Pak, US cancel Afghan meet over arrested American official

Pak, US cancel Afghan meet over arrested American official

The meeting of the Foreign Ministers of US, Pakistan and Afghanistan is "most likely being rescheduled", Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said today.

Pakistan still does not have new dates for the meeting that was scheduled to be held during February 23-25, he told a briefing arranged by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Pakistan.

Bashir also acknowledged that there were "no clear dates" for President Barack Obama's visit to Pakistan though "this has been talked of for a long time."

Reports have said that the US has suspended all high-level contacts to pressure Pakistan to release American official Raymond Davis, who was arrested in Lahore on January 27 after he shot and killed two men who he claimed were trying to rob him.
Confusion has surrounded the diplomatic status of Davis, a former military personnel, and the identity of the two men he killed.

Bashir said the pressure mounted by the US for Davis's release was "counter-productive" and indicated that this could adversely impact bilateral ties.He made it clear that Davis' case was in court and would be decided according to Pakistani laws.

However, he added: "If I were personally to do something which is morally wrong or even criminal, (something) that is not right by civilised standards, then I will not seek immunity or seek protection under some figment like the concept of immunity."
The concept of diplomatic immunity has a long history and is not limited to the Vienna Convention and Pakistani laws.The US had said that Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity and it was expected that an "executive determination" could be made by Pakistan's Foreign Office, he said.

But Bashir pointed out that the Lahore High Court, which is hearing a case related to Davis' immunity, had specifically stated that "this question has not arisen and it is the court's prerogative to take cognisance if the issue is raised."

Pakistan is hoping that the Lahore incident will not be "blown out of proportion and affect our bilateral relationship. It is an important relationship with the US, Pakistan values that relationship," he said.

"We hope that nothing will be said or done that will be detrimental to this relationship that we want to have with the US. In Islamabad we are very clear, we hope they are equally clear in Washington.

It will be extremely counter-productive if one incident, one person destroys a relationship of 60 years," he added.Pakistani leaders have rebuffed US demands for Davis to be freed despite warning by American lawmakers that the issue could lead to cuts in civil and military aid.

Davis is currently in judicial custody and police have rejected his claim of acting in self-defence.In a chargesheet, police accused Davis of "intentional and cold-blooded murder".On the issue of cancellation of the trilateral meet, State Department spokesman, P J Crowley said in Washington, "In light of the political changes in Pakistan and after discussions with Afghan and Pakistani officials in Washington, it was agreed to postpone the Trilateral Meeting scheduled for February 23-24."

"We remain committed to robust engagement between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, as we share many issues of mutual concern and benefit from being at the same table," Crowley said, adding that the US looks forward to convening a very productive Trilateral Meeting at the earliest opportunity.