Islamabad: In the wake of arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis late last month, at least 12 out of 30 suspected covert US spy operatives have left Pakistan after suspending their activities in the country. 

Davis’ arrest in Lahore on January 27 has led the Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to scrutinize records of Americans living in the country, where in several discrepancies were discovered.

“This has caused many suspected American operatives to maintain a low profile and others to leave the country altogether”, The Express Tribune newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there are 851 Americans with diplomatic immunity in Pakistan, of whom 297 are not working in a diplomatic capacity.

The majority of these "special Americans", as the Interior Ministry refers to them, are concentrated in Islamabad, while others live in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

Interior Ministry records state most of the "special Americans" live in upscale neighbourhoods in Islamabad and Lahore, with smaller presences in Karachi and Peshawar, the report said.

Most of these Americans are "suspected of being operatives of US intelligence agencies who are on covert missions in Pakistan" and report to the US Joint Special Operations Command, according to the sources.

Scared of a public backlash following rising anti-American sentiments, Pakistani leaders  have declined US demands to release Davis on grounds of diplomatic immunity and said his case will be decided by the courts.

Pakistani counter-intelligence agencies have long suspected a covert US espionage presence in the country and the first internal investigation into suspicious activities by American citizens was conducted in March 2009. Under the Foreigners Act of 1946, foreigners are not allowed to live in cantonment areas in Pakistan.

However, a majority of suspected American intelligence operatives in Lahore are reportedly "living in the Officers'-Generals' Colony on Sarwar Road and Cavalry Ground in the Lahore Cantonment," the report said.

The presence of these Americans came to light when several serving and retired army officers who lived in these areas reported suspicious activity, including unauthorized foreigners living in cantonment areas.

Sources told the daily that intelligence agencies' reports stated many Americans living in these residences are assumed to be US Special Forces – including members of the covert Delta Force of the US Army – and therefore are considered armed and dangerous.

The reports further claimed that the late US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke had visited one of the covert American teams in Lahore at a residence on Sarwar Road owned
by a retired army general.