US steps up pressure on Pak to release American diplomat

Zardari said Washington should wait for the court’s decision on the American national.

Islamabad: Amid a diplomatic row over the
arrest of a US diplomat for gunning down two Pakistanis in
Punjab`s provincial capital Lahore, Pakistan President Asif
Ali Zardari on Monday said Washington should wait for the court’s
decision on the American national.

Zardari told a visiting delegation of American
Congressmen, who raised the controversial issue with the
president, that it would be "prudent" to wait for the legal
course in the country.

The president said he appreciated the concern of the
Congressmen "but the matter was already before the courts".

"It would be prudent to wait for the legal course to
be completed," Zardari was quoted as saying in a statement
issued by his office here.

Pakistani authorities have rejected a US demand for
the release of Raymond Davis, who was arrested after he shot
and killed two youths whom he alleged were trying to rob him
in a busy commercial area of Lahore on Thursday.

The Lahore High Court today sought a response from
federal and provincial authorities to a petition that called
for steps to ensure that Davis is not handed over to the US.

In the petition filed in the Lahore High Court,
lawyer Saeed Zafar claimed efforts were underway to secure the
release of the American and the government should be barred
from giving him diplomatic immunity.

The American should be barred from leaving Pakistan
by including his name in the Exit Control List, Zafar said.

Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, who heard the
petition, issued notices to the federal Attorney General and
the Assistant Advocate General of Punjab province, asking them
to appear in court tomorrow and to submit their responses.

The police in Lahore registered a case against Davis
for illegally carrying a weapon. The US national was armed
with a Glock 9mm pistol.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told reporters
this morning that the federal government and the Foreign
Office would decide whether Davis was entitled to diplomatic

"The matter is to be decided by the Foreign Office
while the provincial government is responsible for the
investigation (into the shooting incident according to the)
law of the land," Sharif said.

All decisions regarding the American would be taken
in light of the law and the Constitution and no compromise
will be made in the investigation or legal matters, he said.

In a related development, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Giyani’s office denied reports in a section of the media that
the government had decided to give immunity to Davis and was
pressuring authorities to free the American.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister`s Secretariat
described the news reports as "incorrect and fabricated".

The spokesperson said the federal government is "not
putting any pressure (on authorities) to hand over Raymond
Davis to America".

"It is absolutely untrue that the Prime Minister has
exerted any influence for the release of Raymond Davis," the
spokesperson said.

The American, currently in police custody, contended
during a court appearance last week that he had acted in