ISLAMABAD: The diplomatic row between Pakistan and the United States over the fate of American citizen Raymond Davis, accused of killing two Pakistanis, can potentially freeze and debilitate the Afghan reconciliation process, cautioned a Foreign Office official after Washington put off the key trilateral meeting.
The State Department said on Saturday that the trilateral meeting with Pakistan and Afghanistan had been postponed “due to political developments in Pakistan.”
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir tried to play down the move, saying the meeting would be rescheduled and that it had nothing to do with the Davis issue.
“There is no doubt it was a crucial meeting and its postponement is certainly a setback for the Afghan reconciliation process,” the Foreign Office official told The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity.
He said Pakistan and Afghanistan were all set to put up a joint strategy at the meeting on the Afghan endgame. The ‘comprehensive plan,’ the official added, focused on finding a political solution to the Afghan insurgency. Last month, Pakistan and Afghanistan formed a joint commission to hold direct negotiations with the Taliban as part of the reconciliation process.
“Though the normal channels are operational, it was the first high-level meeting among the three countries after President Obama unveiled the first year-end review of his Afghan policy in December, last year,” the official said.
“We have been working hard to work out a blueprint for the Afghan future and the meeting in Washington would have provided us the opportunity to push the process forward,” he added. The trilateral meeting was important in the sense that it came just months before the US-led Nato troops would start pulling out from Afghanistan by July this year.
“It is unfortunate that the US has put the Afghan strategy at stake just for one citizen who has killed two Pakistanis in broad daylight,” said another official.
The ties between Washington and Islamabad were strained by the controversy.
However, the Foreign Office spokesman hoped that the postponement was temporary. “We hope the meeting will be rescheduled soon, as one individual should not drive our relations,” Abdul Basit told The Express Tribune.
Analysts believe the US is using pressure tactics to secure the release of its citizen. “I think this is a pressure tactic by the Americans to seek the release of Raymond Davis,” commented former secretary Fata Brig (retd) Mahmood Shah.
Meanwhile, the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Sunday demanded that the government execute Raymond Davis, or hand him over to the group. “We demand that the Pakistani government hang Raymond Davis or otherwise hand him over to us. We will decide his fate,” TTP spokesperson Azam Tariq told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“He was here for spying. He is an American spy. We will kill all those people and will target them who will help him (Davis) or try to set him free,” Tariq said. (with additional input from afp)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2011.