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Officials say yes; FO spokesman offers ‘no comment’; sources close to presidency reject report
 
 
Ahmad Noorani
Saturday, February 12, 2011
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has asked the Foreign Office in categorical terms that Raymond Davis should be given diplomatic immunity and for this purpose the Foreign Office should immediately issue a backdated letter notifying Raymond as ‘member of staff in US embassy, Islamabad’, top Foreign Office officials confirmed to The News.

 

After taking lengthy briefings and having some decisive meetings with US officials, the Presidency has told the Foreign Ministry in categorical words that for granting diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis, all preparations should be finalized immediately.

 

But while the Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit maintained a very cool “No comment” on the subject, the Presidency stonewalled all requests for a version and the outspoken and unofficial spokesperson of President Zardari Senator Faisal Raza Abidi said he would not say anything but the Foreign Office should be asked to comment. So the ball was thrown back to the “No Comments” of the FO.

 

Sources close to Presidency, however, rejected the report. They said detractors of President Zardari are behind this baseless allegation. They said the Presidency can never ask Foreign Office to do anything illegal.

 

Privately senior FO officials are ready to share many details. “It was clarified to the president that as per record of the Foreign Office, Raymond Davis was a member of ‘consular staff in US Consulate in Lahore’ so in accordance with Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963, he did not enjoy absolute immunity especially in the case of a grave crime and that now according to article 41(1) of the same convention of 1963 only superior court could decide the issue of immunity of Raymond Davis,” a top Foreign Office source told this scribe.

 

“The president, who has taken briefings from US side as well, has advised us to issue a backdated letter showing Raymond Davis as ‘member of the staff of US embassy in Islamabad’ so that 1963 Vienna Convention could not apply on him and as member of the US embassy-Islamabad he may fall in the domain of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 and thus could claim immunity from criminal jurisdiction,” the FO official said.

 

The official explained that under Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, all the diplomatic and non-diplomatic (administrative and technical) staff appointed in an embassy enjoys immunity from criminal jurisdiction whereas under Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963, the consular staff appointed in consular posts or consulates in cities other than capitals of the host states didn’t have immunity from criminal jurisdiction especially in cases of grave crimes.

 

The FO official confirmed to The News that as per record of the Foreign Office on the day of incident of killing of three Pakistanis in Lahore, Raymond was a member of consular staff in US consulate. The sources said that Raymond also spent some time in Islamabad and Peshawar but was later appointed as member of technical staff in US Consulate in Lahore.

 

The official disclosed that US embassy in Pakistan has requested The Foreign Office to include the name of Raymond Davis in the list of diplomats, a request which was ignored. The top official further revealed that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the same request to former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on phone which was also softly refused by giving the excuse that now the issue was in court.

 

The official said the status of Raymond Davis that he was a “member of the consular staff in US Consulate Lahore” was clear to all and he himself after being arrested told the Lahore police and all investigators who had encounters with him that he was appointed as technical consultant in US Consulate Lahore.

 

“On the day of incident, the US Consulate came on record and stated on media that Raymond was member of consular staff at US Consulate Lahore,” the top Foreign Office official said adding “Neither Raymond’s name was in the list of the diplomats maintained at Foreign Office and updated regularly nor he was ever issued a mandatory diplomatic card by the Foreign Office which is a must for claiming immunity not only in Pakistan but also in USA,” the senior official added.

 

In privately taped footage inside the police station, released to Geo TV on Friday, Raymond himself admits very clearly that he was a ‘consultant’ at the Lahore Consulate.

 

A FO source said it was only on the third day of the incident that after becoming aware that there were no chances of saving Raymond in double murder case, US embassy in Islamabad issued press release claiming Raymond as member of the US embassy which was a baseless thing.

 

The Foreign Office official showed this scribe official documents of US Department of State instructing members of US law enforcement agencies and US judiciary to not to grant immunity to any person, claimed to be diplomat, until he didn’t possess a special card issued by the department of state.

 

He said as per article 10(1) of the even 1961 convention, the notification of Foreign Office accrediting a person as diplomat or enjoying any level of immunity is a must. The official maintained that in no way any such inclusion in the list of accredited diplomats could be made retrospectively nor could Raymond be issued a card now which could certify his immunity.

 

“On the other hand we have received strict orders to issue a back-dated letter showing Raymond as member of US embassy, Islamabad,” the official said adding, “As the issue was in court and courts are analysing each and every aspect of all documents, no one in Foreign Office is ready to accept this big challenge.”

 

He said even the outgoing foreign minister has hinted that this backdated letter containing admission of Foreign Office having record of Raymond’s appointment in USA embassy will have to be made and produced before the courts as it was an order.

 

Spokesman of the presidency Farhatullah Babar neither took the call nor replied to The News sent the questions through messages. He was asked simply to verify or deny the latest presidency’s pressure on Foreign Office to issue a backdated letter showing Raymond as member of the US embassy in Islamabad, but he never responded.

 

However, advisor to the President Zardari, Faisal Raza Abidi when asked this question by The News said that only Foreign Office will speak on this issue.

 

On the other hand spokesperson of US embassy Courtney Beale, when approached by The News replied as follows: “It is wrong information that US embassy approached Foreign Office of Pakistan to get registered name of the Raymond Davis in list of accredited diplomats. In fact US embassy Islamabad had notified to Foreign Office back in January 2010 that Raymond Davis has arrived in Pakistan and he will serve as member of technical staff in USA Embassy Islamabad. Raymond was later temporarily sent to Lahore.”

 

Foreign Office officials however deny having any such information and say according to record and information available with it, Raymond was working as member of consular staff in US Consulate Lahore.

 

A senior FO official gave the example of US Foreign Service officer Sabrina de Sousa, who was appointed in US embassy in Rome, Italy in 1999. “De Sousa was later deputed in US consulate in Milan, Italy in 2001 and was found allegedly involved in an incident of extraordinary rendition (kidnapping) in 2003. She left Italy in 2004 and her involvement in the kidnapping incident was investigated later. Though she was sent and appointed in US embassy in Rome but at the time of incident she was deputed at US consulate in Milan thus US didn’t plead for her immunity as a diplomat as she was representing the US consulate in Milan. It was a consular office and had no immunity in grave crimes like kidnapping,” the official said.

 

According to De Sousa’s media statements, she was unable to move outside USA as she will be arrested by EUROPOL as she will land on any European airport.

 

Courtney Beale, however, said that she was unaware of the incident of De Sousa and will respond to The News soon as to why USA did not demand immunity for her from Italy on charges of kidnapping despite the fact she also was appointed in US embassy in Rome.