AFFIDAVIT sworn at Karachi on September 27, 2000:
"In The Supreme Court of Pakistan (Cr. Appeal 162/99)...... I, Ardeshir Cowasjee ........ in reference to a front-page news report published in Dawn, the newspaper of record, on September 19, 2000, headed 'Rowdyism at SC: Respondents seek mercy' (Attachment 1) in which has been reported '... After conferring with his clients, the counsel said that his clients had thrown at (sic.) the mercy of the court. Referring to SC judgment in Masroor Ahsan vs. Ardeshir Cowasjee', counsel said that whenever the accused threw himself at the mercy of the court the court showed magnanimity....', do hereby affirm:
1) That the above news item implies that in Cr.O.P. 5/95, Masroor Ahsan v. Ardeshir Cowasjee, Mr Ahmad Ali Khan, Editor, Dawn and Mr Ghulam Ali A Mirza, Printer & Publisher, Dawn, the Respondents, threw themselves at the mercy of the court.
2) That, the factual position is, no charges were framed against any of the Respondents and that no Respondent threw himself at the mercy of the court. It is requested that the court record may be accordingly corrected.
3) That I attach hereto a copy of my unrefuted column published in Dawn on May 23, 1999, entitled Not guilty?' (Attachment 2). Particular reference is made to the following passages:
(a) "At 0300 hours on Friday, November 28, 1997, the landing strip of the Islamabad airport was lit up. Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif flew in, having wished God Speed to his party stalwarts travelling by road from Lahore to the capital city. He had come to witness his stormers perform and to arrange a post-storming celebratory luncheon at Punjab House."
(b) "With him, amongst others, was Senator Saifur Rahman. Saif was later to deny having had anything to do with the transportation of the hordes, explaining that he had 'rushed' to Lahore the evening before to visit a judge of the Supreme Court. Having met His Lordship at 11 o'clock at night, he had hitched a ride back with Shahbaz."
(c) "At 0730 hours the same day, Lt General Nasim Rana, then heading the ISI, called on COAS General Jehangir Karamat to report that a large crowd of ruling party men had left Lahore the previous night and was now congregating in Islamabad preparing to storm the Supreme Court. General Karamat played by the book and asked Rana to warn the man whose orders he obeyed, Nawaz Sharif, prime and defence minister. Another general in Karamat's place would have perhaps ordered a company of the 111 Brigade to conduct a 'move' exercise around the Supreme Court and the Parliament area that morning. The army is, after all, responsible for the security of the people and their institutions."
(d) "The plan to oust Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, which had taken root as early as August 21, 1997, succeeded and he was deposed."
(e) "On December 13, 1997, fifteen days after the event, I addressed an open letter to Acting Chief Justice Ajmal Mian [my column, 14/12/97), requesting that "it be accepted as a petition and that he take suo moto action, for the gravest contempt committed in the face of the court, against those who stormed the Supreme Court on November 28, 1997 as well as those responsible for organizing, paying, and directing them to so do, and that severe deterrent punishment be handed down to all of them. Collectively responsible and guilty is the entire federal cabinet and its primus inter pares". Together with the letter, I sent him a video cassette which clearly showed the storming of the court and in which several Muslim League leaders were identified."
(f) "Acting Chief Justice Ajmal Mian moved with trepidation. He referred to the 'storming' as a 'very serious incident of rowdyism.' By his order dated 15/12/97 he appointed Abdur Rahman Khan, J. to hold an inquiry.
Two months later, on 18/2/98, Justice Rahman submitted a report in which, inter alia, he stated: 'As the action of those individuals who forced their entry into the court premises and raised slogans against the judiciary prima facie amounts to gross contempt of this court..... it is considered appropriate that the honourable Chief Justice may constitute a Bench of the court to instigate contempt proceedings for the outrageous incident of 28/11/97. The bench so constituted can adopt such measures and take such actions as it may deem necessary to identify the concerned persons ..... the necessity for initiating such action immediately is felt because of paramount importance of the matter as the sanctity, dignity and respect of the apex court of the country is involved. Street power should not be allowed to coerce and intimidate the judiciary'."
(g) "The hearing of the contempt case began on 21/2/99 before a Bench of three headed by Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, the same Bench that had conducted the inquiry. I was asked to appear before it on May 6 as a prosecution witness. I was further directed: "If you wish to place on record any material regarding the incident, you are requested to send the same in advance." I sent a copy of the video cassette of the recording of the court's own CCTV cameras and fourteen documents, all of which had been handed over to the Supreme Court and/or the DAG between December 1997 and May 1998, i.e. prior to and during the course of the inquiry hearing of Cr.Misc.27/98."
(h) "Before the Court on May 6, I challenged the capacity and capability of the DAG to prosecute, and handed over a statement suggesting that it was still not too late to appoint a special prosecutor, in conformity with current international judicial norms and practices, who is able to prosecute the case in an unbiased manner. The statement was accepted on record and the DAG was directed to sit down. The judges asked whether I had any statement to make. I accused the prime minister and the ruling party of having stormed the court on November 28, 1997, and of obstructing the course of justice. On what basis had I made my statement? I was asked. On the basis of the video cassette and of all the documents already sent to the court. During cross examination by a defence lawyer it was "put" to me that my accusation was malafide and made out of malice. "Right or wrong?" he asked. Wrong, I replied, and there the matter ended."
(i) "On May 14, 1999, over one and a half years after the storming, the judgment was delivered. Statements made under oath, the video cassette recording, newspaper clippings - all these were not considered to be evidence."
4) That with regard to the above cited passages, I have the following elaborations/questions:
(a) Mian Shahbaz Sharif flew to Islamabad in his special plane at dead of night. Why?
(b) Which Supreme Court judge did Saifur Rahman call upon at 2300 hours?
(c) A 'move' exercise would have entailed a company of 111 Brigade motoring up and down the Constitution Avenue without resorting to action.
(d) From the statement filed in the court by Senator Iqbal Haider on May 25, 1998. This was followed by the clandestine visit to the judges of the Quetta Bench of the honourable Supreme Court by the envoy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Senator Rafiq Ahmad Tarar, whereafter the Quetta judgment of November 28, 1997, was delivered by Justices Irshad Hasan Khan and Khalilur Rahman Khan.
(e) The video cassette of the film recorded by the CCTV cameras installed in the Supreme Court building was considered sufficient evidence by Chief Justice Ajmal Mian to order a judicial inquiry into the storming.
(f) Justice Abdur Rahman Khan confirmed that the storming had coerced and intimidated the judiciary. A clear case of contempt in the face of the court.
(g) All the evidence remains on record of the Supreme Court.
(h) On the production of evidence recorded by the court cameras a judicial inquiry was conducted and contempt proceedings followed.
5) That in the interests of the "sanctity, dignity and respect of the apex court of the country", I submit that Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Saifur Rahman, Lt General Nasim Rana, and the journalists present in court on November 28, 1997, be summoned to give evidence under oath.
6) That I request that this affidavit and its attachments be taken on record.
7) That whatever is stated above is true and correct."
We must be thankful to providence for small mercies, and our honourable judiciary should be thankful to journalist Shahid Orakzai for his persistence. Three chief justices later and a thousand days down the road from the November 28, 1997, storming of the supreme court, Orakzai and his tenacity have enabled the court to restore, to some extent, its damaged image. Seven of the hundreds of stormers have been convicted and now that the second investigation ball has been lobbed to a superintendent of police, it is just possible that a few Untersturmfuehrers will be convicted equally swiftly. This is certainly not the end of the story.