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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