Pakistani seeks arrest of 2nd US employee

By Mubashir Bokhari,Reuters

LAHORE, Pakistan — A Pakistani man is demanding the arrest of a second U.S. embassy employee in Pakistan, his lawyer said on Friday, adding fuel to an incident that has severely strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.

The move comes as U.S. officials pressure Pakistan to release Raymond Davis, a U.S. consulate employee who is locked in a jail after shooting and killing two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore last month in what he said was an attempted robbery. Ijaz-ur-Rehman, whose brother Ibad was killed when a U.S. vehicle came to Davis’ rescue in the aftermath of the Jan. 27 shooting, filed a petition in the Lahore High Court demanding the car’s driver be arrested, lawyer Noman Atiq said. Atiq said his client had asked for the vehicle, which the U.S. State Department said was driven by an embassy staff member, to be impounded. “We want a proper investigation to be carried out in the murder of my brother,” Rehman said. “What we want is for the culprits to be punished for their crime.” The fate of Davis, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier, is another test for the frayed U.S.-Pakistani alliance, already strained by U.S. allegations that Pakistan has not acted strongly enough against Islamist militants launching attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Yet the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, battling its own insurgency and struggling to hold together a fragile political coalition, is reluctant to ignite popular fury in a case that has galvanized anti-American sentiment. Hundreds of opposition and Islamist activists protested in front of the U.S. consulate in Lahore and across town, burning tires and the U.S. flag and demanding Davis stay in Pakistan. Similar protests were held in Karachi, Peshawar and Multan. The United States insists Davis is covered by diplomatic immunity but, while it has signaled it agrees, the Zardari government has so far said the matter must be decided in court. The identity of the U.S. embassy employee who drove the car that struck and killed Ibad-ur-Rehman has not been made public.

Rana Sanaullah, law minister in Punjab province, where Lahore is located, said officials were pressing the federal government to arrange for the car to be handed over from the United States, but had not yet received a reply.