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Records did not support diplomatic status for Davis

Islamabad: Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that according to official records and experts in the Foreign Office, the US official arrested for gunning down two men in Lahore is "not a diplomat and cannot be given blanket diplomatic immunity".

"The kind of blanket immunity Washington is pressing for (US official Raymond) Davis is not endorsed by the official record of the Foreign Ministry," said Qureshi, who declined to join Pakistan`s new cabinet last week after he was not reallocated the foreign affairs portfolio.

"On the basis of the official record and the advice given to me by the technocrats and experts of the Foreign Office, I could not certify him (Davis) as a diplomat," Qureshi told The News daily.

Qureshi skipped the swearing-in ceremony for Pakistan`s new cabinet on Friday after he learnt that the leadership of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party had decided not to reallocate the foreign affairs portfolio to him.

Reports have suggested that the PPP decided to remove him from the foreign ministry because of his decision not to back the party`s top leadership`s move to grant diplomatic immunity to Davis, who was arrested in Lahore last month after he shot and killed two men.

Qureshi also spoke on the issue of Davis during his farewell speech in the foreign ministry, The News quoted its sources as saying.

The Foreign Ministry, on the basis of its records, had concluded that Davis was "neither a diplomat nor enjoying blanket diplomatic immunity," the sources told the newspaper.

The sources contended that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had asked the Foreign Ministry not to "utter a word on the issue".

One source was quoted as saying: "Even in an inter-ministerial meeting held at the Foreign Office, it was agreed that Davis could not be handed over to America".

Davis was never registered in the Foreign Office`s records "even as a non-diplomatic staff" as queries sent to the US Embassy remained unanswered.

The US mission had on January 25 sent a list of outstanding cases regarding the status of officials and diplomats but it did not include the name of Davis.

On January 28, a day after Davis killed the two men in Lahore, the US Embassy sent the list of outstanding cases to the Foreign Ministry and included Davis` name in it, the sources were quoted as saying by The News.

The paper also quoted its sources as saying that an effort may be made to "fudge" the records to the "pleasure of Washington" after Qureshi`s departure from the Foreign Ministry.

A Foreign Ministry official told the newspaper that officials were asked by Qureshi to place all records pertaining to Davis with the courts and then "leave it for the courts to decide if he could be given the kind of immunity that Washington is desperately seeking for him".

Pakistani leaders have so far rebuffed demands from the US for Davis to be released, saying the matter will be decided in court according to the country`s laws.

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