Washington: Even as the
US publicly suggested that every thing was hunky dory in its
relations with Islamabad, US Congress members threatened to stop
aid to Pakistan unless it releases a detained American.
The increased US pressure on Pakistan Tuesday came amid reports
that Washington has suspended high-level contacts with Islamabad
to seek the release of Raymond Davis, a US government employee
detained over the shooting deaths of two Pakistani men.
The United States insists Davis, who was arrested on Jan 27 after
shooting the two Pakistanis, enjoys diplomatic immunity. Davis
said he acted in self-defence fearing they would rob him.
A third Pakistani was run over and killed by a US consulate
vehicle that had come to assist Davis, according to police.
Three members of the US House of Representatives drove home the
point on a visit to Pakistan, telling Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani that Congress was working on its budget and looking for
areas to cut.
"It is imperative that they release him and there is certainly the
possibility that there would be repercussions if they don't," John
Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, said on his return.
"My guess is there would be a lot of support for such an
amendment, frankly, because of the outrage of detaining an
American with diplomatic immunity."
Asked if aid would be at risk if Davis stayed in custody, Buck
McKeon, who heads the House Armed Services Committee, said: "It
very well could be."
Publicly, the State Department denies any slowdown in high-level
contacts, even while emphasising the impact on bilateral relations
that any continued detention of Davis could have.
"We continue to have contacts with the Pakistani government,"
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Tuesday.
"We continue to express to them the importance of resolving this.
And we continue to express to them the fact that our US diplomat
has diplomatic immunity and should be released."
Pakistan's ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani also wrote on
Twitter that relations between the two countries "have proved
resilient in the past" and that the "strategic partnership will
endure, notwithstanding challenges".
Congress, in 2009, approved a five-year, $7.5bn aid package to
build schools, infrastructure and democratic institutions. The US
administration has also proposed another $2bn in assistance for
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)