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Thursday, February 17, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Pakistan grants U.S. official diplomatic immunity, but final outcome to be decided in court

By Malik Ayub Sumbal

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s government has decided to grant diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis, a U.S. official arrested in Lahore for the killing of two young Pakistani men on Jan. 27, a high-ranking government official told this correspondent on Wednesday.


However the fate of Davis will be decided by a Lahore court where the case will be heard next month.

A senior Pakistani official told this correspondent on the condition of anonymity that “I have every hope the court will base its proceedings on our opinion. If he is immune from prosecution because we have recognized him as a diplomat, then a prosecution in Pakistan will be difficult.”

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On Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, flew to Pakistan for meetings with the country’s leaders as the Obama administration raised pressure on Islamabad to release Davis on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

A U.S. official in Washington said Kerry’s visit was purely as an individual “who cares about Pakistan and is visiting as a friend.” But Pakistani officials said the purpose of the visit primarily concerned Davis.

“We recognize Sen. Kerry as a friend and supporter of Pakistan. He is indeed here to help find a resolution to the Raymond Davis issue,” said the senior Pakistani official. He said that the government has finally decided to give Raymond Davis immunity.

“Our leaders have decided Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. cannot be allowed to derail because of this episode,” the official said.

On the other hand the religious parties in the country threatened the government with countrywide protests if Davis were released.

Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that as a U.S. employee, Davis doesn’t enjoy blanket immunity as sought by the U.S.

He was addressing the media after meeting with Sen. Kerry. “The meeting was arranged on the senator’s request,” Qureshi said. Sen. Kerry was a friend of Pakistan”.

“Pakistan and America need each other’s help. The issue of killing two Pakistani citizens in Lahore in broad daylight by a U.S. embassy employee has become a matter of national respect,” he added.

According to those who have seen newly-released media footage by a private news channel in Pakistan, Davis was very confident during questioning and said he had been advised not to cooperate with the investigation.

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