Davis case: Pak likely to try to buy more time

Islamabad: To keep the option of an "out of court" settlement open in the case of US national Raymond Davis arrested for double murder, Pakistan government is expected to make efforts to buy more time when the Lahore High Court takes up the matter tomorrow to determine his diplomatic status.

The government had kept its cards close to its chest yesterday, the last working day before it was to testify in the High Court on Davis` diplomatic status but "indications of the possibility of the government sticking to its time-buying tactics were, nevertheless, quite evident," the Dawn newspaper reported.

It quoted well-placed unnamed sources as indicating that the government "would seek to buy more time to keep the option of an `out of court` settlement open, even if the court pressed its representative to certify on Davis` status."

The report said the government`s counsel could furnish some "basic facts" about Davis to the High Court, including a January 2010 notification issued by the US embassy about his appointment, his diplomatic passport and a pending request for registration with the Foreign Office.

However, the counsel is "likely to stop short of unequivocally stating whether or not the murder accused enjoyed diplomatic status," the report said.

An official, who did not want to be named, told the Dawn that none of the government`s replies to four queries to be presented in the High court addressed the question of Davis` immunity, "clearly suggesting that the dispute that has been ominously threatening Pakistan-US strategic relationship would continue to linger."

All government spokespersons were not ready to say anything on the strategy in Davis` case and suggested waiting till tomorrow, when the High Court will resume its hearing on petitions against handing over the suspected CIA contractor to US authorities.

The hearing will resume after a break of three weeks sought by the government to file a reply.

This was the second adjournment granted by the court to the government for preparing its response, which pertains to Davis` diplomatic status and immunity.

Legal experts have said that the question before the High Court would be as to which document – the US embassy`s appointment notification or registration with the Foreign Office – formed the basis for diplomatic status and associated privileges and immunities.

Officials said the Foreign Office`s Blue Book or protocol manual was clear that only the registration card issued to a diplomat after his registration with the Foreign Ministry confirmed his diplomatic status.

Davis, who gunned down two men in Lahore in January claiming that they were trying to rob him, was yet to get the registration card though his request had been pending for over a year.

The government is also expected to tell the High Court that the issue is "very complicated" and has to be looked at from all aspects, including international law, international practice, local laws and US laws.

"We have to take into consideration all of these laws and practices. Therefore, we are not in a position to give a blanket response," an official told the Dawn.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 has no requirement for a diplomat to register in the host country for getting immunity and other privileges.

Accordingly, most countries do not have a registration requirement for foreign diplomats, but this is a legal requirement in Pakistan.