02/16/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN – UNITED STATES

Lahore: for Islamic fundamentalists, Raymond Davis is a blasphemer who must be beheaded

Jibran Khan
The US national, in prison for killing two Pakistanis, allegedly insulted the prison’s religious leader and other inmates who were praying. Pakistan’s extremist camp wants the American sentenced to death. It has announced demonstrations in case of his release. Fundamentalists want to see Asia Bibi as well as the US national, who claims diplomatic immunity, hanged.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), an Islamic political movement, wants Raymond Davis, a US citizen, tried for blasphemy, an offence that carries the death penalty. JUI chief Maulana Samiul Haq has accused him of disrespect towards the Friday call to prayer from a mosque and derogatory remarks about people who gathered for prayers as well as misbehaviour towards prison staff. The alleged actions occurred in Kot Lakhpat Maximum Security Prison in Lahore where the 36-year-old US national is being held on charges of double murder. He is waiting for Pakistani authorities to rule on his claim to diplomatic immunity.

For Raymond Davis, the situation is getting more complicated. Pakistan’s extremist camp is now egging on crowds and demanding an exemplary punishment for him. This comes at a time when tensions between Washington and Islamabad are at their highest. The 36-year-old American is in jail on charges of killing two men on 27 January in Lahore. He claims he acted in self-defence.

A local court ruled that he be held for two weeks in preventive custody. The inquiry appears to show that he shot in cold blood two Pakistanis, probably agents of the country’s Inter-Service Intelligence, as they fled on a motorbike.

The United States wants Pakistan to recognise his diplomatic immunity even though the Vienna Convention does not cover serious crimes like murder, which is what he is charged with.

In recent days, Raymond Davis is thought to have made his situation even worse. According to Mian Mushtaq Awan, Kot Lakhpat prison superintendant, the American insulted the prison’s religious leader and inmates who had met for morning prayers.

A group of prisoners tried to attack him but he was rescued by police before he could be lynched. A guard said, “Davis made derogatory remarks about Islam and Muslim prayers”.

News about the incident fired up the country’s extremist camp. For Maulana Samiul Haq, “Davis`s behaviour is punishable by death,” irrespective of his diplomatic immunity.

The JUI leader also called on the government to “hang Asia Bibi, the Christian woman, who insulted the prophet to make her an example for everyone in the country.” He was referring to the Christian mother who is in jail after being sentenced to death for blasphemy and waiting for her appeal to be heard.

Pakistan’s Islamic extremists have called for a national day of protest on 20 February in Peshawar to defend the ‘black law’.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has warned the government that if it released Davis, it would hold street demonstrations.

A TTP spokesman called on the authorities to hand over Davis so that they could behead him. He also threatened judges.

US Senator John Kerry has arrived in Lahore in an attempt to solve the matter. He met former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Queshi and Prime MinisterYousaf Raza Gilani to discuss details.

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