Pakistanis protest Davis release; US to close embassy on Friday

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 17, 2011 18:59 hrs

Islamabad: Protests were organised across Pakistan on Thursday against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was arrested for shooting and killing two men in January, even as the US will close its embassy and consulates on Friday in the country in view of planned countrywide strike.

Students, lawyers and supporters of religious and political parties took to the streets in several cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, a day after a court pardoned and released Davis following a "blood money" deal with the families of the two men he killed.

Small protests had erupted in Lahore and Islamabad yesterday, hours after Davis, a 36-year-old former Special Forces soldier, was flown out of Pakistan on a special US flight.

"The US Embassy and consulates will be closed for routine business tomorrow (Friday)," Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said. Rodriguez said the decision was made for public safety and to ensure that people coming for visa applications and other routine business were not inconvenienced by the planned protests.

Meanwhile, most of the protests were organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaf party.

The Jamaat-ud-Dawah, Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaf organised protests today in Lahore and called for a countrywide strike tomorrow against the release of Davis.

Leaders of the three organisations accused the government of selling out the interests of Pakistan and failing to ensure the trial of Davis.

Demonstrations erupted in several Pakistani cities after Davis, who shot and killed two men in Lahore on January 27, was freed by a court after striking a "blood money" deal of over two million dollars with the families of the dead.

The Punjab University's Academic Staff Association organised a protest in Lahore while demonstrations were organised in the southern port city of Karachi by the Islami Jamiat Tulaba, the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The Islami Jamiat Tulaba also organised a protest near the US consulate in Lahore.

In Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, police used batons and teargas to break up a protest by students of the Peshawar University.

Several students were arrested.

Protesters in several towns and cities across Pakistan, including Multan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Charsadda and Nowshera, burnt tyres and blocked roads.

They carried posters with slogans like "We want justice and condemn the release of Raymond Davis" and "We demand hang Raymond Davis."

In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, lawyers boycotted courts and joined processions to protest the release of Davis.

The Jamaat-e-Islami held a protest rally at Aabpara Chowk in Islamabad that was joined by hundreds of people.

Former ISI chief Hameed Gul too led a protest against Davis' release in front of the parliament.

Addressing the media in Lahore, Sunni Ittehad Council leader Shahabzada Fazal Karim called for a countrywide strike tomorrow to "protect Pakistan's dignity and to register the people's hatred for the US".