Islamabad: As a tense US-Pak standoff persisted over diplomatic immunity to an American official arrested for killing two men in Lahore, Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on February 16 made it clear that the fate of the accused would be decided by the courts or relatives of the victims.
The US, on its part, insisted that Raymond Davis, the arrested man, who worked for an American consulate in Pakistan, was covered under diplomatic immunity, though it also offered to conduct a criminal investigation into the matter.
During a meeting with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who was dispatched to Pakistan by the Obama administration to calm tensions, Gilani said the bilateral ties should not be held hostage to the issue.
“It is imperative that the issue must not be allowed to make bilateral relations hostage and have an impact on the partnership in the ongoing struggle against terrorism and for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Gilani said.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister told the National Seerat Conference, a gathering of clerics and religious scholars, that the matter “is for the courts to decide or if the relatives of the dead men grant pardon.”
Gilani’s remarks came a day after US President Barack Obama stepped into the row over Davis for the first time, saying Pakistan should release the American on grounds of diplomatic immunity.
Media reports quoting unnamed Pakistani officials claimed that the two countries, after weeks of a tense standoff, were near an arrangement to repatriate the US official and that the Pakistan government would concede in the court that he qualified for diplomatic immunity.
During his meeting with Gilani, Kerry expressed regret at the loss of lives in the shooting incident in Lahore involving Davis, but emphasized the need for an “early resolution of this issue in the interest of continued strategic partnership between Pakistan and the US.” Gilani highlighted the need for “positive messaging” by both countries to build trust and confidence.