‘The Supreme Court provided relief to the people.’
Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, speaks to Javeria Shakil in this exclusive interview.
You refused to take oath under the PCO in 1999. Gen. Did you ever regret your decision?
That was a very conscious decision. The judges of the superior court are bound by oath to protect and defend the constitution. After the October 1999 military takeover, Gen. Musharraf had given me two undertakings: first, he would not promulgate the PCO and would never force the judges to take oath under the PCO; and second, he would not ask for the powers to amend the constitution. He agreed and stuck to his commitment for four months. On January 25, 2000, however, he called me at the Prime Minister’s House. There he told me that he was going to promulgate the PCO the next day – on January 26. I reminded him of his commitment but he said that his advisers had asked him to promulgate the PCO if he wanted to stay in power.
We had a very heated discussion and I told him I would not take oath under the PCO. He asked me to discuss the matter with his advisers, Mr. Sharifuddin Pirzada and Mr. Aziz A Munshi. The latter was also his law minister. Mr. Pirzada wanted a commitment from me in the Zafar Ali Shah case, which was scheduled for hearing the next day. He wanted the assurance that I would give Gen. Musharraf the power to amend the constitution. In support of his argument, he cited the examples of the Nusrat Bhutto case and the Dosso case (in which the Supreme Court had given similar powers to military rulers). But how could a chief justice give such an undertaking? I advised him that he should argue these points before the bench. If he convinced the majority of the judges that these powers could be given to a martial law administrator, he would have a ruling in his favor.
I left the PM House after telling them that I would not take oath under the PCO. I also told them that the other judges could take the oath if they did not find it wrong. Later that day, three generals – Gen. Ehsan, Gen. Mahmood and Gen. Moinuddin Haider – and a colonel came to my house with Gen. Musharraf’s message. I told them that I had had a detailed discussion on the subject with Gen. Musharraf and his advisers earlier in the day and there was no point in discussing the matter any further. They remained at my residence for about two hours and tried to convince me that it was in the interest of the country and the nation that I take oath under the PCO. I told them I thought otherwise. If I took oath under the PCO, I’d violate the oath I had undertaken under the Constitution of Pakistan and that in