‘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.

Southasia - - COVER STORY -

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

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