ISLAMABAD: Reaction to the news of CIA operative Raymond Davis’s release through payment of blood money with protests in several towns and cities and an emotional outburst on TV talk shows accusing the federal and Punjab governments and military and intelligence services of having bartered national interest and indulged in a secret sellout unnerved the government forcing it to retreat into a shell.
There was no comment from the Presidency, Prime Minister’s House or Foreign Office on the development.
Fear of a backlash was so intense in government circles that the Foreign Office cancelled its weekly media briefing usually held on Thursday.
This gave a field day to what some government officials privately described as ‘ghairat (honour) brigade’, which used the opportunity to lash out at the government and military.
An inadvertent release of US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s reaction on Davis’s release, dated March 10, confirmed that the deal had been finalised almost a week ago, but its implementation got delayed probably because of issues pertaining to execution of the deal.
“The families of the victims of the Jan 27 incident in Lahore have pardoned Raymond Davis. I am grateful for their generosity. I wish to express, once again, my regret for the incident and my sorrow at the suffering it caused. I can confirm that the United States Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the incident in Lahore,” Mr Munter said in the statement.
Release of Davis, who was arrested on Jan 27 after fatally shooting two men in Lahore, was preceded by a lot of give and take between the two countries, particularly their security agencies whose cooperation is thought to be the bedrock of the bilateral relationship.
The public spat between CIA and ISI in the aftermath of the Davis episode made it unmistakably clear that the incident was being dealt with in the context of their underlying tensions that had boiled to a point where they could no longer be concealed.
Therefore, it was understood that resolution of the Davis saga hinged on a deal between ISI and CIA as to how the two inter-dependent spy agencies agreed to carry forward their relationship.
That Davis’s release came only a day after it had been reported that ISI and CIA were nearing a settlement confirmed the notion that the spy agencies had first resolved their own differences before the jailed CIA spy flew from Lahore to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
What ISI gained from or conceded to CIA during the negotiations would not be known to anyone until some WikiLeaks expose it.
One can, however, have a fair idea of what was discussed in those negotiations, which essentially started at a secluded luxury beach resort in Oman late last month in a meeting between Army Chief Gen Kayani and the American military top brass, from the litany of ISI complaints mentioned in a letter written to a US newspaper. These grievances related to CIA’s supposed arrogance and disrespect to ISI and building of its (CIA) secret spy network to bypass the Pakistani partner (ISI).
Besides, Pakistan’s worries about Afghanistan, sources say, were also taken up at the secret parleys.
But one thing that could be said with surety is that the deal, which had President Obama’s nod, could mark a serious change in the ISI-CIA collaboration parameters.
ISI may have got advantage to a certain extent, but there are indications that the military leadership has also agreed to address the American concerns that in the first place pushed it to developing its own network inside Pakistan for infiltrating jihadi groups.
One obvious indication in this respect came from Isaf Commander Gen Petraeus in his testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, where he said: “We are coordinating closely with the Pakistani Army to conduct Isaf operations that will provide the anvil on the Afghan side of the Durand Line against which Pakistani Taliban elements can be driven by Pakistani operations in the border areas.”
This, military sources confirmed, implied that Pakistan had agreed to prioritise military operations against extremists having safe havens in its tribal belt, which had so far been not possible because of military compulsions. Would that be an operation in North Waziristan? It could be anyone’s guess.