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US suspends talks, threatens to cut aid to Pak

Last updated on: February 8, 2011 13:48 IST

US suspends talks with Pakistan

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The United States has suspended all high-level dialogue with Pakistan to put pressure on Islamabad to release the American diplomat detained on possible murder charges. Ties between the two allies 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 US, Afghan and Pakistani leaders scheduled to be held in Washington on February 24, The Washington Post reported.

To convey its concern and displeasure at the treatment of the diplomat, the paper 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.


Image: US consulate employee Raymond Davis is escorted by police and officials out of court after facing a judge in Lahore
Photographs: Tariq Saeed/Reuters
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Davis is 'entitled to full criminal immunity'

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The US administration has twice summoned Pakistani envoy Hussain Haqqani to the White House to stress on Davis' diplomatic immunity and demand his immediate release. The message was repeated by US Ambassador in Islamabad Cameron Hunter in his meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.

The State Department has said that Davis, 36, holds a diplomatic passport and is a member of "technical and administrative staff" at the US embassy in Islamabad. He is "entitled to full criminal immunity in accordance with the Vienna Convection", it said.

The US 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. Davis was arrested in Lahore in January and produced before the local high court, which has extended his detention for another eight days. The US embassy said it was given no notice of the hearing, David had no attorney present and he was not even provided with an interpreter.


Image: Supporters of a political party pose with masks and point toy guns at a man on the ground, as he pretends to be dead, during a protest against Raymond Davis
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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'Gross violation of international law'

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"He was denied due process and a fair hearing," a State Department statement said, claiming "his continued detention is a gross violation of international law."

Quoting Pakistani officials, the Post said Islamabad was divided over the case while the foreign ministry was pushing 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 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 Davis because he crossed a 'red line' that the official did not further define.


Image: Family members comfort the sister of Shumaila, who committed suicide after her husband was killed
Photographs: Fayyaz Hussain/Reuters
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Dead Pakistani men were intelligence officials?

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The Post said ISI and the interior ministry's intelligence bureau use motorcycle trails to track the movement of US officials. The Pakistani media has also suggested that Davis is being held hostage because of 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 Inter Services Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and four other ISI officers in the case. The US and Indian officials have blamed the 2008 attack on Pakistani organisation Lashkar-e-Tayiba which has longstanding ties to ISI.


Image: A supporter of a political party poses with a mask and toy gun during a protest against Raymond Davis
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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'Our diplomat should be released'

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State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters that Clinton raised the issue of 'illegal detention' of Davis by Pakistan during a telephonic conversation with President Asif Ali Zardari last week and also when she met army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayanai in Munich over the weekend.

"We continue to express to them the importance of resolving this. We continue to express to them the fact that our US diplomat has diplomatic immunity and should be released," Crowley said, adding that by not releasing its diplomat Pakistan, is violating the Vienna Convention.


Image: Two family members of Pakistanis who were killed hold an image of Raymond Davis during a protest
Photographs: Mohsin Raz/Reuters
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