

Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot and killed two men he said were trying to rob him late last month in Lahore, refused to sign a charge sheet in a closed session of the Lahore High Court earlier today, asserting that he has diplomatic immunity and would not participate in the proceedings (AP, Reuters, Guardian, AFP). The hearing to decide whether he does have immunity is scheduled for March 14, and the murder case has been adjourned until March 3. Pakistani authorities have reportedly submitted an examination of Davis’s cell phone and other devices, allegedly indicating that he has traveled to Islamabad, Peshawar, and some of the tribal areas (ET). A Taliban commander, Maulana Abdul Khaliq Haqqani, issued a press release threatening members of the ruling PPP government if Davis is released, and the uncle of the widow of one of the men Davis killed reportedly survived a mysterious attempt on his life in which attackers forced him to eat pesticides and hit him on the head with rocks (Daily Times, ET). The families of the two men have come under pressure from religious groups and political parties not to strike any deals that would facilitate Davis’s release (ET). 

Pakistan’s intelligence service the ISI has blamed the civilian government, led by president Asif Ali Zardari, for implementing easier visa policies that have allegedly allowed more CIA employees and contractors to operate in the country (WSJ). The ISI has also reportedly demanded that the CIA dismantle a "shadow network" of operatives in Pakistan "if they really want our cooperation" (Times). Declan Walsh describes the swirl of conspiracy theories and speculation around the Davis case in Pakistan, quoting Pakistani analyst Cyril Almeida: "This issue is mired in so many versions of the truth that it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. My guess is that all sides are lying" (Guardian).

Separately, Pakistani police have arrested an American named Aaron Mark DeHaven, from West Virginia, in Peshawar for having incomplete travel documents, including a passport expired in October of 2010 (ET, AP). On the outskirts of the northwest Pakistani city, militants attacked NATO fuel tankers, killing 4 (AP, Geo, CNN). And yesterday in North Waziristan, between 3 and 6 alleged militants were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike (AP, BBC, CNN, AFP, ET/Reuters).

The PML-N, led by Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan’s largest opposition party, has just announced that it is ousting the PPP’s ministers from the cabinet in Punjab province following "inconclusive talks" about its reform agenda (Geo, ET, Dawn, AP). The move sidelines Zardari’s PPP in the province; the PML-N will now form a coalition with other lawmakers in the region.

Leaving the Pech

Last week, the U.S. began to withdraw from the remote Pech Valley in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar as part of a "repositioning" that will allow U.S. forces to conduct "shorter-duration strike missions into enemy havens" (Post). The new plan, which will withdraw from most of the four main American positions in the valley, reflects a "stark — and controversial — internal assessment by the military that it would have been better served by not having entered the high valley in the first place" (NYT). At least 103 American soldiers have died in and around Pech.

After months of international pressure and quiet diplomacy, Afghan officials have reportedly freed Sayed Mussa, an Afghan man who converted to Christianity and faced the potential of the death penalty for conversion from Islam (AP, NYT). A Christian group that had advocated for his release said it received a call from a U.S. official who said Mussa was safely out of Afghanistan.

An Afghan government investigation into recent coalition military operations in another area of Kunar found that a NATO airstrike killed at least 62 civilians, including women and children (AFP). NATO said it will not comment until its own investigation is completed.

And the U.S. is planning to open new consulates in Kandahar, Nangarhar, Herat and Balkh (Pajhwok).

Images of the times

Foreign Policy is currently featuring a slideshow of images of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, from his swearing in as president in 2001 through joint press conferences with American officials last year (FP). Other snaps included in the photo essay depict 2009’s presidential election, opium eradication plans, and coalition military operations.

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