Pak, US cancel Afghan meet over arrested American official

The 16-day stand-off between the US and Pakistan over an American official arrested for gunning down two men in Lahore has resulted in the cancellation of a crucial trilateral meeting in Afghan.

Updated: Feb 13, 2011, 00:09 AM IST

Islamabad: The 16-day stand-off between
the US and Pakistan over an American official arrested for
gunning down two men in Lahore has resulted in the
cancellation of a crucial trilateral meeting that was to be
held later this month in Washington to discuss the emerging
situation in Afghanistan.

The meeting of the Foreign Ministers of US, Pakistan
and Afghanistan is "most likely being rescheduled", Foreign
Secretary Salman Bashir said today.

Pakistan still does not have new dates for the meeting
that was scheduled to be held during February 23-25, he told a
briefing arranged by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association
of Pakistan.

Bashir also acknowledged that there were "no clear
dates" for President Barack Obama`s visit to Pakistan though
"this has been talked of for a long time."

Reports have said that the US has suspended all
high-level contacts to pressure Pakistan to release American
official Raymond Davis, who was arrested in Lahore on January
27 after he shot and killed two men who he claimed were trying
to rob him.

Confusion has surrounded the diplomatic status of
Davis, a former military personnel, and the identity of the
two men he killed.

Bashir said the pressure mounted by the US for Davis`s
release was "counter-productive" and indicated that this could
adversely impact bilateral ties.

He made it clear that Davis` case was in court and
would be decided according to Pakistani laws.

However, he added: "If I were personally to do
something which is morally wrong or even criminal, (something)
that is not right by civilised standards, then I will not seek
immunity or seek protection under some figment like the
concept of immunity."

The concept of diplomatic immunity has a long history
and is not limited to the Vienna Convention and Pakistani
laws. The US had said that Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity
and it was expected that an "executive determination" could be
made by Pakistan`s Foreign Office, he said.

But Bashir pointed out that the Lahore High Court,
which is hearing a case related to Davis` immunity, had
specifically stated that "this question has not arisen and it
is the court`s prerogative to take cognisance if the issue is
raised."

Pakistan is hoping that the Lahore incident will not
be "blown out of proportion and affect our bilateral
relationship. It is an important relationship with the US,
Pakistan values that relationship," he said.

"We hope that nothing will be said or done that will
be detrimental to this relationship that we want to have with
the US. In Islamabad we are very clear; we hope they are
equally clear in Washington.

It will be extremely counter-productive if one
incident, one person destroys a relationship of 60 years," he
added.

Pakistani leaders have rebuffed US demands for Davis
to be freed despite warning by American lawmakers that the
issue could lead to cuts in civil and military aid.

Davis is currently in judicial custody and police
have rejected his claim of acting in self-defence.

In a chargesheet, police accused Davis of
"intentional and cold-blooded murder".

On the issue of cancellation of the trilateral meet,
State Department spokesman, P J Crowley said in Washington,
"In light of the political changes in Pakistan and after
discussions with Afghan and Pakistani officials in Washington,
it was agreed to postpone the Trilateral Meeting scheduled for
February 23-24."

"We remain committed to robust engagement between
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, as we share many
issues of mutual concern and benefit from being at the same
table," Crowley said, adding that the US looks forward to
convening a very productive Trilateral Meeting at the earliest
opportunity.

PTI