The US-client government of President Asif Ali Zardari is resisting the US pressure to release US citizen Raymond Davis who told a court on Friday that he killed two Pakistani motorcycle riders last Thursday in self-defense in the crowded Mazang area of Lahore, the second largest town of Pakistan.
According to Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, President Zardari came under immense pressure on Monday when a six-member delegation of US congressmen called on him and sought diplomatic immunity for the arrested US national and said he should be handed over to the US government forthwith.
The 45-minute meeting revolved around Raymond Davis, whose visa status is yet to be ascertained, the paper said adding: The US embassy insists that he is its official or a member of its technical staff, thus enjoying diplomatic immunity, but details of his passport revealed by the media say otherwise.
According to the president's spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Mr Zardari told the US delegation that he appreciated their concern, but the matter was already before the courts. "It will be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed."
The United States
on Saturday called for immediate release of Raymond Davis. "When detained,
diplomat identified himself to police as a diplomat and repeatedly requested
immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," the embassy
said in a statement. It added, "Local police and senior authorities failed
to observe their legal obligation to verify his status with either the US consulate general in Lahore
or the US embassy in Islamabad". "Furthermore,
the diplomat was formally arrested and remanded into custody, which is a
violation of international norms and the Vienna Convention, to which Pakistan is a
Raymond Davis appeared in court Friday. He told the court that he acted in self-defense after coming under attack. A third Pakistani national was crushed to death by a consulate car that went to help Davis. The court ordered that Davis should be held in police custody for six days. He is charged with two counts of murder and of possessing an illegal firearm.
On Sunday a statement from Washington said the US government said: "The US diplomat detained in Lahore is a member of the US Embassy's technical and administrative staff, and therefore entitled to full criminal immunity and cannot be lawfully arrested or detained in accordance with the convention."
However, Pakistani authorities said Davis did not have diplomatic immunity and was not one of the foreign security personnel allowed to carry firearms. Dawn newspaper published picture of his passport showing that he entered Pakistan last June on a non-diplomatic visa.
There has been much speculation over the nature of Davis's position. ABC news reported that Davis' record shows that he has an experience in the U.S. Special Forces and runs Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, a company that provides "loss and risk management professionals."
Florida-based Hyperion's website says that it was founded in 1999 by someone called Gerald L. Richardson "to find ways to guide (the customers) through the often foggy areas of loss and risk management". Each one of "our hand selected employees brings to the workplace the best attributes available in the south-eastern region of the United States."
The company Website says that the personnel provided to the customer (US State Department in this case) are hired as the customer's employees. As such the "legal liabilities reside with the business contracting the service."
Davis 's use of what appears to have been an illegal semiautomatic firearm and his accurate aim while firing bullets through his windshield raises further questions as to the nature of his employment -" questions that have yet to be answered by American authorities, a Pakistani commentator said.
Lahore's leading English newspaper, The Nation, argued Tuesday that there are some unanswered questions in this case. "Why is the US Embassy not disclosing the true identity, designation and role of this individual? What was Raymond's covert mission in Mozang, which is one of Lahore's most crowded centers? Was he a private security contractor and member of the notorious former Blackwater (now Xe Services)? Did his links with Lahore's underworld and the militants have any role in the recent terrorist acts in the city? Is the US Consulate in Lahore a hub of anti-Pakistan activities? Why did Raymond Davis shoot to death only Faizan and Faheem so dramatically from amongst many other motor bikers in the crowded Qartaba Chowk (Mozang Chungi)? Truly, one cannot rule out the possibility that both victims may have been already known to their handler, Raymond, but fell out on some dispute that led to their cold blooded murder."
The Nation said that the US government's stance on the issue smacks of double standards. It pointed out that while the US has termed Raymond's arrest and custody by the Punjab Police as illegal due to his so-called diplomatic immunity, it has conveniently forgotten how similar immunity of the senior Georgian diplomat involved in killing a 16-year old girl in a 1997 drunken driving car accident, in Washington DC, was revoked by the Georgian government on the US request. As a result of great public pressure, the Georgian diplomat was prosecuted under US law, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 21 years in US prison.
The daily Dawn editorial on Raymond David case said Pakistanis want a fair trial and a large number of them are not all too pleased with what they see as US pressure on Islamabad. "This complicates the situation, which can only be saved through a fair, transparent and uninterrupted hearing of the case."
As Lahore witnessed demonstrations to protest the killing of the three youngsters, four petitions were filed in Lahore High Court against diplomatic immunity claimed in respect of Raymond Davis. The petitions said that Davis should remain in Pakistan to stand trial. Citing Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, the petitions stated: "Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority."
The Lahore High Court Chief Justice, Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Tuesday restrained the government from handing over Raymond Davis to the American authorities, and also ordered to place his name on the Exist Control List. Hearing the petitions, the judge observed that court, not the federal government, would decide the question of giving diplomatic immunity to the accused after looking into all attending facts of the matter.