WASHINGTON – The CIA said Wednesday it enjoyed a "healthy partnership" with Pakistan's intelligence service after an American spy accused of murder was freed by Islamabad authorities.
A Pakistan court on Wednesday released the CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, who was accused of double murder, after $2 million in blood money was paid to the families of the dead.
The case had prompted protests in Pakistan and aggravated strained relations between Washington and Islamabad, which had faced calls to stand up to its superpower ally and try Davis for murder.
The Central Intelligence Agency, however, said relations between the spy services remained strong, amid speculation that the case was a result of a machinations between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
"The agency and our Pakistani counterparts have had a strong relationship for years. When issues arise, it?s our standing practice to work through them," CIA spokesman George Little said in an email.
"That?s the sign of a healthy partnership -- one that?s vital to both countries, especially as we face a common set of terrorist enemies."
A senior Democratic senator, John Kerry, hailed the release of Davis as a "necessary step" to ensure solid relations between the two countries.
"As I said last month in my visits to Lahore and Islamabad, we deeply regret the loss of life that led to this difficulty in our relationship and the demonstrations on Pakistan's streets, but neither country could afford for this tragedy to derail our vital relationship," Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
US authorities said Davis was protected by full diplomatic immunity, a claim rejected by the Pakistani government, and a decision on his status was on Monday deferred by the Lahore high court for criminal judges to decide.
A third Pakistani was struck down and killed by a US diplomatic vehicle that raced to Davis' assistance in the incident.
US officials have been frustrated at Pakistan's reluctance to go after some Islamist groups on the Afghan border, including the Haqqani network which is blamed for attacks on NATO-led troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan sees the Haqqani group as a hedge to fend off arch-foe India in Afghanistan, analysts say.
The chair of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, has reportedly described CIA ties with Pakistan intelligence as "something less than wholehearted partnership" and that the ISI is "walking both sides of the street."