The Raymond Davis affair will complicate US efforts to moderate and further democratize Pakistan and to win in Afghanistan. Here's why.

The first major political casualty of the Davis affair is Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was dropped as foreign minister in the recent cabinet reshuffle. Almost certainly, the US had him removed (just as it ensured an extension for General Ashfaq Kayani).

According to the Pakistani press, Qureshi refused to grant Davis diplomatic immunity. Qureshi is a Punjab politician and was playing politics.

Punjab more than any other province has been on the boil since Davis killed his two armed assailants in a crowded Lahore street. It is no coincidence that the governor of Punjab was murdered for his anti-blasphemy views and his police-guard killer is being venerated there.

Among others, the Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist leader, Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed, based in Punjab, has warned against releasing Davis. After NWFP and FATA, Punjab is probably most anti-American.

Obviously, Qureshi wanted to feed on this hate for his own politics. Anti-India feelings also run highest in Punjab. Qureshi was active here too, deriding Manmohan Singh as powerless and running down the Indo-Pak dialogue.

On the Indian foreign minister's last visit to Pakistan, Qureshi toed the Pakistan military line to misbehave with S.M.Krishna. He hoped to get away by being tough on Davis. But he overplayed his hand.

And yet, Qureshi has done the damage. Whatever happens to his personal political career after this is not relevant to this piece. But Qureshi has essentially sowed the seeds of discord between Punjab and Sind on the Davis issue.

The Pakistan Punjab police have called Davis a cold-blooded murderer. It is not accidental that Punjab is ruled by Nawaz Sharief's brother Shahbaz. The US has opposed Nawaz Sharief and prefers Asif Zardari. This is Nawaz Sharief's revenge.

Knowing that he needed a Punjabi foil to rule, Zardari got a Punjab politician, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, as PM. Qureshi got into rivalry with Gilani for his job and went too far. But in the process, Gilani too has been damaged on the Davis affair in Punjab, and more than him, Zardari.

If immediate moves are made to let Davis go, the attacks will commence on Zardari as Sindhi. His attempts to balance Punjabi and Sindhi politics in the government will be upset. This writer does not see how Davis can be released anytime soon, whatever pressure America brings on.

Indeed, the US itself has raised the stakes on Davis by some of its actions. It is understandable that America has suspended all engagement with Pakistan till Davis is released. The pressure of this on Pakistan, which survives on US dole, cannot be minimized.

According to media reports, the US has also held up all drone attacks on FATA since Davis' arrest. Clearly, the US does not wish to aggravate matters until Davis is brought back. But it shows up US vulnerabilities.

In case Davis does get released, the drone attacks may resume. They will have too. Because short of a ground invasion, the US and NATO forces have no means other than drones to counter the Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership directing the Afghan war from Pakistani hideouts.

But after the Davis affair, how far bold will the US get in Pakistan? Will it continue with its policy to increment its presence in Pakistan to moderate it or, embracing caution, downsize? If Davis gets off, will Zardari be able to survive the backlash from Punjab, not to speak of the rabidity of fundamentalist and terrorist forces elsewhere in Pakistan?

Probably, all these questions are being tossed about in Islamabad and Washington as Pakistan and the US size up the messy Davis affair. This comes on top of a very bad situation in Afghanistan, where the war is not going to plan, and the US will have to leave the country with unfulfilled objectives.

Presumably, the only certainty is that Davis will have to be released. But his release will raise the tide of anti-Americanism. This could be countered with pressure on India on Kashmir. But this won't come to pass.

This writer thinks that the Davis affair marks a watershed in Pak-US relations. Alongside of cutting its losses in Afghanistan, the US may pitch for reducing its presence in Pakistan, and letting it sink.

The only factor that prevents the US -- and the rest of the world -- from consigning Pakistan to its wretched fate is its growing stockpile of nuclear weapons and fissile material. Sooner or later, a solution has to be found for this.

As of now, Pakistan is beyond redemption.