ISLAMABAD: In a meeting with US Senator John Kerry, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that the Davis case should not affect relations between the two countries or their cooperation in fighting terrorism.
Gilani told Kerry that his expressions of regret over the case "should be considered to cool down the rising temperatures in the bilateral relations".
"It was imperative that the Davis issue must not be allowed to make bilateral relations hostage and have impact on the partnership in the on-going struggle against terrorism," a statement from Gilani's office quoted him as saying.
Gilani urged the United States to take into account the "ground reality that the principal stakeholders in Mr Davis case were the family members of those killed and the people of Pakistan."
Kerry "agreed with the prime minister that positive messaging would help to develop understanding between the two countries and discourage those elements who desire to exploit the situation to the disadvantage of strategic relationship build to fight extremism and terrorism."
The comments came as US Senator John Kerry visited the country to hold talks with Pakistani leaders aimed at resolving a bitter diplomatic row over Raymond Davis, who shot the two men in a busy Lahore street on January 27.
Pakistan's fragile ties with the United States have been plunged into crisis by the shooting. Davis has insisted he acted in self-defence.
Nawaz wants courts to decide
Opposition leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif told reporters after meeting Kerry that he reiterated his stance that the courts should decide the matter.
He said that if the regrets voiced by Kerry last night, had been made clear earlier, the situation would not have been the same.
Pakistan has its law and its courts which should decide the case, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief said, adding that the provincial government just fulfilled its responsibilities in trying to deal with the case.
He pointed out that the second vehicle that came to rescue Davis and crushed to death a third person had also violated the law. Despite requests for access to the car or its driver by the police, neither the consulate nor the government have responded, he added.
Zardari wants issue resolved amicably
Later, Kerry also held talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who said the "Davis issue was not as simple as it was sometimes being portrayed", according to a statement from presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
The president said Pakistan was seeking an early and amicable resolution of the issue.
"The president termed it is a complex issue with several dimensions and said all of these had to be taken into account for an amicable resolution," Babar said.
Zardari said the "matter was before the court which has also fixed a date for hearing. Pakistan expects that its judicial processes will be respected."
Gilani hints at religious pardon for Davis
At the opening of the annual Siratun Nabi conference in Islamabad today, Prime Minister Gilani suggested that relatives of the two men shot dead by Davis might pardon the American, but also said it was for a court to decide the man's fate.
Speaking to a convention of religious scholars, Gilani stressed the role of the courts in deciding on whether Davis, who is in Pakistani custody, could claim diplomatic immunity.
"Davis also has a lawyer, he will present his case and then the court will decide whether he has immunity or not," the official Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Gilani as saying.
However Gilani also asked the scholars to help find a solution to the sensitive issue in accordance with Islamic law, under which a victim's family can pardon a killer in return for compensation.
"Ulema (Islamic scholars) should tell the solution. Either the heirs should give a pardon or ask about 'Qisas' (compensation) or the court should decide. We don't have any role," APP quoted him as saying.
Gilani told the religious scholars the government was caught between a public backlash and international anger. "We are facing difficult decisions. There is a political price," Gilani said.
"We are just caught between the devil and the deep sea. This needs wisdom. We will do whatever is in the interest of the country and the nation," he said.
Kerry, who arrived late Tuesday in Lahore, voiced deep regret over the killings at a press conference in Lahore.
US embassy refuses talk of swapping Aafia for Davis
A US embassy spokesperson rubbished talks about exchanging Raymond Davis for Aafia Siddiqui today.
Courtney Beale, the acting spokesperson of the American embassy in Islamabad, said that both cases are different because Aafia is a terrorist and not a diplomat.
She said that Siddiqui was detained in the US for a serious criminal offence while Raymond Davis is a diplomat and enjoys full diplomatic immunity.
The spokesperson said that it is illegal to detain a diplomat and try him or her in court.
Beale said that there is no question the two people will be exchanged or that Washington was even considering exchanging Siddiqui for Davis.
Siddiqui was found guilty by a US court of grabbing a rifle at a police station in the Afghan town of Ghazni where she was being interrogated in July 2008 and of trying to gun down a group of US servicemen and FBI agents. Prosecutors said she opened fire, shouting “death to America!.” She did not hit anyone and was herself shot in the stomach before being subdued.
Later, Kerry, Kerry told reporters at the Chaklala Airbase before his departure from Islamabad that he hoped that there would be progress in resolving the issue in next few days.
"I look forward in the next few days, hopefully, to finding ways that we all agreed on that we can find in order to resolve this issue that is in front of us," Kerry he said at the airbase.
The Lahore high court is expected to reconvene on Thursday after giving the foreign ministry 15 days to answer on whether Davis has diplomatic immunity.