ISLAMABAD: As American newspapers lifted a self-imposed gag on the CIA links of Raymond Davis, in place on the request of the US administration, The Express Tribune has now learnt that the alleged killer of two Pakistanis had close links with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The New York Times reported on Monday that Davis “was part of a covert, CIA-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.”
This contradicts the US claim that Davis was a member of the ‘technical and administrative staff’ of its diplomatic mission in Pakistan.
Davis was arrested on January 27 after allegedly shooting dead two young motorcyclists at a crowded bus stop in Lahore. American officials say that the arrest came after a ‘botched robbery attempt’.
“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab police claimed.
“His close ties with the TTP were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.
Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.
The larger picture
Davis’s arrest and detention has pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan.
The former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had cut a secret deal with the US in 2006, allowing clandestine CIA operations in his country. This was done to make the Americans believe that Islamabad was not secretly helping the Taliban insurgents.
Under the agreement, the CIA was allowed to acquire the services of private security firms, including Blackwater (Xe Worldwide) and DynCorp to conduct surveillance on the Taliban and al Qaeda.
According to The New York Times, even before his arrest, Davis’s CIA affiliation was known to Pakistani authorities. It added that his visa, presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in late 2009, describes his job as a “regional affairs officer,” a common job description for officials working with the agency.
American officials said that with Pakistan’s government trying to clamp down on the increasing flow of CIA officers and contractors trying to gain entry to Pakistan, more of these operatives have been granted “cover” as embassy employees and given diplomatic passports.
However, “The government and security agencies were surprised to know that Davis and some of his colleagues were involved in activities that were not spelled out in the agreement,” a source told The Express Tribune.
“Davis’s job was to trail links of the Taliban and al Qaeda in different parts of Pakistan. But, instead, investigators found that he had developed close links with the TTP,” added the source.
Investigators had recovered 158 items from Davis, which include a 9mm Gloc Pistol, five 9mm magazines, 75 bullets, GPS device, an infrared torch, a wireless set, two mobile phones, a digital camera, a survival kit, five ATM cards, and Pakistani and US currency notes, sources said.
The camera had photographs of Pakistan’s defence installations.
Intelligence officials say that some of the items recovered from Davis are used by spies, not diplomats. This proves that he was involved in activities detrimental to Pakistan’s national interests.
The Punjab law minister has said that Davis could be tried for anti-state activities. “The spying gadgets and sophisticated weapons recovered are never used by diplomats,” Rana Sanaullah told The Express Tribune.
He said some of the items recovered from Davis have been sent for a detailed forensic analysis. “A fresh case might be registered against Davis under the [Official] Secrets Act once the forensics report was received,” he said.
Sanaullah said that Davis could also be tried under the Army Act. To substantiate his viewpoint, he said recently 11 persons who had gone missing from Rawalpindi’s Adiyala jail were booked under the Army Act.
However, a senior lawyer said that only the Army has the authority to register a case under the Army Act of 1952 against any person who is involved in activities detrimental to the army or its installations.
“Such an accused will also be tried by the military court,” Qazi Anwer, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association said. He added that the civil authorities could register a case of espionage against any person.
But interestingly, despite all the evidence of Davis’s involvement in espionage, the federal government is unlikely to try him for spying.
“He will be prosecuted only on charges of killing of two men in Lahore,” highly-placed sources told The Express Tribune.
The Davis saga has strained relations between Pakistan and the United States, creating a dilemma for the PPP-led government.
The pressure on the Pakistan government to release Davis has been steadily intensifying.
According to The New York Times, “there have been a flurry of private phone calls to Pakistan from Leon E Panetta, the CIA director, and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all intended to persuade the Pakistanis to release the secret operative.” WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ASAD KHARAL IN LAHORE
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2011.