Qureshi paid the price for opposing Davis` immunity

Last Updated: Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 00:37

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Foreign Minister
Shah Mahmood Qureshi paid the price for not toeing the ruling
party`s line on providing diplomatic immunity to the jailed US
official Raymond Davis, facing a murder charge for shooting
down two Pakistanis in Lahore.

Qureshi, who was dropped from his high-profile foreign
affairs portfolio, was one of two persons who were "on the
wrong side of the prevalent dominant wisdom and desire of
somehow finding a way to retrospectively cough up diplomatic
immunity for Davis" during a meeting held in the presidency a
few days ago to discuss the case, The News daily reported.
"An adamant Qureshi, who had strongly argued the case
that (Davis) did not enjoy unlimited diplomatic immunity under
law, flatly refused and even said that if need be, he`d rather
resign than become an accessory to multiple murder," the paper
claimed.

The newspaper did not identify the other person who
was against granting immunity to Davis but the report implied
that he was Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen
Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

"But since one of the `erring` two dared not be
arbitrarily fired, poor Qureshi?s fate stood sealed," the
paper said.

The "highly secretive" meeting, convened by President
Asif Ali Zardari, was also attended by Prime Minister Yousuf
Raza Gilani, Law Minister Babar Awan and Interior Minister
Rehman Malik.
The meeting focussed on the issue of Davis and
Pakistan-US relations.

Qureshi skipped the swearing-in ceremony for Gilani`s
new cabinet yesterday after he learnt that he would not be
reallocated the foreign affairs portfolio.

It had earlier been announced on state-run television
that he would be among the ministers to be administered the
oath by the President.

Davis was arrested in Lahore on January 27 after he
shot and killed two men who he claimed were trying to rob him.

Police yesterday rejected his claim that he had acted
in self-defence and accused him of "intentional and
cold-blooded murder".

A third Pakistani was killed when he was hit by a US
consulate car rushing to aid Davis.

The US has ramped up pressure on Pakistan to free
Davis on the ground that he has diplomatic immunity.

Reports have said that the US has also suspended all
high-level contacts with Pakistan.

During the gathering at the presidency to discuss the
issue of Davis, Zardari was given an "exhaustive overview of
the entire situation but quite early in the meeting it became
evident that two of the men" opposed to finding a way to grant
diplomatic immunity to the US official, The News reported.
"Extreme pressure was exerted in the meeting on the
former Foreign Minister to renege from his earlier stance and
simply tell the court that the Foreign Office was in
consonance with the American interpretation of Davis being a
genuine diplomat and enjoying full immunity under Vienna
Convention 1961," the report said.

The "Interior Ministry`s immense resources were also
offered to cause any necessary change of documentation or any
exceptional service warranted under these exceptional
circumstances", the report claimed.

The meeting ended on a "rather unsavoury and
unexpected note", it added.

Qureshi stance, the report said, was "surprising"
because he had "always been perceived, and even pilloried by
the media, as being an American lackey and was not expected to
dig in his heels over an issue so vital for the US
administration".

The report said Qureshi had been facing pressure from
the Americans for the release of Davis since January 28, a day
after the shooting incident in Lahore.

He initially received a call from US Ambassador
Cameron Munter and then had a conversation with Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton on the issue.
Munter requested immediate consular access to Davis
and his immediate handover to the US Consulate in Lahore.

Qureshi, while authorising immediate consular access,
told Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir that the matter of Davis?
release would be decided by the court alone as the legal
process had already been kicked into motion in Punjab
province.

Clinton too sought the immediate handover of Davis
and insisted that Pakistan was violating the Vienna Convention
by the illegal incarceration of a US diplomat.

Confirming his conversation with Clinton, Qureshi told
The News said that he had explained to Clinton that while "he
understood her anxiety, she too had to understand the highly
emotive and sensitive nature of the incident".

Since the judicial process had been kick-started in
Lahore, the Foreign Office and the US had "little option but
to submit to the due process of law", Qureshi told Clinton.

The two leaders decided to discuss the matter on the
sidelines of the then upcoming Munich Security Conference but
Qureshi did not attend the meet after Clinton reportedly
refused to meet him.

A few days before the conference, Qureshi received a
call from Ambassador Munter who said he had been directed to
convey the message that "unless Qureshi signed the diplomatic
immunity paper prior to the conference, the scheduled meeting
between him and (Clinton) would stand cancelled".

Qureshi then cancelled his trip to Germany.

The report further suggested that "the next claimed
scalp may be that of the equally intransigent (from the
American perspective) Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who is
now the only remaining top level hurdle in the apprehended
shameless handover of Davis by a compromised political
leadership".

Bashir is of the "firm view" that Davis does not
qualify for full immunity, the report said.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 00:37

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