Davis case: Pak govt exploring ''blood money'' option

Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 18 (PTI) Pakistan government is exploringa possible "blood money deal" between American officialRaymond Davis, arrested for double murder in Lahore, andrelatives of the victims for ending the tense standoff withthe US.

Finding itself on a sticky wicket on the issue of freeing37-year-old Davis, the government is looking at a face-savingoption under which the relatives of the two men killed by theAmerican agree to withdraw charges in exchange for money to bepaid by Davis.

Davis, who was arrested in Lahore on January 27 after heshot and killed two men he claimed were trying to rob him, mayhave to spend at least three more weeks in custody with aPakistani court yesterday putting off till March 14 the caseto decide his diplomatic status.

Police have rejected his claim that he was acting in selfdefence and charged him with murder.

The government had planned to provide details about thediplomatic status of Davis during the hearing of petitionsseeking his prosecution by the Lahore High Court, but droppedthe move after former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi''sassertion that the accused is not entitled to "blanketimmunity", official sources said.

The government yesterday sought three weeks to inform theHigh Court about Davis'' status, following which the case wasput off till March 14.

At the same time, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hasraised the possibility of "blood money" to settle the doublemurder case under Islamic and Pakistani laws.

Gilani made references to such a settlement during hisspeech to a gathering of Islamic scholars and clerics and alsohis meeting with US Senate Foreign Relations CommitteeChairman John Kerry on Wednesday.

The Premier told Kerry, who was sent to Pakistan by theObama administration to calm tensions over the diplomaticrow, that the "expression of remorse and regret by the US overthe loss of lives as well as the option of benefiting from theQisas and Diyat Law (which was part of the Pakistan PenalCode) should be considered to cool down the risingtemperatures in bilateral relations."

Pakistan''s leaders, fearful of a public backlash, havepublicly said that Davis'' case will be decided by the courts.

Media reports earlier this week had said that thePakistan People''s Party-led government was planning to certifyin the Lahore High Court that Davis had immunity.

However, the sources said the government scuttled thisplan after Qureshi told a news conference on Wednesday thatDavis could not be granted "blanket immunity" as desired bythe US administration. (More) PTI RHL KIM VMN

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