PPP slams Qureshi, with speculation over disciplinary action

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 13 (PTI) The Pakistan People''s Partytoday slammed former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi forsaying that a US official arrested for killing two men couldnot be given diplomatic immunity, with leaders accusing him ofworking against the party''s interests.

Qureshi, who skipped the swearing-in ceremony forPakistan''s new cabinet on Friday after he learnt that the PPPleadership had decided not to reallocate the foreign affairsportfolio to him, said that US official Raymond Davis is not adiplomat according to official records and experts in theForeign Office and could not be given "blanket diplomaticimmunity".

"The kind of blanket immunity Washington is pressingfor Davis is not endorsed by the official record of theForeign Ministry," said Qureshi.

"On the basis of the official record and the advicegiven to me by the technocrats and experts of the ForeignOffice, I could not certify him (Davis) as a diplomat," hetold The News daily.

The PPP launched a frontal attack on the formerminister after he made his views public.

PPP secretary general Raja Pervez Ashraf comparedQureshi to late President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, who haddismissed former premier Benazir Bhutto''s government in 1996despite belonging to the PPP.

The late President''s name is often used in Pakistanipolitics to derisively refer to a turncoat.

Ashraf said the "tone and tenor of Qureshi indicatesthat another Leghari is in the making in the party".

"Mr Shah Mahmood Qureshi''s fate will not be differentthan that of Leghari," he added.

Information Minister Firdous Aashiq Awan, consideredclose to PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari''s camp, said Qureshi''sstatements were not in Pakistan''s favour and would "create abad environment in the country".

"Shah Mahmood had not shown his concerns when he wasForeign Minister and now these remarks about Davis are not infavour of the country," Awan told a news channel.

Reports have suggested that the PPP decided to removeQureshi from the foreign ministry because of his decision notto back a move by the party''s top leadership to grantdiplomatic immunity to Davis, who was arrested in Lahore lastmonth after he shot and killed two men.

Ashraf said Qureshi, like other former ministers, wasalways given a chance by the PPP to provide inputs in thegovernment''s decision-making process and all party leaders hadunanimously agreed to the move to curtail the size of thecabinet.

Qureshi "must realize that his efforts to pressurizethe party shall never become a reality as the party does notowe its strength to individuals but to the people ofPakistan", Ashraf said.

"It seems that Qureshi has joined the band wagon ofpolitical actors hatching conspiracies against the partyleadership but this new conspiracy would also fail like theprevious ones," he added. .

Ashraf said it was "quite strange" that Qureshi''s revelations about the Davis case "came only after hisexclusion from the cabinet" though the incident was in thenews for the past few weeks and the PPP''s top leadership hadsaid that the matter would be decided by the courts.

There was "no ambiguity or confusion" in thegovernment''s stance, he said.

Questioning the veracity of Qureshi�s disclosures,Ashraf said he had insisted on keeping the foreign affairsportfolio after being offered the water and power ministry.

�This showed that Mr Qureshi''s conscience awakened tothe call of his personal interest and not the nationalinterest as he is trying to prove by feeding false stories tothe media,� he added.

A section of the PPP''s leadership has also said thatQureshi might face disciplinary action if he does not clearhis position to the party chief, President Zardari.

Relations between Pakistan and the US have plunged toa new low over the diplomatic immunity row for Davis.

Pakistani leaders have rebuffed repeated US demandsfor Davis to be freed on the ground that he has diplomaticimmunity.

The US has suspended all high-level contacts withPakistan and postponed a crucial trilateral meeting later thismonth that was to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. PTIRHL

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