Interior ministry mishandled Davis issue: Qureshi

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that “the Raymond Davis’ case was mishandled because interior ministry was made the focal point instead of keeping it confined to the foreign ministry”.

In an interview with Express TV Wednesday night, Qureshi said that “he had failed to understand the reasons for this decision and the subsequent turn of events also suggested that this mess could have been avoided”.

Qureshi was removed as foreign minister in the cabinet reshuffle in Pakistan following differences of opinion with the government and US administration on the issue of granting diplomatic immunity to Davis and refusing to accept the portfolio of “water and power” in protest.

Davis, a US official, was arrested in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, Jan 27 on charges of killing two people. He has claimed acting in self-defence but faces a court trial in jail because the police has negated his claim in the challan, a formal complaint, submitted after preliminary probe.

“The case is now in court and let it cross examine the facts,” Qureshi said, adding: “It had become a court issue before being brought into the knowledge of foreign office.”

He said: “The foreign office was contacted by the US embassy after his arrest and police remand.”

“When I was briefed by the foreign secretary, it was evident from the record that Davis is not a diplomatic staffer,” Qureshi said. “The same was conveyed to the president and prime minister in a meeting a few days later.”

“I fail to understand why the foreign office has demanded three more weeks from the court to reply on the diplomatic status of Davis because it was crystal clear already,” he said. “The character of officers in charge was beyond any doubt”.

“The contradictions in the case in this case have been rampant throughout. Even the foreign media carried stories about the exact identity of Davis which further complicated the matter.

“It will be dangerous to hand him over to US without law properly taking its course,” he said referring to the public sentiment on the issue. “I had advised government in the interest of my party, which is holding power, as well as the national interest.”

“The US should understand that dynamics have changed in this country and it is a democratic regime in power. The government would not be able to face the public outrage if Davis was allowed to go free.

“If I had met Hillary Clinton at Munich security conference, I might have made her understand the true picture,” he said. Clinton had refused to meet Qureshi in protest over Davis issue, following which he did not attend the Munich meet.

Qureshi said: “Pakistan can survive without US because it had to rely on its own instead of looking towards others.”

“I have no differences with my party and am very much a part with or without a ministerial portfolio,” he argued and declined to answer if he will return to the cabinet as foreign minister.

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