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ISLAMABAD, Feb 17: After a whirlwind trip to Islamabad and Lahore by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, the focus appears to be shifting from immunity for US national Raymond Davis to a possible blood money deal for ending the row which has put Pak-US ties on a freeze. “Efforts are now afoot to thrash out a deal in which the US apologises for the incident and pays compensation to the heirs of the victims,” an official said. The idea was first floated by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the National Seerat Conference on Wednesday and then during his meeting with Mr Kerry.

“He urged the US to take into account the ground reality that the principal stakeholders in the Davis case were family members of those killed and the people of Pakistan,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

“Expression of remorse and regret by the US over the loss of lives as well as the option of benefiting from the Qisas and Diyat Law (which was a part of the Pakistan Penal Code) should be considered to cool down the rising temperature in bilateral relations,” the statement quoted Mr Gilani as having advised the senior American legislator. Under the Islamic law, the family of a victim can pardon a murderer in return for blood money.

In a statement issued on Thursday, US Ambassador Cameron Munter also called for finding a way out of the dispute. “As the senator  said during his visit, we want to work together as the two countries that have a common interest in the same goal and find a path forward.”

The ambassador issued the statement in reaction to the Lahore High Court’s decision to grant another three weeks sought by the federal government to issue a certificate on whether or not Davis was entitled to diplomatic immunity.

A diplomatic source has hinted at a face-saving compromise in which the US government apologises to the heirs of the victims, pays compensation and promises to investigate the incident as a criminal matter.

Senator Kerry in his parting statement had also spoken of impending resolution of the issue. “I am hopeful that the Lahore incident will be resolved in the coming days.

I came here to listen and to work with everybody to find the best ways of resolving what has obviously become a more complicated political issue.

I think there is a way forward; I feel very confident about it,” he said.

He also pledged criminal investigations into the incident by the US Justice Department.

The source said that heirs of the victims had been contacted, but they initially turned down the offer and insisted on Davis’ trial.

The blood money deal was complicated by the suicide of Shumaila, widow of Faheem, one of the two victims of Davis’ shooting.

When contacted, the US embassy did not outrightly deny that it was considering the compensation option. “It is one of the options on the table,” an official said.

A source privy to a meeting between Senator Kerry and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said the Punjab government had been requested to help in bringing about a reparation agreement with the bereaved families.—Baqir Sajjad Syed