National Press Club

Death of US Troops in Pakistan Reflects on Zardari, Court Official Says

February 4, 2010 | By Robert Webb |

On a day that three American troops were killed in northwest Pakistan, Farooq Hassan, senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan , called it "highly embarassing" to the government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

At a Feb. 3 Newsmaker, he said the government "is acutely aware of the unpopularity of (its) close ties to Washington." The three men were military trainers in a convoy headed to Lower Dir in the Northwest.

Hassan said critics accuse the government of "turning a blind eye to repeated American drone attacks in the Northwest, which have killed more than 1,200 civilians during the past year." Principal lawyer for opposition parties in a corruption case against the government, Hassan said the United States contends the soldiers are there to provide security for American citizens.

Hassan, advisor to four of the country's previous prime ministers, blasted the Pakistan government as having "lost touch with reality."

"Constituttionally the Zardari government is superficially in place but substantially has lost touch with reality," he said. "Many issues assert this fact. To begin with, there is the perceived confrontation with the judiciary ... What has happened is that for the first time in this country's, or for that matter in any country's recent history, the judges are acting independently. This irks the ruling junta. It is a ruling junta since on all important positions, it is Zardari and company to whom the holders owe their status ... like the Pakistan ambassador in Washington."

He said the judiciary's rise originated with "the public revolt against the ruling junta last March 16... which means that it is beholden to the people."

Hassan had long fought for an independent judiciary and said he was appalled when the previous government of President Musharoff jailed many lawyers.

While opposed to the present government, Hassan said "the opposition, in my view, has failed and continues to do so. There is a danger of a regional rise in political tensions in Baluchistan, Frontier, Karachi and Sindh. (Former Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif has no clue to what seems to be going on. The pro-Zardari camp thinks this is a conspiracy between the military and the judiciary."

But Hassan said he didn't think this was the case since the judiciary and military have "different molds of thinking."

In the question-answer session, he was asked about the role of India in Afghanistan where Indians are doing much of the construction work. He agreed India is "influential" in Afghanistan.