LAHORE: Thousands of Pakistanis gathered and chanted anti-American slogans in the eastern city of Lahore, demanding the hanging of an American diplomat arrested on charges of killing two Pakistani men.
The US embassy said the man, whom it has not named, acted in self-defense against two gunmen who approached his car in the city of Lahore on Thursday, seemingly intent on robbing him.
A third Pakistani was killed in the incident, allegedly after being hit by a US vehicle rushing to aid the American.
The United States have demanded the immediate release of the official, upping the stakes in a spat that has revealed the fragility of a relationship Washington believes is crucial for success in Afghanistan and against al-Qaida.
The U.S. embassy has said the man had a diplomatic passport and was immune from prosecution and has accused the Pakistani police of illegally detaining him.
Allowing the American to return home without facing trial could spark a potentially destabilizing backlash against the government, which is already weak and accused by critics of being subservient to the U.S.
The killings in Lahore have been seized on by many in Pakistan as fresh evidence of America’s malign intent in the region.
Many here don’t trust the government in its dealings with Washington, a legacy of its stance on U.S. drone strikes in the northwest against militants.
The attacks are unpopular among many Pakistanis and Islamabad publicly protests them.
But the country’s leaders are widely believed to agree to the attacks, and even provide intelligence on some of them.
The man was taken into custody soon after the shooting and appeared in court Friday for an initial hearing. U.S. officials were granted access to him only late the same day, soon after prosecutors said they would pursue possible murder charges against him.
The embassy statement made it clear Washington did not want to see him brought before a Pakistani judge again.
The U.S. Embassy statement did not answer all the questions that have swirled around the incident, including what the American did at the mission and why he was carrying a gun.
The lack of clarity has fuelled media speculation he may have been a CIA agent or a security contractor, as well as questions over whether he qualified for diplomatic immunity.
Washington has made strengthening ties with Pakistan a top priority and is committed to giving it 7.5 (b) billion dollars in civilian aid, one of its largest programs anywhere in the world.
It wants to secure the country’s help in stabilizing Afghanistan by attacking militant sanctuaries on its side of the border. AGENCIES