The release of Raymond Davis was arranged in less than 48 hours and was a result of collaboration between the Punjab government and intelligence agencies, both of whom had interests in ensuring the release, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, in collaboration with agencies, managed the entire release operation in less than 48 hours, sources said.
On March 15, the Punjab home secretary, the inspector-general of the Punjab police, and the commissioner of Lahore visited the Kot Lakhpat jail, where Davis was being held, between 10 am and noon. Intelligence officials visited the jail around 2 pm. Sources say that each of the aforementioned officials was visiting to ensure the security arrangements for Davis’ release.
In order to ensure a smooth release, Davis’ route from the jail to the airport was timed. Earlier that morning, at 3:52 am, Davis was taken to the airport and brought back around 5:45 am.
Rana Sanaullah was kept informed of the entire operation, sources say.
The families of Davis’ two victims were picked up later that night and taken into “protective custody” while the paperwork for accepting the blood money was carried out. Their mobile phones were taken away from them, to avoid “leakage” of news of the impending release.
On March 16, Carmela Conroy, US Consul General in Lahore, along with four other US diplomats, arrived at Kot Lakhpat jail. At 11:29 am, the judge presiding over the case resumed the hearing, at which the families of the deceased were also present, despite having already signed documents accepting compensation for the murder of two young men.
During the proceedings, Davis was formally indicted on two counts of murder. The hearing ended at 3.49 pm. Seven minutes later, a US Consulate vehicle arrived at the jail to escort Davis out of the jail. He left Kot Lakhpat at 4.11 pm. Conroy left about 20 minutes later.
In the next half hour, the families of the two victims, Faizan and Fahim, also left the jail, accompanied by their lawyers.
During the entire day on Wednesday, spooks took over the jail, including the superintendent’s office. The staff had been instructed by the Punjab law minister to allow the men to conduct whatever business they needed to.
The entire jail staff was told to submit their mobile phones to the officials, who kept them for the duration of the release operation.
None of the jail staff were aware that Davis was about to be released.
Entry and exit into the jail on that day was strictly controlled.
Source say that the compensation paid to the victims’ families was not paid by the US government but instead came from an unidentified Pakistan government account.
The federal and Punjab governments have sought reports regarding the expected reaction to Davis’ release from their respective agencies.
Measures are being taken to minimise the expected agitation. Law enforcement agencies have also begun preparing lists of active parties’ leaders who participated in agitation and a close surveillance of the leaders and activists has started. It is believed that the whole operation to spring Raymond Davis was done to discredit the elected government, say some officials.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was contacted to comment about his role in the matter, but did not respond despite repeated attempts to contact him.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2011.
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