US, Pakistan contacts now confined to Davis’s release

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ISLAMABAD - The discussions between the US and Pakistan are now confined only to the row over US official Raymond Davis, who was arrested after he shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore, it was reported here.

Contacts between Washington and Islamabad are only over the dispute on the release of Davis, US and diplomatic sources told the Dawn Wednesday.

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that even Secretary of State Hillary Clintons call to President Asif Ali Zardari last week was largely about this (Raymond Davis) issue.

Davis was arrested after he shot dead two people riding on a motorbike at a busy intersection in Lahore Jan 27. He called up the US consulate after the shooting and a team rushed to help him. The team’s vehicle collided with a motorcyclist, killing him.

The issue has severely strained relations between Washington and Islamabad.

On Monday, US Ambassador Cameron Munter met President Asif Ali Zardari over the matter.

So we continue to emphasise the importance of resolving this case, Crowley was quoted in the Dawn as saying.

In Washington, Pakistans Ambassador Husain Haqqani was called to the White House at least four times since last week and asked to inform Islamabad that they need to resolve this issue now, a diplomatic source was quoted as saying.

Crowley said: We continue to make clear to the government of Pakistan that our diplomat has diplomatic immunity, in our view was acting in self-defence, and should be released.

He said Washington knew that the widow of one of the two people killed in Lahore had committed suicide after hearing that Pakistan may release Davis.

And it is clearly a tragedy for that family. The matter of the deaths of three individuals involving our diplomats is still under investigation, said Crowley.

Scaling up pressure on Pakistan for the release of Raymond Davis, the US has put on hold high-level bilateral engagements with Islamabad.

The State Department Monday said 36-year-old Davis holds a diplomatic passport and is a member of the “technical and administrative staff” at the US Embassy in Islamabad “entitled to full criminal immunity in accordance with the Vienna Convention”.

The US administration and the Congress, the statement said, “have repeatedly made clear at the highest levels that this matter must be resolved by the Pakistan government or it could impact other bilateral initiatives”.

Diplomatic sources had told the Dawn Monday that the dispute could impact three major events planned this year - President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington, the next round of US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, and trilateral talks involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi last week postponed a visit to Germany to take part in an international security conference after Washington told Islamabad that Clinton might not be able to meet him because of the dispute.

The Washington Post quoted a Pakistani intelligence official as saying that the situation was complicated as the two men Davis killed were not armed robbers, but intelligence agents assigned to tail him.

This official said the two men intended to frighten Davis as he crossed a “red line” that the official did not further define.

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