Davis, a CIA security guard, was pardoned and flown to a U.S. facility in Kabul, where he was to be examined and questioned about his treatment before returning to the United States.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed gratitude to the victims’ families in Pakistan and said that the Justice Department has begun an investigation of the shooting that led to Davis’s arrest in Lahore on Jan. 27.
Clinton insisted that the United States had not made any payment to the families or agreed to reimburse the Pakistani government. But other U.S. officials signaled that Washington had endorsed the “blood money” payments and that it expects to reimburse Pakistani authorities, who had led an effort in recent weeks to persuade the Pakistani families to accept cash in return for dropping the case.
“We expect to receive a bill,” a U.S. official said.
The release stunned Pakistanis, and opponents accused President Asif Ali Zardari’s government of bowing to U.S. pressure.
Hundreds of angry protesters tried to gather outside the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, where they were beaten back by police, and religious groups said they planned nationwide protests Friday.
“The judge who released Davis murdered law and justice,” said Sen. Khurshid Ahmad of Jamaat-e-Islami, the nation’s largest religious-based political party. He said that federal, provincial and security officials had connived to free Davis, and that “blood money was taken not just for two men, but the whole country was sold.”
Pakistani officials denied that they had capitulated. Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the Zardari government had always said it would leave the decision up to the courts.
Pakistan’s government had been buffeted by pressure from all sides, reluctant to appear pressured by Washington, but eager to close a case that called attention to the extensive CIA presence inside the country and risked a rupture with a source of billions of dollars in aid.
Obama administration officials expressed hope that the resolution of the case would allow diplomatic repair work to begin. The trilateral U.S.-Pakistan-Afghanistan talks that had been canceled last month will now be rescheduled, officials said.
The CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, are also expected to hold talks aimed at reducing friction over the scope of CIA activity in the country.
A U.S. official insisted, however, that the CIA had not made any concessions to get Davis, 36, released. “There was no quid pro quo between the Pakistani and U.S. government” in connection with the case, the official said.