`Court will decide Davis case as Obama steps in`

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 18:47

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf
Raza Gilani on Wednesday said the fate of the US official, arrested
for gunning down two men would be decided by the courts, amid
reports that Washington and Islamabad had come close to
resolving the stand-off over the issue.

"The matter is for the courts to decide or if the
relatives of the dead men grant pardon," Gilani said as US
President Barack Obama in his first comment on the matter
raised the stakes by insisting Pakistan should adhere to the
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by freeing Raymond
Davis.

The comments from the Prime Minister came as the
Lahore High Court hearing the case of the diplomat is to take
up several petitions including from the government on the
diplomatic immunity for the official tomorrow.

The Davis case has become a flashpoint between
Pakistan and the US, triggering anti-American sentiments in
the country, which is making it harder for authorities to back
down despite US pressure.

Media reports quoting unnamed Pakistani officials
claimed that the two countries, after weeks of a tense stand-
off, were near an arrangement to repatriate the US official
and that Pakistan government would concede in the court that
he qualified for diplomatic immunity.

To make matters tougher for the government, former
foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, miffed over his ouster
from the foreign office, claimed that Davis could not be
granted "blanket immunity" as desired by the Americans.

The minister said he was ready to testify in the
court, if he was called, in connection with the matter.

The PPP leader said the expert opinion that Davis was
not qualified for diplomatic immunity to Davis was formulated
at an inter-ministerial meeting held by the Foreign Office.

Hours after the media report and Qureshi`s comments
made at a press conference, the Foreign Office contradicted
that the government had made any pronouncement to the question
of immunity of Davis.

"The spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry has
contradicted reports appearing in the media about any
pronouncement, public or official, made by the Foreign
Ministry relating to the question of immunity of Raymond Allen
Davis," said a brief statement issued by the Foreign Office.

"Speculation in this regard is unfounded," it said.

Conceding that Pakistan was facing "difficult
decisions" on the issue and that there may be a political
price to pay, Gilani told a gathering of clerics that the
decision on the matter would be of the court only.

"We are facing difficult decisions. There is a
political price. If we take it, then the people do not support
us, and if we don`t do it, the world does not support us,"
Gilani added.

"We are caught between the devil and the deep sea.
This needs wisdom. We will do whatever is in the interest of
the country and the nation," Gilani said against a backdrop of
increasing US pressure to free Davis.

A White House envoy, Senator John Kerry, who is in
Pakistan tendered a public apology for the death of the two
Pakistani men, and said Davis` conduct would be looked into by
the US Justice Department, once he returns after release.

Kerry had a flurry of meetings with top Pakistani
officials, including Gilani, conveying to them Obama`s message
on the issue.

At a news conference earlier, Obama said: "With
respect to Mr Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we`ve got a
very simple principle here that every country in the world
that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future".

"We expect Pakistan, that`s a signatory should
recognise Mr Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same
convention," Obama said.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 18:47

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