LAHORE, Pakistan - – New revelations about a CIA contractor in custody for shooting two men dead heaped pressure on Pakistan's fragile government Tuesday and exposed burning public mistrust of Washington.
Officials in Washington cited by US media reports confirmed the account of a Pakistani intelligence official, who told AFP that Raymond Davis, the American being held in a prison in Lahore city, was working undercover for the CIA.
Washington is pushing hard for Pakistan's authorities to free Davis, arguing that he has diplomatic immunity and backing his claim to have acted in self-defence when he shot the men in a busy city street nearly four weeks ago.
The foreign ministry has so far refused to define Davis's diplomatic status and a Lahore court last week gave the government another three weeks to do so.
The opposition and relatives of the dead men said it was time for the government to come clean with what it knows of Davis and to address suspicions that he also worked for Xe, a US security firm formerly known as Blackwater.
"Davis deserves no pardon... We knew from day one that he was working for the CIA and Blackwater," said Mohammad Waseem, the brother of the deceased Mohammad Faheem.
"People like Davis have a role in terrorist activities in Pakistan. He should be tried and given the death sentence."
The New York Times on Monday reported that Davis was part of a CIA operation tracking Islamist extremists in eastern Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the virulently anti-Indian group blamed for the bloody 2008 siege of Mumbai.
The newspaper said he "worked for years as a CIA contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide". It noted that the company has long been seen by Pakistanis "as symbolizing a culture of American gun-slinging overseas".
"Whether he is a Blackwater or CIA agent the facts should be exposed by the federal government because it is their responsibility," said Pervez Rashid, spokesman for the opposition-controlled Punjab government.
Pakistani police say that after the shooting on January 27, they recovered a Glock pistol, four loaded magazines, a GPS navigation system and a small telescope from Davis's car.
A third Pakistani was struck down and killed by a US diplomatic vehicle that came to his assistance. US officials denied Pakistan access to the vehicle and the occupants are widely believed to have left the country.
Right-wing religious group Jamat-e-Islami, which wants Davis to be hanged for murder, said the courts should be left to adjudicate, but that he should also be now tried for espionage.
A lawyer for the three families of the men killed, Asad Manzoor Butt, raised the possibility of fresh espionage charges but said the claims should not affect an ongoing murder case in the courts.
The Wall Street Journal quoted US officials as denying that Davis was directly involved in CIA espionage or drone operations, which have killed hundreds of alleged militants in Pakistan's northwest on the Afghan border.
The case complicates relations with the United States, which have already been strained by mistrust over the US-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday told parliamentarians that the two governments would not allow the Davis case to undermine their "mutually beneficial partnership".
But while he said Pakistan was mindful of its international obligations, he insisted the government "will not compromise on Pakistan's sovereignty and dignity".
US Senator John Kerry visited Pakistan last week to express regret and say Davis would face a criminal investigation at home.