Gilani says court will decide Davis case as Obama steps in

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 16 (PTI) Pakistan Prime Minister YousufRaza Gilani today said the fate of the US official, arrestedfor gunning down two men would be decided by the courts, amidreports that Washington and Islamabad had come close toresolving the stand-off over the issue.

"The matter is for the courts to decide or if therelatives of the dead men grant pardon," Gilani said as USPresident Barack Obama in his first comment on the matterraised the stakes by insisting Pakistan should adhere to theVienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by freeing RaymondDavis.

The comments from the Prime Minister came as theLahore High Court hearing the case of the diplomat is to takeup several petitions including from the government on thediplomatic immunity for the official tomorrow.

The Davis case has become a flashpoint betweenPakistan and the US, triggering anti-American sentiments inthe country, which is making it harder for authorities to backdown despite US pressure.

Media reports quoting unnamed Pakistani officialsclaimed that the two countries, after weeks of a tense stand-off, were near an arrangement to repatriate the US officialand that Pakistan government would concede in the court thathe qualified for diplomatic immunity.

To make matters tougher for the government, formerforeign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, miffed over his ousterfrom the foreign office, claimed that Davis could not begranted "blanket immunity" as desired by the Americans.

The minister said he was ready to testify in thecourt, if he was called, in connection with the matter.

The PPP leader said the expert opinion that Davis wasnot qualified for diplomatic immunity to Davis was formulatedat an inter-ministerial meeting held by the Foreign Office.

Hours after the media report and Qureshi''s commentsmade at a press conference, the Foreign Office contradictedthat the government had made any pronouncement to the questionof immunity of Davis.

"The spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry hascontradicted reports appearing in the media about anypronouncement, public or official, made by the ForeignMinistry relating to the question of immunity of Raymond AllenDavis," said a brief statement issued by the Foreign Office.

"Speculation in this regard is unfounded," it said.

Conceding that Pakistan was facing "difficultdecisions" on the issue and that there may be a politicalprice to pay, Gilani told a gathering of clerics that thedecision on the matter would be of the court only. (MORE) PTIRHL WAJ AKD

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