"The Americans want to destroy Pakistan," said Aslam Hayat, 54, a construction worker who was speaking after prayers at a mosque in Rawalpindi. "That's why people like Davis are roaming all around the country, assigned with different tasks against our country."
Such conspiracy theories have long dominated discussions here about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, in part because they are occasionally confirmed - as one was this week when U.S. officials said that Davis is a security contractor for the CIA. They had previously described him as a diplomat entitled to immunity from prosecution, a characterization they still maintain is accurate.
But officials and analysts said the speculation about multitudes of American gunslingers also reflects widespread hostility toward the U.S. presence, which has increased since the shooting and could represent a particularly ominous turn for the United States' rapidly expanding mission in Pakistan.
As the Obama administration has boosted economic and development assistance for Pakistan over the past two years, it has deployed U.S. diplomats and aid workers more widely to implement education programs, flood relief and other projects. The apparently growing belief that many Americans work as sinister agents could imperil those efforts or endanger those carrying them out, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.
"It's going to be very difficult, moving forward, for a lot of regular diplomats and development workers to work here without constantly having to deal with a sense of insecurity on the part of the Pakistanis - accusations, suspicion, skepticism," said Mosharraf Zaidi, a commentator and policy adviser who has worked as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In the capital, Islamabad, the United States is spending $1 billion to expand its fortified embassy compound to support hundreds of new employees, construction that is now fueling fresh scrutiny in the Pakistani media. Dozens of additional diplomats and aid workers are being assigned to consulates in Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore, the eastern city where Davis shot the Pakistanis.
U.S. officials said Davis, 36, was working with a team of CIA contractors and an agency employee out of a safe house in Lahore. He has said that he shot the two Pakistanis in self-defense as they tried to rob him.
It is unclear how many of the U.S. mission's personnel are private security contractors or intelligence agents, many of whom work alongside Pakistani agents on counterterrorism operations, including the CIA drone program. A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman declined to provide figures; according to data provided by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, 3,555 U.S. diplomats, military officials and employees of "allied agencies" were issued visas in 2010, most of which were valid for three months.