WASHINGTON: Hours after police in Lahore submitted a preliminary investigation report in a court accusing American national Raymond Davis of killing two Pakistanis on a street in Lahore on Jan 27, US President Barack Obama urged Pakistan to abide by the Vienna Convention, treat Davis as a diplomat and release him. President Obama, while insisting that Pakistan must not prosecute Mr Davis, said he also was concerned about the loss of Pakistani lives in the incident. “Obviously we’re concerned about the loss of life,” Mr Obama said at a Washington press conference. Still, he said, Mr Davis should be treated as a diplomat. “There’s a broader principle at stake that I think we have to uphold.”
In his first public remarks on a case that has strained US relations with Pakistan, Mr Obama noted that the Vienna Convention for diplomatic immunity granted Mr Davis some right.
“We expect Pakistan… to abide by the same convention,” he said. “We’re going to be continuing to work with the Pakistani government to get this person released.”
Mr Obama rejected the suggestion that the US demand showed its insensitivity towards others. “Obviously, we’re concerned about the loss of life. We’re not callous about that, but there is a broader principle at stake,” he said.
The US media reported that Pakistani officials would present documents to the Lahore High Court to support Mr Davis’ claim for immunity. Separately, the US State Department said that it too would provide evidence in the Lahore High Court to show that Mr Davis was entitled to diplomatic immunity.
Spokesman Philip J. Crowley told a briefing in Washington that the US government would file a petition for Mr Davis’ release on Thursday and provide evidence of his diplomatic status.
Mr Crowley, however, rejected a suggestion that the US had put its relationship with Pakistan at risk by insisting on Mr Davis’ release.
“We are building a strategic partnership with Pakistan. We are going to build this relationship for the long-term,” he said.
But the US also “respects its international obligations, and we expect other countries, including Pakistan, to do the same”. Mr Crowley rejected former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s claim that Mr Davis was not a diplomat.
“He does have diplomatic immunity. Pakistan has an obligation to certify that under the Vienna Convention, and we continue to engage Pakistan to insist that he be released,” said Mr Crowley when asked to comment on Mr Qureshi’s remarks.