Cowasjee was born on 13 April 1926 in Karachi to the well-known Cowasjee Parsi family. His father, Rustom Fakirjee Cowasjee, was a businessman in merchant shipping, and the family spoke Gujarati at home. Ardeshir attended the Bai Virbaiji Soparivala (BVS) Parsi High School and graduated from DJ Science College, Karachi. Later, he joined his father’s business, the Cowasjee Group. In 1953, he married Nancy Dinshaw, with whom he had two children – Ava (daughter) and Rustom (son).
Cowasjee owned a family run shipping company, at the time of the independence of Pakistan was Karachi’s largest shipping company. He started as a friend of Benazir Bhutto’s father and the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. But that friendship didn’t last long and he broke off all ties and became one of the staunchest opponents of corrupt politicians. Cowasjee subsequently started writing letters to the editor of Dawn newspaper, which led to him becoming a permanent columnist. Since then, his hard-hitting and well-researched columns in Dawn have continuously exposed corruption, nepotism, and incompetence in different local, provincial, and national governments. Cowasjee’s last article for Dawn was published on 25 December 2011.
Via the Cowasjee Foundation, Cowasjee was the financier of many scholarships for students wishing to pursue higher education. These included grants for both local and overseas education. Known for his bravery and outright honesty, he fought long and hard battles against the entrenched land-grabbing mafia in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi. The city’s mafia is well entrenched in the political parties which rule the city. Cowasjee took many of them to court and stopped many encroachments on public land. Cowasjee called Musharraf as the best of the worst lot and wanted him to put a decade-long ban on politicians who held office between 1988 and 1999. He argued that it was the only way to ensure the top corrupt political elite can be kept out.
He only vouched for Jinnah’s short-lived government as the true leadership of the country. But despite calling his fellow countrymen a nation of bigots, chose to live and be buried in Pakistan – the only country he called home. Cowasjee died at the age of 86, on 24 November 2012. He was suffering from chest illness and remained in hospital for twelve days.