AN affidavit in the case of the storming of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (Cr.Appeal 162/99 arising out of Cr.Misc.27/98) was sworn on November 27, 1999, and placed on record in the Supreme Court of Pakistan:

"I, Ardeshir Cowasjee, son of Rustom Fakirjee Cowasjee, resident of 10 Mary Road, Karachi, do hereby place on record a letter dated November 26, 1999, written by me to Mr. Aziz Munshi, the Attorney General of Pakistan:

"Dear Mr. Attorney-General

"1) It is not necessary for me to remind you -

-That no democracy can survive without checks and balances, institutional or otherwise.

-That the last sham democracy we have suffered, imposed upon us by Mian Nawaz Sharif, has destroyed all but one institution of state capable of checking his megalomania, his avarice for pelf and power, and his abuse of power.

-That when institutions are corrupted, in the eyes of the people those who corrupt as well as those who tamely allow themselves to be corrupted are all equally culpable. However, a megalomaniac must be deemed to be less culpable than those who profess to be burdened by the halos they wear.

- That in order to protect itself when in the wrong, one institution, misusing its power, has been known to employ intimidatory measures against another institution. Case in point: excised by the editor (self-censorship) from my Dawn column of 28/12/97 (Fascism on the march-IV) : "Is there any reasonable man in Pakistan prepared to believe that three honourable judges of the Supreme Court, Justices Irshad Hasan Khan, Nasir Aslam Zahid, and Khalilur Rahman, sitting in far away Quetta in the month of November, were capable of acting as they did on their own? What transpired in cold Quetta and the repercussions thereafter, which defy logic and reason, is a story that will haunt our superior judiciary for years to come." When I brought this to the attention of the then law minister, Khalid Anwer, his comment was: "Since I have no desire to see you hauled up under our antiquated and irrational law of contempt, I can only applaud your editor's discretion."

"2) Whilst investigating a crime, it is vital to the case to look into its background and the motives which prompted the crime."3) Instigated, supported and aided by the leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) party then in power, legislators, party members and street activists of the party stormed the Supreme Court on November 28, 1997, committing the gravest contempt in the face of the court in judicial history. The president of the ruling party, Nawaz Sharif, and his dastardly aides committed the crime with impunity, safe in their knowledge that no court in the country would convict them.

"4) The run-up to the disgraceful storming began in August 1997, when CJP Sajjad Ali Shah recommended the names of the five senior-most high court judges for elevation to the SC. The filling of the five vacant positions was long overdue. The government response to the request was to issue a notification reducing the strength of SC judges from 17 to 12.

"5) Early in September 1997, the Supreme Court Bar Association challenged this reduction and the SC admitted its petition. The Court suspended the notification, which was withdrawn by the government, but which held the appointment of the five judges in abeyance. The government subsequently backed down and the petition was disposed of.

"6) On October 9, 1997, CJP Shah flew to Saudi Arabia. The next day, Acting Chief Justice Ajmal Mian claimed that he had not been consulted on the elevation of the five judges. Eight other Supreme Court judges sent him a requisition for the convening of a full-court meeting to discuss the matter. ACJ Mian gave notice for such a meeting to be held on the 13th of the month.

"7)CJP Shah flew back on the 13th and cancelled the full-court meeting.

"8) On October 17, seven judges of the SC asked CJP Shah to convene a full-court meeting. He rejected their requisition.

"9) On October 20, in an unprecedented move, five judges of the SC addressed a letter to CJP Shah challenging his appointment and released to the press the text of their letter.

"10) On October 25, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan challenged the 14th Amendment and on October 29 a bench of the SC passed an interim order suspending the amendment, terming it 'anti-dissent'. That same day a joint parliamentary group declared - verbal war on the superior judiciary, the prime minister calling the suspension 'unconstitutional' and several of his parliamentarians from the floor of the National Assembly condemning in violent language the action of the CJP.

"11) On October 30, a Bench of the Supreme Court passed an order invoking Article 190 of the Constitution and requested President Farooq Leghari to appoint the five judges to the five vacant positions. The president warned the government that he may be compelled to do so, whereupon the prime minister backed down and agreed to the elevations.

"12) On October 31, a petition was filed challenging the 13th Amendment, and contempt petitions were also filed against the prime minister and seven other parliamentarians.

"13) On November 3, the SC issued pre-contempt notices to the prime minister, to the law minister, to five other parliamentarians, and to the editors of three newspapers. Barrister S M Zafar appeared for the PM and sought one month's time to prepare and file his written statement. He was given one week.

"14) On November 12, contempt notices were issued to the PM and the others asking them to appear and to file their written replies.

"15) On November 14, Information Minister Mushahid Hussain announced that the PM had decided to make a personal appearance in the SC which he duly did on November 17.

"16) On the night of November 17-18, at a post-midnight session, the National Assembly passed a bill amending the contempt of court law, allowing an intra-court appeal to 'the remaining judges' against a Supreme Court show-cause notice or conviction for contempt of court.

"17) On the morning of November 18, an SC bench in Quetta (JJ Nasir Aslam Zahid, Irshad Hassan Khan and Khalilur Rehman Khan) admitted a petition challenging the appointment of the CJP and asking that he convene a full court to decide the matter.

"18) On November 19, the PM publicly criticized President Farooq Leghari for delaying the signing of the Contempt of Court (Amendment) Bill. On the 20th, Leghari issued a statement saying he would not sign the bill on the insistence of one man; the SC heard petitions challenging the bill, and issued an interim order asking the president not to sign the bill, which, if already signed, would be considered suspended. To this, the PML(N) parliamentary group demanded the impeachment of the president, the cabinet approved, signatures were sought, and the decision taken to give notice at that evening's Senate session.

"19) On November 21, the SC issued a notice to the government in the 13th amendment case and refused to grant interim relief. The hearing was adjourned to the 27th.

"20) On the night of November 25, Senator R.A.Tarar, was sent in a special flight to Quetta to use his persuasive powers on the SC judges sitting there. On November 26, two members of the Quetta bench of the SC (JJ Irshad Hasan Khan and Khalilur Rahman Khan) issued an interim order suspending CJP Shah, challenging his out-of-turn elevation, and restraining him from the performance of his functions. CJP Shah termed this order illegal. (The order was signed that night by the third member of the Quetta Bench, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, who was out of Quetta when the order was issued.)

"21) On November 27, a bench of five judges of the SC at Islamabad annulled the verdict of the Quetta bench. PML(N) parliamentarians and activists present in the courtroom insulted and heckled the judges, refused to accept the authority of the court, shouting that 'Sajjad Ali Shah' had no right to be there as he had been suspended. That same day, a two-member Peshawar bench of the SC (JJ Saeeduzaman Siddiqui and Fazal Illahi Khan) called for a full-court bench to decide the matter of the validity of the CJP's appointment.

"22) On the night of November 27-28, having completed all arrangements for transporting a mob of PML(N) workers and activists from various areas of the Lahore region, Senator Saifur Rahman and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif flew into Islamabad from Lahore in the CM's special plane.

"23) At 0700 on the morning of November 28, Lt-General Rana, then heading the ISI, informed COAS General Jehangir Karamat that a mob had been organized to raid the SC whilst the contempt case against prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was being heard. You, I, and the world at large know well the sordid details of the demeaning and shameful events that followed on that day of November 28, 1997.

"May I suggest, now that the storming case has been reopened, that in addition to those already summoned, President Tarar, Shahbaz Sharif, Saifur Rehman, former CJP Sajjad Ali Shah, former President Leghari and Lt-General Rana, all be called to give evidence.

"The Court was stormed two years ago on November 28, 1997. The verdict in the contempt case, acquitting the few insignificant members of the storming party who had been charged, was given on May 14, 1999, over 500 days later. We must hope that the rehearing of this case will be completed expeditiously."



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