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US ambassador summoned

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Sunday summoned US Ambassador David Hale to lodge `strong protest` over the killing of a motorcyclist and seriously injuring his pillion passenger by a US diplomat in a road accident in Islamabad.

In a related development, the interior ministry and the Federal Investigation Agency were requested to prevent the diplomat from leaving Pakistan till the completion of the investigation.

According to the FO spokesperson, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua lodged `strong protest` with the US ambassador who also expressed grief over the incident and assured the Pakistani authorities of full cooperation from theembassy in investigating the matter. Mr Hale expressed deep sympathy and sadness over the loss of life.

The foreign secretary told the envoy that justice would take its course in accordance with the law of the land and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the US embassy expressed `its deep sympathy to the family of the deceased and those injured in a tragic traffic accident involving a US embassy vehicle on Saturday.

It said the embassy offi-cials were cooperating with the local authorities investigating the accident.

On April 7, a fast-moving SUV, said to be driven by the US defence and air attaché, jumped the lights and hit a motorcycle carrying two men at a traffic signal. One of them, identified as Attique Baig, 22, died due to a head injury while his cousin, Raheel Ahmed, suffered injuries, police said.

They briefly detained the senior diplomat, Col Joseph Emanuel, and impounded the US embassy vehicle.

The incident, which took place in the afternoon on the foothills of Margalla, was a third road accident in recent years in which US diplomats had hit and killed people in Islamabad.

Medical test An official requesting anonymity said the police instead of releasing the diplomat should have advised the US embassy to approach the Foreign Office as only the FO could confirm if the person was genuinely a diplomat or not. `The police should also have got him medically examined, because now it cannot be proved if the diplomat was drunk [at the time of accident] or there was some other reason [for violating traffic signal],` he said.

The official said past record showed that the US embassy in such cases approached the family of the deceased to pay some compensation and get the case closed.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations Najeebur Rehamn Bugvi said the diplomat was handed over to the security staff of the US embassy after getting confirmation that he was a diplomat. `We need to understand that there is a lot of difference between a foreigner and a diplomat.

According to Article 29 of Vienna Convention, diplomats have immunity.

The of ficer said the vehicle was impounded and his diplomatic card and driving licence were also taken f rom him.

The SSP said it was investigating of ficer`s discretion to decide if a medical test was needed or not. `The diplomat had given satisfactory replies to all questions. It can be said he was not drunk. Besides, the police usually don`t hold medical tests after accidents,` he said.

`We have no right to arrest a diplomat orrefuse to allow him f rom leaving [the police station]. We will file the case in court and it will be up to the US embassy whether it claims immunity or not. However, the government has an option to declare him persona non grata,` he said.

Responding to a question, the officer said that if the embassy and the victims` family reached a patch-up, the case might get closed under the law.

A US embassy spokesperson told Dawn that he could not say at this stage if the embassy had decided to contact the family of the deceased and pay compensation.

Meanwhile, the police approached the interior ministry and the FIA director general with a written request to prevent the diplomat f rom leaving Pakistan till the completion of the investigation, the SSP said, adding that the passport and visa details of the diplomat were also provided to the FIA.

Inspector General of Police, Islamabad, Dr Sultan Azam Temuri said police investigators would get statements of the injured, the suspect, embassy officials and eyewitnesses including police officials who were present at the spot. He said directives had been issued to complete the legal process required for the case and submit a challan in a trial court.