Pakistani Politicians Appeal for Clemency for CIA Killer

Political leaders in the home state of convicted killer Aimal Kasi appealed to the United States to spare his life, saying that by forgiving one person, Washington could win the hearts of millions over to the war on terrorism, a newspaper reported Monday.

The 38-year-old Kasi, who was born in the dusty southern border town of Quetta, was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Virginia on Thursday for gunning down two CIA employees in 1993 as they sat in their cars outside the intelligence agency's headquarters.

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner said Monday that he had received a clemency petition from Kasi but will not comment on the case until the killer's court appeals are exhausted.

In his hometown, newspapers have published appeals for clemency and have asked the city's more than 1 million residents to "pray for Aimal Kasi that God save his life from execution." His family, friends and 1,000 Muslim clerics have also issued appeals.

Two prominent local politicians weighed, according to an article published Monday, saying that putting Kasi to death will do nothing to help Washington's relationship with Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war against Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

"By forgiving one person the U.S. can win the hearts of millions of people in its war against terrorism," the Baluchistan Times quoted Sarwar Khan Kakar and Noor Jehan Panezai as saying in a joint statement.

Kakar is secretary general of the state branch of the party that supports Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Quaid-e-Azam faction of the Pakistan Muslim League.

The two politicians noted the strong showing of anti-American religious parties in Oct. 10 elections as evidence that the United States must consider the ramifications of further upsetting Pakistan's people.

The U.S. State Department has warned that Kasi's execution could result in retaliation against Americans around the world. Just two days after Kasi was convicted in 1997, assailants gunned down four American oil company workers in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.

A religious coalition won the third most seats in the national parliament, and became a powerful force in the state of Baluchistan, where Quetta is located. It also won control of the North West Frontier Province.

Also Monday, the Baluchistan Times published an editorial that took up a quarter of its back page calling on the United States to show clemency to Kasi.

"Pardoning him at this stage by President Bush will definitely have a very healthy effect, not only on Pakistan-US relations but on the entire Muslim world, where the sentiments against America have been growing," the editorial read.