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Zardari will face public outrage if Davis is released

Last updated on: February 16, 2011 20:16 IST

The US has put tons of pressure on Pakistan to release Raymond Davis under the cover of diplomatic immunity but it is proving a headache for President Asif Ali Zardari to solve the case in a way acceptable both to the American and Pakistani masses. While Zardari cannot put aside US President Barack Obama's request but at the same time an Egypt-like situation could occur in Pakistan if Davis is released. 

"With respect to Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we've got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future. We expect Pakistan, that's a signatory to recognise Davis as a diplomat and abide by the same convention," Obama said in a statement.

If Zardari listens to Obama, he will face a strong reaction both from the opposition and within his own Pakistan People's Party. Shah Mehmood Qureshi former foreign minister who refused to be part of the new cabinet, is waiting to cash in on the case and garner public support.

Qureshi after meeting US Senator John Kerry told a press conference "Davis doesn't enjoy blanket immunity as sought by the US. The issue of killing two Pakistani citizens in Lahore in broad daylight by a US embassy employee has become a matter of national respect."

Qureshi further sought to put the Zardari presidency in trouble, when he appears before the Lahore High Court.

Qureshi claimed that Davis could not be given diplomatic immunity, as he was not a diplomat as per the foreign office record. "If the Lahore high court summoned me regarding the case, I will tell the true story. I was asked by the government to be silent over the issue, but I refused", Qureshi added.

Kerry is presently in Pakistan to pave the way for Davis' release. He has met Zardari, Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani and will meet the army chief Ashfaq Kayani. At the first phase of his visit during a meeting with journalists in Lahore he made it clear that Davis was a diplomat and should be treated as such. "He is a diplomat and should be handed over to the US, and the American Justice Department would initiate criminal proceedings against Davis" Kerry added.

Interestingly, after the case of Davis, the US stopped drone attacks as a goodwill gesture and the people of tribal areas have breathed a sigh of relief for a while. But with a new pressure tactics, a NATO fighter jet violated Pakistan's airspace on Tuesday and flew over the border town of Chaman in Balochistan province. The jet entered Pakistani space and after flying for some time went back -- a clear gesture of US supremacy.

If Davis is handed over to the US not only Pakistani politicians but also the Taliban would seek to manipulate the situation for their benefit. In a recent conversation with the media Taliban spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan has said, "If the American killer is released, we will teach the government a lesson. It will also strengthen public support for Taliban. It will work as an eye-opener for the people to know who are loyal to the country, these rulers or Taliban."

Despite pressure from the masses the Zardari government is preparing a plan to avoid the wrath of Americans and to hand over Davis to the US. On Tuesday foreign office issued a letter to law ministry that states, "US citizen Raymond Davis was designated in Pakistan at US consulate in Lahore as a diplomat and all the same, he enjoys diplomatic immunity according to the Vienna Convention."

Under this strategy of the government, diplomatic immunity would be granted to Davis. A word 'official' is mentioned in the visa stamped on Davis' passport and when the court will question the federal government about the status of the American national, the attorney general will appear before the court to certify on behalf of the federal government that Davis had reached Pakistan on official visa and he enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Tahir Ali in Islamabad