Pakistan defiant on Davis case despite Kerry diplomacy

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ISLAMABAD - Despite a hectic 24-hour visit of John Kerry, chairman of US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Pakistan’s civil and military establishment seems to be in a defiant mood on the issue of granting diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis, a US consular staffer arrested on charges of gunning down two Pakistani men in Lahore.

Davis was arrested by Lahore police Jan 27 on charges of killing two alleged robbers. He has claimed that he acted in self-defence and the case is being heard by a local court.

After high-level contacts to secure his release on diplomatic grounds were not entertained by the Pakistani government, Kerry reached Pakistan Tuesday afternoon on a diplomatic mission to secure the release of the US official.

Kerry called on President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani Wednesday to advocate for the release of Davis “to protect deep-rooted bilateral relations between both countries”.

“The matter is not as simple as it looks. The case is now in court, which is going to decide it on merit,” Zardari told Kerry.

Gilani admitted that the “government is facing difficult times on the issue”. “We have not bowed to any pressure and would respect the decision of the courts,” he said, reported Geo TV.

Nawaz Sharif, whose party PML-N is in power in Punjab province where Davis is under trial, was more staunch and forthright in his stance after the meeting with Kerry.

“We have made it clear to him that laws of the land have to be respected,” he said. “The federal government mishandled the case but the Punjab government has played its due role,” Sharif added.

Kerry, who started his visit with the emphasis that the strategic relations between both countries should not be marred by one such tragic incident, said he came to realise by the end of it that it was easier said than done.

“We have had constructive discussions and I am hopeful that the matter will be resolved within 3-4 days,” he told reporters at Chaklala air base in Rawalpindi before flying back to the US after the meetings.

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