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US aid to Pakistan linked to Raymond Davis' release

By       Message Abdus Sattar Ghazali     Permalink
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After intensive diplomatic pressure failed to secure release of American citizen, Raymond Davis, - who says he killed two young motorcycle riders in self-defense -- Washington has now threatened to cut financial aid to its client government in Islamabad.  

Three members of the House of Representatives drove home the point on a visit to Pakistan, telling Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani starkly that the US Congress was working on its budget and looking for areas to cut.

"It is imperative that they release him and there is certainly the possibility that there would be repercussions if they don't," Representative John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, told reporters on his return. "It's entirely possible that a member of Congress would come down and offer an amendment to cut funding for Pakistan based on their detaining Davis," Kline added.

At the same time, Howard "Buck" McKeon, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, said that, as the House considers various spending bills, efforts could be made to cut funds for Pakistan.

Congress in 2009 approved a five-year, $7.5-billion aid package meant to build schools, infrastructure and democratic institutions as Pakistan ended a decade of military rule. In October, the Obama administration proposed another $2 billion in assistance for Pakistan's military, often seen as the key power center in the country.

Raymond Davis shot two men on January 27 in Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan. A third Pakistani was run over and killed by a US consulate vehicle that had come to assist Davis. US Consulate in Lahore has so far declined to hand over the driver of the car to the police despite repeated requests from the Punjab provincial government.

Lahore High Court last week extended Davis' remand for 15 days and ordered the government to place his name on the "exit control list" to prevent him from leaving the country. Chief justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry said the court would decide later if David was eligible for diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic pressure on Pakistan government

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken up the issue of release of Raymond Davis with President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Clinton raised this matter during her telephonic conversation with Zardari last week and also when she met General Kayani on the sidelines of the Munich conference over the weekend, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.

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Tellingly, Hillary Clinton declined to meet Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the weekend conference in Munich to show displeasure over the case.

President Zardar's government has taken the plea that "the matter is before the judiciary and let us wait and respect it' to decide the fate of Davis, but Washington is not ready to buy this line of defense.

"Zardari was quite clearly told by US that his government had no other choice but to abide by its obligation under international and Pakistani law to recognize his (Davis') diplomatic immunity and immediately release him. The US citizen's continued detention is a gross violation of international law. The illegally detained diplomat enjoys diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations (1961)", The News, a leading English newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

Row over the diplomatic status of Raymond Davis

Washington , meanwhile, stresses that if the Pakistan Foreign Office had issued certification to their citizen when requested and in time, this matter would neither have been politicized nor prolonged.

The US government maintains that after notifying the Foreign Office about the status of Raymond Davis in January 2010, they as in most cases did at that time not need certification. As the sending state they had the right to categorize Davis and since there was no objections received from the Pakistan government the matter lay at rest.

"The certification at this stage is needed from the Foreign Office because we have a US citizen who is detained and this certification has to be sent to the Punjab government for immunity and release of the US citizen. We want to resolve this matter," Courtney Beale, spokesperson at the US Embassy told The News.

Investigative journalist of The News, Ansar Abbasi quoted the Foreign Office sources as saying that official documents have proved that Raymond Davis is not an accredited US diplomat but is a "non-diplomatic staff" of the US embassy.

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The source said the Foreign Office, which is preparing a reply for the Lahore High Court on the matter, is presently pondering over the technical issue of whether the limited-diplomatic immunity covers the kind of killing done by Raymond Davis, who was carrying illicit weapon, used excessive and disproportionate use of force, boarding a vehicle with fake registration number and possessing objectionable material.

The Foreign Office sources clearly say that there is a lot of difference between absolute immunity and the limited-one that is given to non-diplomatic staff like Raymond Davis.

Absolute immunity under the Geneva Convention, these sources said, is offered to selected members of any foreign mission. The limited-diplomatic immunity is given to otherwise non-entitled members of the mission but on the request of the sending country.

The Foreign Office's thinking is truly reflected by two former Foreign Secretaries Riaz Khokhar and Akram Zaki. Riaz Khokhar who recently told The News, "No diplomat or non-diplomatic staffer claiming immunity can carry in his car telescope, binocular, maps, masks and such like things and then kill two young men at will. What is the purpose of having all these instruments and tools?"  

He explained that the government had issued diplomatic passports to a large number of people including family members of the prime minister, but this did not mean they could commit crimes in a foreign land and then claim immunity which cannot be available to them in any case, he said. 

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)

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