Pak petition seeks to bar arrested US diplomat get immunity

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M Zulqernain

Lahore, Jan 31 (PTI) A Pakistan court today sought aresponse from authorities to a petition that called for stepsto ensure that an American diplomat arrested for shooting twoPakistanis is not handed over to the US.

In the petition filed in the Lahore High Court, lawyerSaeed Zafar said efforts were underway to secure the releaseof the American and the government should be barred fromgiving him diplomatic immunity.

The American should be barred from leaving Pakistanby including his name in the Exit Control List, Zafar said.

Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, who heard thepetition, issued notices to the federal Attorney General andthe Assistant Advocate General of Punjab province, asking themto appear in court tomorrow and to submit their responses.

The American, identified in media reports as RaymondDavis, was arrested after he shot and killed two youths whomhe alleged were trying to rob him in a busy commercial area ofLahore on Thursday.

A third Pakistani died when he was hit by a USconsulate car that was rushing to the aid of the American.

The American, currently in police custody, contendedduring a court appearance that he had acted in self-defence.

Pakistani authorities have rejected a demand by theUS for the release of the American.

The US has argued that the American is a member of thetechnical and administrative staff of the US Embassy inIslamabad and enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

In a related development, police in Lahore haveregistered a case against the American for illegally carryinga weapon.

The US national was armed with a Glock 9mm pistol.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told reportersthis morning that the federal government and the ForeignOffice would decide whether the American was entitled todiplomatic immunity.

"The matter is to be decided by the Foreign Officewhile the provincial government is responsible for theinvestigation (into the shooting incident according to the)law of the land," Sharif said.

All decisions regarding the American would be taken inlight of the law and the Constitution and no compromise willbe made in the investigation or legal matters, he said.

The Punjab government has asked the US ConsulateGeneral in Lahore to hand over the vehicle and driver involvedin running over a Pakistani national, Sharif said.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik too said appropriatelegal action will be taken against the US national. He saidthe matter is sub-judice and authorities were waiting for areport on the incident from the Punjab government.

Though police officials have confirmed that the twoyouths shot by the American were armed and were involved in arobbery, religious group and political parties have stepped uppressure on the government not to release him.

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