The U.S. has suspended all high—level dialogue with Pakistan to put pressure on Islamabad to release the American diplomat detained on possible murder charges, as the ties between the two countries have become severely strained over the issue.
The case of Raymond Allen Davis, who fatally shot two Pakistanis who threatened him from a motorcycle, has severely strained the ties between the two governments and may scuttle a proposed tri—nation summit between the U.S., Afghan and Pakistani leaders scheduled to be held here on February 24, The Washington Post reported.
The other major events which may face a freeze could be President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington in March, following the summit and the next round of U.S.—Pakistan strategic dialogue, Dawn reported.
To convey its concern and displeasure at the treatment of the diplomat, the Post said, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cancelled a meeting last weekend with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at an international security conference in Munich.
Pakistan envoy summoned twice
The U.S. administration has twice summoned Pakistani envoy here Hussain Haqqani to the White House to stress on Mr. Davis’ diplomatic immunity and demand his immediate release.
The message was repeated by U.S. Ambassador in Islamabad Cameron Hunter in his meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.
The State Department has said that Mr. Davis, 36, holds a diplomatic passport and is a member of “technical and administrative staff” at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad “entitled to full criminal immunity in accordance with the Vienna Convection“.
The U.S. Congress has said that the Pakistan government should resolve the issue at the earliest or it could impact other bilateral initiatives including a whopping American aid which is bankrolling cash—starved Pakistan.
Mr. Davis was arrested in Lahore last month and produced before the local High Court which has extended his detention for another eight days. The U.S. embassy said it was given no notice of the hearing and that Mr. Davis had no attorney present and he was not even provided with an interpreter.
"Davis denied due process and a fair hearing"
“He was denied due process and a fair hearing,” a State Department statement said, claiming “his continued detention is a gross violation of the international law.”
Quoting Pakistani officials, the Post said Islamabad was divided over the case while the Foreign Ministry was pushing Mr. Davis’ diplomatic immunity, other parts of the government, which were not named, were using the issue to prove independence from Washington.
A new twist had been given to the case, the Post said, by a Pakistani intelligence official claiming that the two men Mr. Davis killed were not, as he had said, armed robbers intent on stealing money but were intelligence agents assigned to trail him.
The official said the agents intended to frighten Mr. Davis because he crossed a “red line” that the official did not further define.
The Post said ISI and the interior ministry’s intelligence bureau use motorcycle trails to track the moment of US officials.
"Held hostage to a wrongful death case"
The Pakistani media has also suggested that Mr. Davis is being held hostage to a wrongful death case brought in New York court by family members of four Americans killed in the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai. The court has issued summons to ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and four other ISI officers in the case.
The U.S. and Indian officials have blamed the 2008 attack on Pakistani organisation Lashkar—e—Taiba which has longstanding ties with the ISI.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that Ms. Clinton raised this issue of “illegal detention” of Davis by Pakistan during a telephonic conversation with Mr. Zardari last week and also when she met Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayanai in Munich over the weekend.
"Pakistan violating Vienna Convention"
“We continue to express to them the importance of resolving this. We continue to express to them the fact that our U.S. diplomat has diplomatic immunity and should be released,” Mr. Crowley said, adding that by not releasing its diplomat Pakistan is violating the Vienna Convention.