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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pentagon plays down end of Japan's Afghan mission

30 Oct 2007 20:57:16 GMT
Source: Reuters

More WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Japan's failure to extend a naval mission in support of the Afghanistan war will not affect U.S. operations in that combat zone, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

"I do not expect any operational impact whatsoever," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

Japan's prime minister failed on Tuesday to forge agreement with the opposition to allow Japan's navy to keep providing fuel for U.S. and other ships patrolling the Indian Ocean. Those operations support the war in Afghanistan. This means the mission is now certain to be halted for months, if not longer.

A Japanese supply ship carried out its last refueling operation on Monday under the current law, which expires Nov. 1.

"We still hope that they will continue to support the mission through their refueling efforts," Morrell told reporters.

"But if they ultimately choose not to, we will certainly come up with alternative means of making sure that our men and women have the fuel they need to go about their missions."

The fuel provided by Japan's supply mission accounted for about 19.6 percent of total fuel consumed by coalition vessels from December 2001 through February 2003, according to Pentagon data. Since then, it has accounted for about 7.3 percent of fuel consumed by coalition vessels

Haloween Suicide Bombing quarter mile from GHQ




RAWALPINDI, Pakistan - Police blocked a suicide bomber who blew himself up near the office of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, killing seven people, officials said.

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Meanwhile, more than 1,000 supporters of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif marched on Pakistan's Supreme Court in Islamabad as it prepared to hear arguments challenging his deportation last month by the Musharraf government.

The suicide bomber had walked up to a checkpoint in the city of Rawalpindi just a quarter-mile from Army House, the headquarters of the Pakistani army. Musharraf, a key U.S. ally who is also army chief, was safely inside at the time, his spokesman Rashid Qureshi said.

The attack could further heighten fears for Pakistan's stability just as it prepares for crucial parliamentary elections and faces a growing threat from Islamic militants.

Police said three of their officers and four civilians were killed. Fourteen policemen and four civilians were wounded, he said.

"When police officers asked him to halt, the attacker got panicked. And as the police tried to capture him, he blew himself up," city police chief Saud Aziz told The Associated Press. "Our officers died to protect the citizens of Pakistan."

Police said women and children aboard a passing minibus were also among the dead and wounded. Television footage showed schoolbags abandoned on the seats of the vehicle, whose windows were blown out.

An Associated Press photographer saw army investigators collecting body parts and evidence at the scene.

While there was no claim of responsibility, Pakistan has been rocked by a string of suicide attacks mostly blamed on Islamic extremists battling security forces near the Afghan border.

A suicide bombing on the homecoming parade of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Oct. 18 in the southern city of Karachi killed more than 140 people. In Rawalpindi, a garrison city just south of the capital, two blasts on Sept. 4 killed 25 people and wounded more than 60, many of them on a Defense Ministry bus.

Last week, Pakistan deployed paramilitary forces to tackle militant supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric in the northwestern district of Swat. Officials say four days of violence in the once-peaceful mountain region has left around 100 people dead, most of them militants.

The violence comes at a politically turbulent time in the country, with former premiers Sharif and Bhutto both vying for a role in Pakistan's governance.

Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, attempted to return from a seven-year exile on Sept. 10, but was deported on arrival back to Saudi Arabia despite a Supreme Court ruling that he be allowed back.

Sharif complained to the court, and at an Oct. 17 hearing, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry ordered senior officials to explain who organized the flight that whisked him out of the country. The hearing was set resume on Tuesday afternoon.

Outside the courthouse in Islamabad, flag-waving supporters of Sharif's opposition party carried posters of him and played drums. They chanted, "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif" and "Musharraf is a dog of the Americans!"

Sharif still hopes to return to Pakistan to contest parliamentary elections slated for January.

Meanwhile, an 11-member panel of judges continued proceedings in a separate case challenging Musharraf's eligibility for the presidential election that he won Oct. 6. The court has ordered the result withheld until it makes its ruling.

Opponents argue that Musharraf was ineligible to contest the vote as he was still army chief and so disqualified under a bar on public servants seeking elected office. The government says Musharraf can hold his army post and the presidency until his current term expires.

Presiding judge Javed Iqbal asked lawyers to finish their arguments by Friday, when the judges would likely issue their ruling.

Musharraf has promised to quit his army job before beginning a new five-year presidential term. His term and that of Parliament expire on Nov. 15. Speculation persists that if the court rules against him, he could declare emergency rule or martial law.

That would throw the election schedule into doubt, and complicate the prospects of a possible alliance between Musharraf and Bhutto, who was allowed to return from exile after months of negotiations.

Musharraf has survived at least three attempts on his life — including two in Rawalpindi in December 2003. He and Bhutto, though longtime political rivals, both support the U.S.-led war on terrorism and stress the importance of fighting Islamic extremism in Pakistan.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Haloween to Iraqis



This undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Dorko who was wounded in a roadside bombing Monday morning in northern Baghdad, the U.S. military reported. He was the highest ranking American officer to be hurt since the conflict began in March 2003. (AP Photo/US Army)

Bike-riding suicide bomber kills 30 Iraqi police

29 Oct 2007 14:17:03 GMT
Source: Reuters

More (Updates death tolls, U.S. military on kidnappings)

By Ross Colvin

BAGHDAD, Oct 29 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber on a bicycle killed 30 Iraqi policemen doing their morning exercises at a base north of Baghdad on Monday, in one of the deadliest strikes on security forces in months.

The attack was a reminder that despite a U.S.-led crackdown that has killed hundreds of Shi'ite and Sunni Arab militants and sharply reduced levels of violence in Iraq, groups such as al Qaeda are determined to carry on fighting.

The bomber entered the base in the volatile Diyala province and blew himself up amid members of a rapid reaction force, said Major-General Ghanim al-Quraishi, the Diyala police chief.

A shopkeeper whose store is close to the base told Reuters he had seen a man riding a bicycle slip through a gap in the concrete wall surrounding the compound and heard a huge blast seconds later that threw a cloud of dust into the air.

"I saw many bodies covered in blood. Some were dying, some had arms and legs blown off," said store-owner Ali Shahine.

At least 20 people were wounded in the attack, including a woman and a child, police said. Hospital officials gave the same number of casualties.

No group claimed responsibility for the bombing, but it bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda, which has often used suicide bombers to devastating effect in attacks on Iraqi security forces.

The base is in the city of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, a religiously and ethnically mixed region where al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab insurgent groups as well as Shi'ite Muslim militias operate.

U.S. forces on Monday blamed a former commander in Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army for kidnapping a group of Shi'ite and Sunni Arab tribal leaders from Diyala a day earlier. They had been returning home from talks with a representative of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

The military pledged to work with the Iraqi government to secure the release of the sheikhs, part of an anti-al Qaeda tribal alliance.

In other violence, a car bomb in a residential area in the northern Iraqi town of Siniya demolished two homes and killed eight people and wounded 13, police said.


(Additional reporting by Aseel Kami in Baghdad)

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Bomber kills 5 local tribal leaders in Iraq 12 minutes ago


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed five Sunni Arab tribal leaders in Iraq's Diyala province on Friday, police said.



They said the bomber blew himself up in a meeting of local tribal leaders from the area. Those killed were members of the Diyala Salvation Council, a body set up to oppose al Qaeda in Iraq in the province.

Police said three people were wounded in the attack in the village of Dojemah, near the town of Khalis. Among those killed were the deputy head of the Diyala Salvation Council, Sheikh Faeiz Lefta al-Obaidi.

After tribal leaders largely drove al Qaeda out of Iraq's Anbar province, formerly a key stronghold of the insurgency, tribal groups opposed to al Qaeda militants have sprung up in other areas of Iraq.

Diyala, a mixed Shi'ite and Sunni province northeast of Baghdad, has been among Iraq's most violent areas in recent months. On Oct 29, a suicide bomber on a bicycle killed 30 Iraqi policeman at a base in Diyala, in the deadliest recent suicide bombing in Iraq.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

World's bravest orchestra plays on in Iraq



In September 2007, amid the wreckage of an earlier suicide bombing in Baghdad's Karraba district, Ghada Hussein Al-Almy (center) directed the Al Mada street theater troupe’s opening-night performance of “A Day in our Homeland.”
Courtesy of RAND Corporation

BAGHDAD, Oct 29 (Reuters) - When the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra (INSO) holds a concert in Baghdad, organisers don't like to advertise: in fact they would prefer as few people as possible know about it.

Welcome to the bravest orchestra in the world.

The INSO, established in 1959, has survived decades of war, international sanctions, government neglect and vicious sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and forced millions to flee for their lives.

It saw its music library and instrument store looted after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, and one of its main concert venues was destroyed by U.S. missiles.

Some members have been kidnapped or killed in sectarian violence, others have received death threats and 29 have joined the exodus of more than 2 million people who have fled Iraq.

But amid the discord, the orchestra seeks harmony.

Its 60 members are an ethnic and religious cross-section of Iraqi society -- Shi'ite, Sunni Muslim and Christian, and Arab, Kurd and Turkman. They see themselves as a family of survivors.

So it was with pride that the orchestra launched into Johann Strauss's 'Blue Danube' to kick off the first concert of their new season, held on a Thursday afternoon at a social club in the western Baghdad district of Mansour, for an audience of invited guests.

"The symphony orchestra is ours. A thousand state changes, but we are still going," said Mohammed Amin Izzat, the orchestra's conductor since 1989.

Before the U.S.-led invasion, the INSO would advertise concerts in the media, especially on television. Now this happens by word of mouth, with organisers phoning a list of supporters or putting up posters in music colleges.

"We cannot advertise now because any gathering is a target for terrorist operations," Izzat said.

CHECKPOINTS, BOMBS

Guests for the concert at the Mansour social club are told to be there at midday "for security reasons". No time is given for the event because both the musicians and the guests have to navigate police and army checkpoints and blocked roads.

By the time the concert starts two hours later the hall, which can hold about 500 people, is almost full. The audience is made up of friends and relatives of the musicians and members of the club. Most have paid 10,000 Iraqi dinars ($8) for a ticket.

Dressed in black suits, and with instruments in hand, the musicians climb the stage to perform works by Bach, Dvorak, Vivaldi, and an Iraqi folkloric piece.

The orchestra's youngest member is 14-year-old oboe-player Duaa al-Azzawi, daughter of the orchestra's librarian Majid al-Azzawi: "I want to be famous. Now I practice every day for an hour," she said at a rehearsal a few days before the concert.

The INSO has 10 concerts scheduled for the 2007/8 season, including a trip to the United States, where it played at the Kennedy Center in Washington in 2003 to an audience that included U.S. President George W. Bush.

Izzat is hoping for better luck than in the 2006/7 season, when surprise curfews forced the cancellation of several concerts. Despite improved security, checkpoints and roadside bombs still stop musicians from getting to rehearsals.

One violinist was killed in a roadside bombing three months ago while Duaa's father, trumpeter and librarian al-Azzawi, was briefly kidnapped in March by gunmen and bundled into the boot of a car.

"This incident affected me for one day, then the next day I took my children to school and I went to the orchestra," he said. "We love our job, we have to keep going."

Pianist Natasha al-Radhi, 67, is a Czech who moved to Iraq 40 years ago and is married to an Iraqi man: "I cannot leave Iraq, I have a family here. I am a grandmother now. There, I have no one," she said.

HEYDAY

The orchestra's heyday was in the mid-1980s, when it hosted foreign musicians and conductors from the former Soviet Union, Germany, France and Hungary.

This "golden age", as the musicians refer to it, came to an abrupt end with the Gulf War in 1991, which ushered in a decade of punishing sanctions that impoverished ordinary Iraqis.

Government funding dried up, the musicians' salaries, paid by the state, were just 30 Iraqi dinars ($22) a month, and they were unable to replace old or broken instruments.

Since the U.S. invasion in 2003 their salaries have increased to $570 a month, but they still complain of government neglect and say they depend almost entirely on foreign aid.

They have received donations of musical equipment from Japan's Yamaha Corp and a Swiss non-governmental organisation. The orchestra also has sponsorship from a mobile phone company.

"We represent the cultural face of Iraq. It is not acceptable that the world cares and gives, while the country neglects us completely," Izzat said.

If the INSO manages to complete its 2007/8 programme as scheduled, that would be one indicator that U.S. and Iraqi security forces are having some success in quelling violence.

But perhaps a better one will be the day the musicians can advertise their concerts again without fear.

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Nothing else matters: Iraqi heavy metal returns



Iraqi heavy metal band Brutal Impact's lead singer Muthana Mani shouts the lyrics to Raining Blood, a song by American band Slayer.



By Charles Levinson, USA TODAY
BAGHDAD — At a private dinner club on the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdad, Muthana Mani screamed threats at a wild-eyed crowd of young Iraqis.

"I'll see you die at my feet! Eternally I smash your face! Facial bones collapse as I crack your skull in half!" he roared.

Two years ago, these kinds of threats in Iraq typically came from members of al-Qaeda, or violent sectarian militias. Saturday night, they were directed at 250 Iraqi fans of heavy metal music who fearlessly donned eye shadow, anarchist pendants and black T-shirts and came out of hiding to attend Iraq's first metal concert in five years.

Throughout the two-hour show, the crowd thrashed about, a sea of sweating bodies and banging heads. They screamed obscenities and broke tables. It was a scene that would have made any American metal fan proud.

It was also another indication of just how much security has improved here. When religious extremists controlled Baghdad's neighborhoods, being a member of heavy metal's unique subculture could amount to a death sentence, says Mani, 21, the lead singer of Brutal Impact, one of the two bands that played the concert.


"If I wore a T-shirt like this one," Mani said in an interview after the show, pointing to a logo of a bleeding skull, "they'd have killed me."

During the most violent years of the war, Iraqi heavy metal fans were besieged by threats from all sides, says Aws Adnan, one of two 21-year-old engineering students who organized the show.

Sunnis accused metal fans of supporting the Mahdi Army because they wore black like members of the Shiite militia, Adnan says. Shiites, meanwhile, suspected fans of being from al-Qaeda because their unkempt goatees resembled the mustacheless beards popular among hard-line Sunni Islamists, he says.

As a result, Iraq's metal musicians practiced for hours behind closed doors. For Latif Ahmed, the long-haired drummer for both bands, the concert was a long-awaited act of revenge against the extremists that he says sent him death threats via text message, warning him to cut his hair, shave his goatee and stop playing drums.

"I just decided that I'd had enough staying home all the time, hiding all the time," said Ahmed, 22. "I decided to do this gig to say that metal exists here, and we are ready to kick some a—."

For many of the band members and fans in attendance, heavy metal has played the role of a trusted therapist during five years of war.

"The youth in Iraq are searching for some way to release their anger, their sadness, and heavy metal is the only way for them to do that," Mani said. "It's the only way for them to feel free."

Even as they recited bloodcurdling calls to violence, however, these headbangers carried a message of unity to fans. Brutal Impact is itself a testament to coexistence with two Sunnis, two Shiites and a Christian among its members.

The second band, Dog Faced Corpse, debuted their original song, Consanguinity. It is a call for brotherhood among Iraqis, explains guitarist Amin al-Jaff.

The band's name refers to apocryphal reports at the height of the killing in 2006 that militants had stitched a dog's head onto a victim's headless body.

Many of the fans at Saturday's concert were attending their first live metal show. They were too young to remember a band called Acrassicauda, which played Iraq's last live metal concert in 2003, just after the U.S. invasion. Its members later fled to Turkey.

"This is something totally new for me. It's craziness and crowded, and it makes you feel so excited," said Zeinab Qassem, a 19-year-old dentistry student in a strappy black dress that stopped well before her knees. It would be a brazen Baghdad outfit even in the best of times.

Next to Qassem stood Nadaa Haidar, a bespectacled girl in an Islamic head scarf, sporting black nail polish for the occasion. Both girls pumped their fists in the air, flaring their pinky and index finger to form devil horns, the universal metal sign, as they sang along to a cover of Metallica's hit song Nothing Else Matters. They didn't miss a beat.

"There's nothing wrong with wearing a veil and listening to metal," said Haidar, 18. "Islam doesn't like metal, but I'm not hurting anyone so it's OK."

Adnan and the concert's other organizer, Mustafa Muhana, pawned their laptop computers, a mobile phone and a bass guitar to pay for the show. They had nearly broken even from $10 ticket sales until the venue's owner approached them after the show and demanded $800 to pay for the damaged tables.

Adnan shrugged. "Anything for metal," he said.

Thanks to USA TODAY

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Music returns to Baghdad as vice squad enforcers retreat





by Sammy Ketz Sammy Ketz – Wed Nov 12, 12:53 pm ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) – After years on the run from Shiite and Sunni militias and morality police, Iraqi musicians are slowly returning to the streets of Baghdad, looking to fill the silence left by the fading civil war.

"The Mahdi Army and Al-Qaeda only ever agreed on one point -- that we are servants of the devil," said Mohammed Rashid, 37, a music shop owner in the Fadel neighbourhood of central Baghdad.

In the back of his office hang the portraits of a saxophone player and a tambourine player, both murdered by the Mahdi Army's Shiite militiamen in early 2006 at the height of Iraq's grisly sectarian violence.

"At his home in Sadr City and in front of his children, they killed and burned the corpse of my saxophone player, Ayad Hair. On the same day, they took Ali Mohammed and killed him. His corpse was found more than two years later."

"They explained to their families that this will be the fate of all those who transgress holy law," said Rashid, who reopened his shop earlier this year.

He faced similar harassment from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni extremist movement loyal to Osama bin Laden that has launched scores of attacks across the country targeting Shiite civilians and US-led security forces.

"In March 2006, after they took over the neighbourhood, a group of masked jihadists destroyed my shop," he said. The trumpets and drum covers still bear the jagged scrapes left by the vandals.

"What you are doing is forbidden, because music is the work of the devil," Rashid remembers the assailants telling him before he fled to Syria. "If you reopen your shop, you are dead."

The neighbourhood was once famous for its traditional music groups, bands of drummers, trumpet and timpani players that would accompany a groom to his bride, cater to circumcision celebrations, and herald major holidays.

But under the strict interpretation of Islamic law imposed by Al-Qaeda on the areas it controlled, musicians were considered a threat to morality, along with alcohol vendors, barbers and women who did not cover their hair.

When the ban on music was first announced the owners of seven shops on the street complained to the local Al-Qaeda strongman.

"It is an order from God, he will provide for your needs," the man replied, according to Abdel Karim Rashid, a 34-year-old trumpet player who was reduced to selling fruit juice to survive the group's radical Islamist rule.

He did not take up his instrument again until mid-October 2007, when a local Sunni militia allied to US-led forces drove Al-Qaeda from the neighbourhood.

He remembers rushing outside and blowing a song of celebration into the surrounding alleyways. "It was a liberation. We were drunk with joy. I thought I had risen from the dead."

Hussein al-Basri, the head of Iraq's artists union, says there were more than 300 traditional bands playing in Baghdad on the eve of the US-led invasion in March 2003 but most of them stopped playing in 2004.

Since then around 50 musicians have been killed, and the number of active bands has dwindled to around 100, he said.

Music is still a dangerous profession in some parts of the country.

Eight months ago an orchestral group that had travelled to the southern town of Aziziyah was attacked by the Mahdi Army, which destroyed their instruments.

In the Allawi district of central Baghdad, Ahmed Omar Magid, 27, whose father played in the royal symphony in 1954 during the reign of King Faisal II, suffered the same treatment at the hands of Sunni fighters.

"They were an intrusion in our lives. They wanted to impose a culture without joy, but Iraqis enjoy the good life, and they love music," he said.

Today Magid plays eight different instruments for 170 dollars a night and his six bands perform at around a dozen weddings a month. "Many artists have fled the country but some are beginning to return," he said.

His neighbour Ali Kassem, a 40-year-old who used to play trumpet in a military band, is planning to perform at a party with his two teenage sons.

"We have had some really rough times! I have friends who were killed when they showed up to play for fake weddings set up as ambushes," he said.

"And yet I am sure that nothing in the Koran forbids our art."


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In Iraq, a different kind of drama stages a message of reconciliation
A brave band of Iraqi women are defying insurgent threats and taking back their streets.


By Edward O'Connell and Cheryl Benard

from the December 18, 2008 edition


Baghdad - The actor stands on a makeshift stage at a bombed-out, dusty intersection in Baghdad. It's an unusually cool evening in September, and a crowd that looks like most of the neighborhood has assembled to enjoy the rare entertainment.

"Sunni! Shiite!" he yells. "Whatever ethnic group – I don't care! Spurn each other's hand no longer. Long life and success – to both of you!" This is the message of reconciliation carried by the Al Mada street theater troupe, led by one of Iraq's rising female stars, Ghada Hussein Al-Almy.

While female suicide bombers in Iraq have been getting all the headlines, a very different cadre of women has emerged on the scene with the opposite goal of forging peace and paving over the sectarian differences. Above all, these activists want to take back the streets and neighborhoods of their country.

We have spent the past several years studying how women promote conflict resolution in places such as Belfast, Sarajevo, and Damascus. But we've seen nothing like the women activists we encounter now in Iraq, especially given the personal risk they take to advance their message.

Ms. Almy's street theatrics are only one example of this courageous new female activism. Other women roam their local streets as self-appointed social workers, looking after displaced persons, widows, and street children. Some have set up welfare centers and education programs, persisting in the face of leaflets and letters threatening them with death. Still others pound the doors of government offices, demanding nonsectarian help for the needy Sunni and Shiites in their neighborhoods.

Such activism has a long tradition in Iraq. During the civil war between warring Kurdish parties in northern Iraq in 1994, hundreds of women from both sides got together for a three-day march on Kurdish parliament. Finding the doors closed and the peace talks stalled, they broke into the building and carried out a two-week sit-in strike that forced the warring parties to reconvene and negotiate a cease-fire.

Nowadays the activists are employing unconventional platforms such as Almy's to start a grass-roots counter-revolt against war and division.

Almy is a Baghdad University professor-turned-"theater resistance leader," as her fans call her. In the wake of some of Iraq's worst suicide bombings, she and her troupe decided to use culture as a defensive weapon, producing and staging plays that mobilize the audience against violence and killing.

In July 2007, minutes after a suicide truck bombing, Almy marshaled her "quick reaction theater troupe" and got to work. The next day, they visited the bomb site and began to build an impromptu stage. She assembled poets, actors, and musicians – including some of Iraq's most famous – for some all-night brainstorming. They began to create an original script, and to rehearse.

Six weeks later – timed to coincide with Ramadan – her troupe performed "A Day in Our Homeland." Focused on one of nearly 200 casualties from a bombing in Baghdad's Karrada district, the play followed the struggles of a dying young man, his grieving fiancé, and his badly wounded mother. The play was staged only a few feet away from the bombed-out apartment building where they had lived.

The open-air dramas typically run for two weeks at locations around Baghdad where bombs have been exploded by extremists. Almy's statement to the extremists is simple: "You will not take away our way of life, or our culture."

"We are trying to use culture as a weapon," Ghada told us. "We want to make the terrorists feel the strength of our culture."

The thousands of all ages who throng to her regular events add their own exclamation point to her stark objective.

Unfortunately, many courageous and innovative efforts such as Almy's go unreported. Indeed, she is only one example of an informal but growing network of women activists in Iraq who, despite threats to their safety and that of their families, are finding ever more creative ways to resist.

Another woman we encountered from Baghdad, Kareema, shook her fist in the air as she showed us a flier she had received "compliments of Mr. Sadr's Jaysh Al-Mahdi militia" threatening her if she didn't stop her popular cultural program.

The threats only seemed to strengthen her determination.

Unlike Almy, who dons an elegant hijab to complement her otherwise-Western apparel, Kareema declines to wear the hijab or abaya in public.

The first lady of Iraq, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed (Talibani) later told us, "I saw this woman [Kareema] on TV, reporting from Basra, without a hijab.... I thought this is the bravest woman in Iraq, I must get to know her."

In their efforts to counter violent extremism, US and Iraqi authorities have overlooked Iraqi women as voices of inspiration and persuasion. Both parties should refocus their resources to support these women who are already engaged – but not networked. A simple start: security for these grass-roots events, marches, and protests that stimulate the public's role in Iraq's reconciliation should be made a priority.

Almy frowned when we suggested that other women may not want to put their own lives and the lives of their families in peril.

"Don't you see us? We are already on the front lines of this war for years," she said. "We are beyond fear, beyond loss. We are not the crazy suicide bomber or the weeping widow the West portrays us to be. We are creative and courageous; we are the new women of Iraq!"

• Edward O'Connell and Cheryl Benard are co-directors of the Alternative Strategy Initiative at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. They travel regularly to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities in conjunction with RAND's work on building civil societies.

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An End to Baghdad's 'Dark Era'
Nightclubs on the City's Famous Abu Nawas Street Are Open Again and Popular -- Even With U.S. Troops


Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 28, 2009; Page A07
By Sudarsan Raghavan

BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 -- The American soldier stepped out of the Baghdad nightclub. In one hand, he clutched his weapon. In the other, a green can of Tuborg beer. He took a sip and walked over to two comrades, dressed as he was in camouflage and combat gear.

Inside the club Thursday night, U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division ogled young Iraqi women who appeared to be prostitutes gyrating to Arabic pop music. A singer crooned soulfully through scratchy speakers to the raucous, pulsating beat -- an action that Islamic extremists have deemed punishable by beheading.

Twenty minutes later, several drunk men coaxed an American soldier to dance. He awkwardly shuffled his feet, wearing night-vision equipment and a radio, joining the women and boisterous young men in an Arabic chain dance around tables covered with empty beer bottles.

For most of the past six years, U.S. troops and other Westerners in Baghdad have barricaded themselves behind blast walls and traveled the streets in armored cars, fearing attack or capture. Time spent in what Americans call the Red Zone -- all of the capital except for a protected part of central Baghdad -- invited and often brought calamity. U.S. troops do not leave their bases or outposts unless they are on duty.

The soldiers on Abu Nawas Street said they were visiting the club to talk to the manager about security, but they were socializing publicly with Iraqis in a way that was unimaginable even a few months ago. The scene reflected the increasing sense of security in the capital and many parts of Iraq,
but it was impossible to know how many U.S. soldiers in Baghdad have the opportunity or the inclination to drink a beer while on patrol, apparently in violation of rules banning alcohol consumption in combat zones.

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A U.S. military spokesman, responding to a query about the soldiers, was incredulous.
"Just so I understand this clearly, you saw U.S. soldiers at a nightclub in downtown Baghdad outside of the Green Zone in uniform drinking and dancing?"
asked Tech. Sgt. Chris Stagner.

Club manager Salah Hassan said Thursday's visit was not exceptional.
"The Americans come here four or five times a week," he said. "They buy drinks and pay for them."


Others at the club said the soldiers had been there more than once. "I love the Americans," said Amal Saad, a petite young woman with blue contact lenses and thick red lipstick. "I like it when they come here. I feel so safe."

"Many times, I went with them in their Humvees," she added. "They took me to shops and bought me chocolates and gifts."


Hassan said he started his club with a $10,000 grant handed out by the U.S. military to launch small businesses, an integral part of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy to pacify Baghdad. "They come and dance," he said. "We know each other well. And they tell their friends, and they also come."

Under a Status of Forces Agreement the U.S. and Iraqi governments signed in November, an American soldier who commits a serious crime off base and off duty is subject to Iraqi laws, although the United States retains the final word in determining whether a soldier was off duty. Drinking and dancing may create a hard-to-dispute impression that a soldier was at leisure.

"Everyone is having a good time," said Spec. Eric Cartwright, 26, of Granada Hills, Calif., as he watched his comrade do the chain dance. "No one is scared about what's going to happen to them. This is a good sign."

In the 1970s, Abu Nawas Street was the nexus of Iraq's night life. Bars stayed open until the early morning. In 1994, Saddam Hussein, in an attempt to win the support of religiously conservative Iraqis, closed all the nightclubs.


After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents targeted alcohol sellers. They issued death threats to singers and dancers, forcing many to flee the country.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in an effort to portray himself as a secular nationalist, allowed the reopening of the nightspots three months ago, a move that has bolstered his popularity among many urban Iraqis. Still, most nightclubs have remained closed for much of the time since his order, a period that includes several Muslim holidays.

Threats from extremists remain, but the heavy security measures across the capital have brought confidence.

Nightclubs are starting to open up in other parts of Baghdad. Hotels are hosting dance parties for well-off Iraqis. Social clubs, where alcohol and gambling are part of the fare, are seeing more customers. Performers are returning from exile.

And Abu Nawas Street is arguably the safest street in the capital. It runs along the Tigris River, ending at one entrance to the Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government buildings are situated. Hassan's nightclub is on a stretch of street that is blocked off on either end by blast walls and checkpoints guarded by Iraqi private security contractors and police. Several American and European media organizations have fortresslike bureaus up the road, each with its own private force. American troops patrol on foot virtually every day.

"This area is well protected," Hassan said. "If I didn't have the security, I wouldn't be able to do business. Customers will be afraid to come. They will be kidnapped or killed."

The previous night, he said, gunmen entered a nightclub near Andalus Square in central Baghdad and kidnapped two customers.

A few minutes later, Hassan became nervous about discussing the visits by U.S. soldiers. He asked that the name of his nightclub not be mentioned, even though it was written on a signboard outside in English. "The Americans will come and shut me down," he said.

At a club next door, the patrons were too drunk to care about threats. Each had paid a $45 entrance fee -- a princely sum for many Iraqis -- to hear Adeeba, one of the nation's most famous singers. The dark-haired diva didn't disappoint.
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She blew kisses to the all-male audience, and began:

Believe me, I did not get bored of you.


Believe me.

A dancer wearing a tight red-and-black outfit gyrated across the floor, as the audience erupted in screams. Young men, some in fashionable jackets, wiggled their hips and waved pink tissues. One man went up to the balcony and threw handfuls of cash that floated down toward Adeeba and her five-man band.

Adeeba, who like most Iraqi singers uses only her first name, returned two months ago from Bahrain -- after fleeing Iraq three years ago. "There was no work and if anyone was caught singing, they would behead her," she said.


She was encouraged to return because of the improvements in security and also because "living outside my country killed me." She had also heard that the nightclubs had reopened.

"The dark era is over," she said with confidence.

Her audience agreed.

"Listening to her made me feel the security," said Muntader Khazal, 18, who sells clothes.

"We never expected that such a day will come in Iraq," gushed his friend Hussein Sheba, 17.


Meanwhile, at Hassan's nightclub, the American soldier danced, arm in arm, with his new Iraqi friends.

Special correspondent Zaid Sabah contributed to this report.

----

"We used to have discos, casinos, high-class clubs ... We hope to see those days return, one day, inshallah (God willing)," said speakeasy owner and businessman Omar Ali Kundo, 59, a member of Iraq's Yazidi minority.
He was harking back to the days of Saddam Hussein in 1980s, but before the crippling US-backed international sanctions imposed in 1990.
"Saddam closed down the bars after the 1991 (Gulf) war" to encourage Muslim countries to break the embargo, recalled Kundo, whose club only reopened in September after a four-year closure.
With violence now at its lowest level since the March 2003 invasion, the better-off are venturing out at night although they go home by 10 pm in part through darkened streets, some cordoned off after roadside bomb blasts.
Unlike 1920s America during Prohibition when alcohol was banned, Kundo's club operates more or less out in the open despite the dangers from conservative militants.
From a renovated two-storey house on a corner, with the lower parts of its walls painted in soothing pink and blue pastels, the men-only club serves food and is divided off into several rooms.
Unarmed guards keep a close watch on the cars parked outside mindful that armed counterparts at a nearby newspaper office have been known to shoot out the windows of any vehicle left too close to their building.
Kundo, whose office is adorned with Christian and Muslim ornaments as the Yazidis "believe in all the prophets," said he used to own 14 such clubs, "each worth half a million dollars," in the "good old days" of secular Iraq under Saddam.
That was before the US-backed sanctions, and before the US-led invasion. But now he is down to one, plus four liquor stores around town. The club faces competition from up to 10 other such establishments.
The businesses are unlicensed, or "unofficial," as his manager put it.
Kundo's establishment attracts an average of between 100 and 150 customers a day, starting from midday, and drinks include Iraqi and imported arak as well as whisky to go with the traditional meals.
Apart from the bingo upstairs, where the numbers are read out over a loudspeaker, the club puts on a poetry reading night once a week and has plans to build an open-air venue at the back complete with a stage for live music.
"It is part of our mission to bring poetry and literature back to the people," said manager Kazem Abid Ali.
Other bars and restaurants around Baghdad are also beginning to bustle again.
On 52 Street in the upmarket district of Karrada, around which the River Tigris wraps itself on two sides, eateries such as Saj al-Reef, Crispy, Toast, and a brightly-lit new place, Chef City, are all busy at weekends.
"Business has been good for the past six months," said Ali Zaydan, 28, taking phone orders for his takeaway which also does home delivery by motorbike or taxi.
Despite lax security, with no checks on entry, "people keep coming because they have nowhere else to go, no other entertainment," said cashier Saad Derzi at a restaurant next door.
"We replace the glass in the windows at the front each time there's a car bomb. We've done it three times in the past year, including a car bomb right in front when people were hurt by flying glass," said the 38-year-old.
"The situation is much better. It's not ok, but better," said Hussam Ali, 29, an IT lecturer at Baghdad University and part of a group of five couples, all working professionals, with their children, including baby Mohammed.
"You can't compare to before the invasion, but it's getting there."
Asked if they were nervous, the women in the group all smiled and shook their head as Arabic music played in the background and a satellite television showed the latest MTV hits.
Jadriyah and Mansur districts with their ice cream parlours and juice bars are also considered relative "safe havens" for Baghdad's modest nightlife. And restaurants on the riverside Abu Nawas serve "mazghouf" smoked river fish.
In a capital city of six million people, it's certainly not the Baghdad of 1,001 Nights. But after three wars in less than a quarter century and 13 years of tight sanctions, an air of optimism is in the air.

http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=30645

Centuries Old Radio Pakistan set on fire in Karachi

کراچی.........افضل ندیم.............کراچی میں ریڈیو پاکستان کی عمارت میں لگی آگ پر قابو پالیس گیا ہے۔ایک صدی پرانی عمارت کو آتشزدگی کے نتیجے میں شدید نقصان پہنچاہے جبکہ اورریڈیو پاکستان کراچی اسٹیشن کی نشریات کئی گھنٹے سے بند رہیں۔ایم اے جناح روڈ پر واقع ریڈیو پاکستان کی عمارت میں شارٹ سرکٹ کے سبب تقریبا پونے گیارہ بجے اچانک آگ بھڑک اٹھی۔اس وقت ریڈیو پاکستان سے پروگرام بچوں کی دنیا نشر کیا جارہا تھا، آگ لگنے کے سبب بھگدڑ مچ گئی اور بچوں سمیت تمام افراد کو باہر نکال لیا گیا۔سٹی گورنمنٹ کے فائربریگیڈ کی دو درجن سے زائد گاڑیوں کے علاوہ اسنارکل اور کے پی ٹی، ڈی ایچ اے اور کلفٹن کنٹونمنٹ کے فائر فائٹرزنے تین گھنٹے کی جدوجہد کے بعد آگ بجھائی۔ امدادی کام کی نگرانی سٹی نائب ناظمہ نسرین جلیل نے کی ۔ اس موقع پر ڈی سی او کراچی جاوید حنیف ،ایدھی فاونڈیشن کے سربراہ مولانا عبدالستار ایدھی ، خدمت خلق فاؤنڈیشن، ہلال احمر، چھیپا ویلفیئر اور دیگر اداروں کے رضا کار بھی موجود تھے۔ ریڈیو پاکستان کے اسٹیشن ڈائریکٹراقبال فریدی کے مطابق آتشزدگی سے کنٹرول روم ،سوئچ روم اور تقریباچودہ اسٹوڈیوز کے علاوہ دیگر تنصیبات کو بھی شدید نقصان پہنچا۔ریڈیو پاکستان کا سوسال پرانا اور نایاب ریکارڈ پہلی منزل پر ہونے کی وجہ سے محفوظ رہا ہے۔

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Protesters in U.S. cities call for end to Iraq war

27 Oct 2007 21:18:45 GMT
Source: Reuters

More By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Anti-war demonstrators marched in a dozen U.S. cities on Saturday to call for an immediate end to the war in Iraq and a cut-off of funding by Congress.

The "national day of action," sponsored by the United for Peace and Justice coalition, attracted throngs of protesters in cities from Boston and New Orleans to Chicago and Los Angeles on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Senate's vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

Wet weather dampened the turnout in New York, but thousands braved the rain for the anti-war event in Manhattan, where protesters carried signs reading "End the war now," demanding a cutoff of its funding; "Healthcare, not warfare;" and calling for the impeachment of President Bush for "war crimes."

One contingent began its trek in New Jersey, marching across the George Washington Bridge en route to a rally in Manhattan's Union Square, where speakers included anti-war veterans and families of servicemen in Iraq.

Leslie Kielsen, a local UPAJ organizer, said the "half a trillion" dollars spent on the war was money that could have been used for education, housing and to feed the hungry.

The demonstrators, who included labor unions activists, also spoke out on issues including nuclear weapons and what some see as the increasing likelihood of U.S. military intervention in Iran over its escalating nuclear program.

They then marched peacefully to Foley Square near some of New York's largest courthouses and federal office buildings for another rally. En route, they observed a two minute period of silence to honor the war dead.

In Chicago, an estimated 10,000 people gathered at Union Park for the march to Federal Plaza. Democratic Reps. Danny Davis and Rep. Jan Schakowsky both told a rally before the march they would oppose any further funding for the war in Iraq without a formal withdrawal date.

"Do not let the political leaders divide us," Veterans for Peace National Executive Director Michael McPherson, a Gulf War veteran, told the crowd.

"Figure out ways to work together even though we might have some differences. We must stand together on these issues."

Mike Carano, 53, the Ohio co-coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America, said "This isn't just a thing where a number of people come to (Washington) D.C.

"This is across-the-country sentiment about ending the occupation, redirecting funds for needs in this country, our attempt to get Congress to stand up and have its prerogative to cut funding, to take charge. That's our hope."

A second rally was slated to follow the march, while a group of mothers of active U.S. soldiers planned to hold a counter-demonstration, local media reported.

Organizers said demonstrators in San Francisco were expected to number as many as 100,000.

Protests were also slated for Seattle, Salt Lake City, Orlando, Philadelphia and even Jonesborough, Tennessee, home to a company that is the largest producer of weapons that use depleted uranium. (Additional reporting by Benjamin Klayman in Chicago)

Jang Jang Ta Perozi-Marg Par Amerekka









مسابقه شتر سواري روستاي باغو از توابع بندر عباس/ابوالفتح داوري -ايسنا

'30 Year Laptop Battery' is Unscientific Myth

By Zonk on be-nice-though-wouldn't-it

An anonymous reader wrote to mention the wonderful news: "A research group funded by U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is developing a battery which can provide continuous power to your laptop for 30 years! Betavoltaic power cells are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source..." Except, not so much. ZDNet's Mixed Signals blog with Rupert Goodwins explains why (as always) if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: "The sort of atomic structures that generate power when bombarded with high energy electrons are the sort that tend to fall apart when bombarded with high energy electrons. While solar cells have the same problem, it's to a much lesser extent. There's a lot of research into making materials that don't suffer so much, but it remains a serious issue ... while it's true that a tritium-powered battery will eventually turn into an inert, safe lump of nothing much, and while it's also true that a modest amount of shielding will keep the radioactivity within the the battery the while, there's the small problem that if you break the battery during its life the nasties come out."

Afghan women brave insecurity to go back to school


26 Oct 2007 07:02:00 GMT
Source: WFP
Location: Kabul



Thousands of Afghan women are defying potential threats to take their first steps in education. WFP Afghanistan spokesperson Jackie Dent reports on how WFP food is playing an important role in getting Afghan women out of the house and into the classroom.

With a raft of deadly suicide attacks this year, the people of Kandahar have become wary of going outside. Locals say when they do go out, they now say a prayer and give everyone in their family a loving kiss goodbye – just in case.


This wariness has seeped into the city. Many of the charming old buildings along the main Eid Gah Jada boulevard are shut. Property prices have plummeted and for entrepreneurs, now might be a good time to buy. Unemployment in the city is said to be as high as 70 percent.


Sense of freedom

Despite the unease which is affecting daily life, surprisingly, it is the city’s women who have found a new sense of freedom - many of them thanks to UN World Food Programme food assistance.


Each day, thousands of women are braving insecurity to go back to school in a city notorious for its strict attitudes and frequent harsh treatment of women.


From crumbling government buildings to the basements of unassuming mud brick homes, Kandahari women have found the right to learn.


Rations for skills

In just five years, the numbers of women learning to read and write, and gain handicraft skills, has leapt from a few hundred to close to five thousand in Kandahar city alone.


The sharp jump in attendance can largely be attributed to WFP's monthly rations of wheat, vegetable oil, pulses and salt, which act as an incentive for men to allow their wives, daughters and sisters to leave the home and attend the literacy classes.


In a society where cultural mores make it difficult for a woman to work, the food they bring home is a valuable contribution to family life, particularly if they are widows.


Positive changes


“A lot of positive changes have occurred in women’s lives and right now it is better,” said Abdul Baqi Popal, the bespectacled head of Kandahar’s department of literacy which is located in a run-down office building in the centre of town.


Sitting on a couch nearby is Hanifa Azizi, a supervisor for one of the projects. “I was jobless during the Taliban,” she said. “But now we are very pleased that we are allowed to come out of our homes and have the permission to go to school and learn something. The learning centres are very happy places for women.”


Tough times

The basement of Mercy Malaysia, an NGO, is busy with the sounds of women talking as they sew, carpet weave and crochet.


Some of the women’s creations are impressive and beautiful, particularly the embroidered shirts and scarves.


Kandahar is well-known for its exquisite embroidery and knowledge of the craft is potentially lucrative -- an elaborately embroidered shirt can sell for as much as US$200 and take up to three months to make.


Begging


Most of the women in the class have lived miserable lives. Widowed and poor, they have spent a large portion of their lives begging for food from relatives or on the street.


Gul has lost her husband, nephew and daughter. Zarghuna’s husband was shot dead 20 years ago and her daughter is also a widow. BiBi Jan has been a widow for 12 years and has nine children.


“I used to go through garbage bins to feed my family. I used to pray to Allah each day that I would eat fresh food,” she says.

Despite the backdrop of hardship in their lives, all the women say the monthly food they receive from WFP and their new skills are helping ease some of their stresses.


“I have learned a lot of skills here. I have learned how to prepare dresses and other skills,” says Zarghuna. “Through these new skills, I want to earn money.”


A revolution

During the reign of the Taliban, the women of Kandahar – like women in other parts of the country controlled by the regime – were unable to work, gain an education or visit a male doctor.


Women found in the streets without a male escort were lashed and sent to prison.


Trapped at home, they were cut off from social contact and participation in community activities. Women still face enormous pressures for challenging the status quo.


Late last year, Safiya Ama Jan, the head of the ministry of women’s affairs department and a well-known women’s activist, was shot dead in the street.


Death threats


She had championed the education of girls and women, and had opened vocational centres. Other women activists receive death threats and “night letters”.


Despite the potential threats, thousands of women are heading to the education centres each day.


Popal, from the department of literacy, believes the success has come through close community consultation. He said it is important families feel confident that the courses are acceptable to the whole of society.




Curriculum

“Before anything, we tell the village elders, and we tell the people of the village about the method, and why we came. After their acceptance, we start our programme,” he said, adding that the curriculum covers everything from religion to cooking to women’s rights.


For others, the success of the schemes is related to the food. “We are poor and we need WFP assistance. I don’t think I would be able to come to the centre without the food assistance,” said Maryam Imam Hussain, a mother of five, at the learning centre in Kabul Shah.


“The food I get helps me contribute to my family and I am also becoming better educated,” she said.

Is this Sadr City of Baghdad or Indonesian Island



Smoke spews out of Mount Soputan volcano on the northern tip of Indonesia's Sulawesi island October 25, 2007. Mount Soputan has erupted throwing columns of ash 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) into the air, an official said on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer (INDONESIA)
REUTERS/STRINGER/INDONESIA

Militarymen once again killed by Millitiamen

20 killed in blast in northwestern Pakistan
Friday, October 26, 2007 at 07:54 EDT

ISLAMABAD — At least 20 paramilitary personnel were killed when a blast hit a military convoy in a militant stronghold in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, police said.

The explosion occurred on a road in Mingra, about 140 kilometers northwest of Islamabad. The death toll could rise because the truck, with 30 paramilitary troops on board, and 10 shops have completely been burnt down, police said.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Oil surges to record 3 figures soon due to Iran tension

By Javier Blas in London

Published: October 26 2007 07:49 | Last updated: October 26 2007 18:50

The prospect of oil prices hitting $100 a barrel moved ever closer on Friday as crude oil surged to a fresh record amid renewed geopolitical tension over Iran’s nuclear programme and low inventories ahead of the winter.

West Texas Intermediate crude jumped to $92.22 a barrel although it later pared gains and traded 85 cents higher to $91.28 a barrel. Oil prices have now risen by about 50 per cent since the start of the year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

US slaps new sanctions on Iran, Russia objects

25 Oct 2007 21:59:45 GMT
Source: Reuters

(Adds quotes from Democrats, Romney)

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) - The United States slapped new sanctions on Iran and accused its Revolutionary Guard of spreading weapons of mass destruction on Thursday but Russian President Vladimir Putin said such moves only forced Tehran into a corner over its nuclear program.

Also labeling Iran's Qods military force a supporter of terrorism, Washington imposed sanctions on more than 20 Iranian companies, banks and individuals as well as the defense ministry, hoping to increase pressure on Tehran to stop uranium enrichment and curb its "terrorist" activities.

"Today, Secretary Paulson and I are announcing several new steps to increase the costs to Iran of its irresponsible behavior," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who made the announcement alongside Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

The moves were controversial at home as well as abroad.

Several Democratic presidential candidates, though not front-runner Hillary Clinton, said they were worried the White House had begun a march to war.

"I am deeply concerned that once again the president is opting for military action as a first resort," said Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a long-shot Democratic candidate.

Clinton, a New York senator, issued a statement backing the sanctions.

It is the first time the United States has sought to take such punitive measures against another country's military. Russia and some other U.S. allies believe dialogue rather than more punishment or military action is the way forward.

"Why should we make the situation worse, corner it, threatening new sanctions?" Putin said in Lisbon.

"Running around like a mad man with a blade in one's hand is not the best way to solve such problems," he told a news conference with Portugal's president.

Iran responded angrily.

"The hostile policies of America against the respectful Iranian nation and our legal organizations are against international regulations and have no value," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini was quoted as saying on the state broadcaster IRIB's Web site.

"Such policies have always failed."

MILITARY ACTION?

Talk of U.S. military action against Iran has been more intense in recent months, particularly from some conservatives who would like to see President George W. Bush act against Tehran before he leaves office in January 2009.

The issue is also looming larger in the 2008 presidential campaign. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate, said the military option must be on the table in the event sanctions do not work.

"We have a number of options from blockade to bombardment of some kind, and that's something we very much have to keep on the table," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates characterized any U.S. military planning for a strike on Iran as "routine" to reporters on a flight en route to Washington.

The goal of the financial measures is to deter Europeans and others from investing in Iran. Among the banks affected are Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank, Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat.

Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour said the practical effect of the measures would be limited.

"It's not like the Qods force have been doing deals with (Wall Street firms) Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan and will be financially crippled by this label," said Sadjadpour from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps has about 125,000 members and is the most important wing of Iran's military. It also has sprawling financial concerns, which U.S. officials say it uses to buy nuclear technology.

Washington accuses the Qods force, the most elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards, of arming and training militants in Iraq who attack U.S. forces. The United States also says the Qods provide "material support" for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in the Palestinian Territories.

Britain said it supported Washington's new sanctions and vowed to take the lead in pulling together a third round of U.N. sanctions.

Political directors from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- and Germany are expected to meet in Europe next week to discuss a new resolution.

The West believes Iran is seeking to build an atomic bomb while Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. (Additional reporting by David Lawder and David Morgan in Washington, Oleg Shchedrov in Lisbon, Parisa Hafezi in Tehran and Kristin Roberts with Gates Over the North Sea)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

40 Richest Group of Poor Pakistan


No particular source for below, is scattered across Pakistani Discussion Forums, got from one of them. It can be Googled up for confirmation. The list is from 2005 though. Looks like the richest have hand in Pakistani politics one way or another.

1. The Nishat Group

Mian Muhammad Mansha Yaha is the captain of this splendid ship having around 30 companies on board. Mansha, who owns the Muslim Commercial Bank as well, is now setting up a billion rupee ($ 17 m) paper sack project too. He is one of the richest Pakistanis around. Nishat Group was country's 15th richest family in 1970, 6th in 1990 and Number 1 in 1997. Mansha is on the board of nearly 50 companies. Chinioti by clan, Mansha is married to Yousaf Saigol's daughter. He is deemed to have made investments in many bourses, currency and metal exchanges both within and outside Pakistan. He has had his share of luck on many occasions in life and has recently been awarded Pakistan's highest civil award by President Musharraf. He could have bought the United Bank too, but then who doesn't have adversaries. Nishat Group comprises of textiles, cement, leasing, insurance and management companies. If Mansha was bitten by Bhutto's nationalization stint of 1970, his friends think he was compensated by Nawaz Sharif's denationalization programme to a very good effect. There is no stopping Mansha and he is still on the move!


2. The Jang Group

This huge media empire was founded by late Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman some six decades ago. Today, around 10 top newspapers and the multi-billion rupee GEO TV project are being run by Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, Mir Khalil's brainy son, who has a lot of projects pertaining to real estate under his belt too. Though he can be very modest, Shakeel is known to have taken country's Prime Ministers head-on. His tussle with Nawaz Sharif in 1999 spoke volumes of his unmatched influence in all domestic and international quarters which matter. Shakeel is one of Asia's most well known media barons, whose newspapers have served to be the breeding nurseries for country's top journalists. He invests massively in stocks business regularly. His elder brother Mir Javed ur Rehman and tender son Mir Ibrahim also assist him in business. Such magnificent has been his influence that at times, a few governments have opted to take a few of his employees as ministers. The Group, as most politicians agree, has been instrumental in both toppling and building governments in Pakistan for decades now. Limelight is the product that he sells but doesn't like tasting the fruits of his own garden.


3. The Hashoo Group

Led by the vintage Saddaruddin Haswani, the Hashoo Group is more known for its dominance in Pakistan's hotel industry, though the people who know a bit more about the Hashwanis are aware of their strength in real estate business too. Hashwanis are involved in trading of cotton, grain and steel and till the nationalization of cotton export in 1974, they were widely being dubbed as the Cotton Kings of Pakistan. Today, this group has excelled in export of rice, wheat, cotton and barley. It owns textile units, besides having invested billions in mines, minerals. hotels, insurance, batteries, tobacco, residential properties, construction, engineering and information technology. In 1984, Hashwani defeated the Lakhanis in the bid for Premier Tobacco but was arrested along with his brother Akbar in 1986 for allegedly evading customs duty on cigarettes. Sadarduddin's brother Akbar and the children of another late brother Hassan Ali Hashwani together manage around 45 companies. Akbar runs the second Hashwani Group. He is one of the most well-known magnates in Pakistan who is a regular invitee at the Diplomatic Enclave. The list of local and international bigwigs known personally to Hashwani is unending.


4. The Packages Group

The seed of this huge empire was sown by Syed Maratib All, a renowned supplier for British Army and the Indian Railways before partition. The group launched a joint venture with Lever Brothers soon after 1947, but massive production of Pakistan Tobacco Company later reportedly made Syed Maratib All and sons install a packaging Unit by the names of Packages. Two of Maratib's sons-Syed Amjad All and Syed Babar Ali have remained Pakistan's finance Ministers and two of his well-known grand-children-Syeda Abida Hussain and Syed Fakhar Imam-are political stalwarts who need no recognition. Late Syed Amjad Ali was Pakistan's first Ambassador to the United Nations, while Syed Babar Ali is the force behind the establishment of the LUMS. The group owns Nestle Pakistan too which is being run by Syed Yawar Ali. Syed Babar Ali has also served as Chairman National Fertilizer Corporation during the Bhutto regime and has been the Chairman of Hoeist Pakistan, Lever Brothers and Siemens. The group also acquired a good number of Coca Cola plants in Pakistan. Its famous brands include Nestle Milk Pak, Treet, Mitchells and Tri Pack Films. It has stakes in the textile, dairy, agriculture and rice sectors too. The group's contributions towards the cause of an independent Pakistan are unprecedented.


5. The House of Habib

Legend has it that the Goddess of Wealth has been in love with the seasoned Habibs more than anybody else in Pakistan. Most pundits believe that Habibs own at least 100 companies throughout the world, but these content mega-tycoons never boast off, something which has made it uphill for most to predict about their financial standing. This industrial group was founded by Seth Habib Mitha, born in 1878 to Esmail Ali-a factory owner in Bombay. The financial strength of the Habibs can be gauged from the fact that Muhammad Ali Habib gave a cheque of Rs 80 million to Quaid-e-Azam in 1948 at a time when Pakistan government was penniless owing to delay in transfer of Pakistan's share of Rs. 750 million by the Reserve Bank of India. They had offices in Europe in 1912. They incorporated the Habib Bank in 1941. They own the Habib Bank A.G Zurich, Bank Al-Habib, Indus Motors assembling Corolla cars and many dozens of units in sectors such as jute, paper sack, minerals, steel, tiles, synthetics sugar, glass, construction, concrete, farm autos, banking, oil, computers, music, paper, packages, leasing and capital management. Habibs today are headed by Rafiq Habib and Rashid Habib in two distinct groups. What makes them extremely influential players of all times is the fact that for dozens of top businessmen today, Habib were a myth once.


6. The Saigols

Saigols originally hail from Jhelum. The pioneer of the Saigol dynasty in 1890 was Amin Saigol who established a shoe shop that eventually transformed into Kohinoor Rubber Works. And then times saw them shining literally like the Kohinoor until their progress was halted by Nationalization in which they lost two-thirds of their wealth. Saigols got trifurcated in 1976 and 15 descendents of Amin Saigols four sons got a share. The name of the Saigols has been used in this part of the world as similes describing quantum of wealth. Yousaf Saigol, along with his brothers Sayeed Saigol, Bashir Saigol and Gul Saigol then nourished an excellent crop. In 1948, Saigols established the Kohinoor Textile Mills with a cost of Rs 8 million and this group happens to be the first to open an LC with the State Bank of Pakistan. They bought the United Bank in 1959 and then witnessed five of their units getting nationalized. They lived in Saudi Arabia during the Bhutto regime. Today, cousins Tariq and Nasim are holding the family's fort together and have risen to unprecedented heights in individual capacities. NAB did haunt Nasim but Tariq spent more time either accepting or refusing prized slots everywhere. Tariq is the one of the finest business brains around.


7. Nawa-E-Waqt Group

The Nizamis may not be Rockefellers or the Sheikh Muhammad, but are the custodians of a highly influential media empire. Since media is now beginning to be classified as very serious business, clout of this group's head Majid Nizami and that of his nephew Arif Nizami in nearly every sphere or the Pakistani society is being widely acknowledged. The impact this group has managed to create on Pakistan's political scenario since 1947 is unprecedented too. The group runs two esteemed dailies-the Nawai-e-Waqt (Urdu) and The Nation (English), besides publishing a few other monthlies and weeklies. They too are serious custoniers for an electronic media channel. Hailing from Sangla Hill, a youth Hameed Nizami (late) went out taking a paper that was badly needed by the Muslims of India during the Pakistan Movement. Hameed was a renowned student leader in the sub-continent who only gained proximity with the Quaid-e-Azam because of his distinct and selfless for an independent Pakistan. Though Hameed died very young in 1962, he gave Majid Nizami a rich legacy to take care of. The youngest Nizami, Khalil, died some years ago and was also part of this illustrious group. Out of Hameed Nizami's three sons-Shoaib, Arif and flr. Tahir'only Arif has followed in his father's footsteps and is the sitting President of All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS). Nizamis are a 60-year old entity too.


8. The Saif Group

Is owned and operated by the sons of famous NWFP lady politician Begum Kalsum Saifullah. Her eldest son Javid Saifullah heads this very powerful business group. Javid obtained his Master degree in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, USA in 1973, followed by diversified experience of over 30 years in textiles, telecommunication, cement and Information Technology. He also remained the Chairman of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) for two years and NWFP for seven years. He has also been the member Task Force IT & Telecommunication Advisory Board, Ministry of Science and Technology, Member of Task Force (Liberalization & Privatization of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited), Ministry of Science & Technology) Javed Saifullah Khan is looking after the group businesses for the past 20 years. Saifullahs are in power always, in one form or the other. Javaid's brothers Anwar Saifullah Khan (Former Federal Minister), Salim Saifullah Khan (king-maker in NWFP polities) and Osman Saifullah (another APTMA & wizard) have very close family ties with a lot of key politicians in the country, besides being related directly or indirectly through marriages to the families of a few leading and famous Army Generals who ruled Pakistan.


9. The Crescent Group

The history of this group dates back to 1910 when Shams Din of Chiniot and his four sons came into business with a tannery at Amritsar. This family was allotted 125 acres in Faisalabad in lieu of their left-over property in India. These brothers' Muhammad Antis, Muhammad Bashir, Fazal Karim and Muhammad Shafi-then rose up to become country's largest textile exporters. They had initially set up the Mohammad Amin-Muhammad Bashir Limited for export of cotton and import of various products. Having more than two dozen concerns in its fold, Crescent is a majestic force to reckon with. This empire serves as the best example of cohesion among cousins, uncles and nephews. Altaf Saleem of this group has enjoyed the slot of Chairman Privatisation Commission during the Musharraf regime, but has not been accused of any bungling despite having served on a prized slot. The group today owns numerous textile, steel, sugar, modaraba, food, leasing, knitwear, software, power, chemical, banking and investment units. They are one of the richest people in the country for the last 40 odd years. This Chinioti Sheikh family has lived up with quite a wonderful reputation, bearing an excellent record with its creditors throughout its business history. Men running Crescent do not have to make contacts, for the privilege comes to them naturally.

10. The Monnoo Group

The Monnoo dynasty was founded by two brothers-Dust Muhammad and Nazir Hussain in 19405 at Calcutta. The first unit owned by the Monnoos was the Olympia Rubber Works. And then time saw the Monnoos setting up sonic 20 textile mills in succession. Former President Shahzada Alam Monnoo is the man behind the strength of this group-known more for its achievements in the textile sector. Munnoos have been a symbol of wealth during the last 65 years or so. Shahzada's brothers, Jahengir and Kaiser are assisting him in business, while silting APTMA Central Chairman Waqar Monnoo also hails from this magnificent group. In East Pakistan, Monnoos had also left a few power, feed, textile and agriculture-related units some nine in all. Their elder Munir Monnoo, after leaving East Pakistan, had set up looms at Faisalabad. Shahzada Alum Monnoo, perhaps the most well-dressed man in the country along with Saddar-ud-Din Hashwani, is no alien for any ruler. The Monnoos are Chiniotis too. Shahzada Alum Monnoo, after some break, is again active in the politics of Lahore Chamber while Jahengir Monnoo is siding with Waqar Monnoo in latter's vicious battle of ego with Messrs Tariq Saigol and Mian Mansha. They star in business politics of and on, but seem to have Inst the taste of it somehow. Perhaps had enough of salutes!


11. The Dewan Group

Dewan Yousaf Farooqui. The mentor of this group has been the Sindh Minister for Local Bodies. Industries, Labour, Transport, Mines & Minerals. Holding of so many portfolios by a single man bears ample testimony to the fact that the Dewans keep a leg sticking in polities too. The Dewan Mushtaq Group is one of the Pakistan's largest industrial conglomerates in sectors like polyester acrylic fiber, manufacturing and automotives. Six of their companies are listed at the Karachi & stock Exchange and one at the Luxembourg bourse. Dewan Farooqui Motors assembles around 10,000 cars annually under technical license agreement with Hyundai and Kia Motors of Korea. The Dewan Salman Fiber is the pride of this empire as it ranks 11th in the world in total production capacity. The group owns three textile units, a motorcycle manufacturing concern and the largest sugar unit in the country. Dewans also have business interests in India. They possess dozens of millions of shares of Saudi Cement and Pak land Cement. They finance some 40 medical dispensaries and over a dozen schools, apart from funding roads/drinking water and Bio-energy infrastructures. Dewans are on their way to building a $ 10 million SME Resources with IFC investment of $ 3 million. The Dewans enjoy massive influence in the engineering sector.


12. The Lakson Group

The Lakhanis are currently having a hard time at the hands of NAB. Sultan Lakhani and his three brothers run this prestigious group and the chain of McDonald's restaurants in Pakistan. NAB has alleged the Lakhanis of having created phoney companies through worthless directors and raised massive loans from various banks and financial institutions. Sultan is currently abroad after having served a jail term with younger sibling Amin, though the latter was released much earlier. NAB had reportedly demanded Rs 7 billion from Lakhanis, but later agreed they pay only Rs 1.5 billion over a 10-year period. Lakhanis, like their arch-rivals Hashwanis, are the most well-known of all Ismaeli tycoons. Their stakes range from media, tobacco, paper, chemicals and surgical equipment to cotton, packaging, insurance, detergents and other house-hold items, many of which are joint ventures with leading international conglomerates. Though Lakhanis are in turbulent waters currently, the success that greeted them during the last 25 years especially has been tremendous. They have rifts with large business empires despite being known fur their genteel nature. Whether it is any government in Sindh or at the Federal level, Lakhanis have had trusted friends everywhere, though the present era has proved a painful exception.


13. The Sapphire Group

Headed by a veteran industrialist Mian Abdullah, this splendid empire owns 11 yarn spinning plants (producing 60,000 tonnes of yarn annually), 3 woven plants of greige fabric ( producing 50 million metres annually), one yarn dyeing plant (capacity 5 tonnes per day), one knitting unit (10 tonnes per day), one knitted fabric dyeing plant (10 tonnes per day), one woven fabric dyeing and finishing plant (1.2 million metres per month) and three power plants having the capability to produce 40 MW of energy. Sapphire forms synergies with off-shore garments companies. The group markets its products in biggest brand names in Asia, Europe, Australia and North America. Sapphire started with one spinning mill in 1969 and employs over 10,000 people and has an annual turnover of $ 219 million. Mian Abdullah's repute can be gauged from the fact during the October 2003 minis at APTMA, more than 1000 textile millers bad tendered their resignations against incumbent Chief Waqar Monnoo to him. Dozens of leading tycoons had proposed his name to head APTMA in case of an interim setup. Having an influence among textile millers is no easy job but Mian Abdullah stands privileged in this context He is often seen part of the entourages of key business leaders to foreign countries and provides input to fellow colleagues whenever requested.


14. The Dawood Group

Was ranked Pakistan's biggest group in 1970, 3rd in 1990 and 15th in 1997. Like all, nationalization and the East Pakistan tragedy trampled all over the Dawoods too. Today, the original Dawood Group stands split in three factions. The owners of this empire refrained from opening any unit for a good part of some 20 odd years. This group was founded by Ahmed Dawood, but later the dynasty found itself divided among the three Dawood brothers-Ahmad, Sadiq and Suleman. The key players in this group led lives in exile during the Bhutto regime. Former Federal Minister fur Commerce and Trade, Razzak Dawood, the son of the late Suleman Dawood runs the Descon Engineering and a few other units dealing in manufacturing refrigerators and other consumer products. Hussain Dawood, son of Ahmed Dawood, has already rendered meritorious philanthropic services in the field of education by supporting brilliant and needy students. Hussain runs Dawood Hercules, some modaraba companies and a few textile units. The Sadiq Dawood Group owns a few leasing, modaraba and insurance concerns too, apart from the Dawood Yamaha. Sadiq Dawood's decision to become an MNA in 1951 and Treasurer Pakistan Muslim League during Ayub's rule certainly benefited the Dawoods.


15. The Best Way Group

Sir Anwar Pervaiz is the Chairman of Bestway Group which started off as a specialist Asian food store in West London in 1962. More retail units followed and by the early l970's the group had opened ten general food stores. He may easily be dubbed the richest Pakistani. The Bestway Group moved into the wholesale business in 1976 when its first Bestway cash and carry warehouse was established in London. Rapid expansion in wholesaling followed during the 1980's and 1990's, and to date, the Bestway Group comprises of about 30. The Bestway Group moved into the cement business in 1995 when it decided to set up cement manufacturing plant in Pakistan at a cost of $120 million. In 2002, the Bestway Group acquired a 25.5% stake in United Bank Limited. Today, the Bestway Group has a diversified portfolio, with interests in cash & carry wholesale, property investments, retail outlets, milling of rice, lentils and pulses, cement production and more recently into banking. The group's total sales amounted to in excess of £ 1 billion for the year ended 30th June 2002. The group provides direct employment to over 2300 people.


16. The Haroon Family

Headed by Yusuf Haroon, 9l, the former Sindh Chief Minister and Governor West Pakistan, this family owns The Herald Group of publications which includes the Daily Dawn, Monthly Herald, Aurora and Spider magazines. When he rose to Karachi's Mayorship, Yousaf was the youngest Mayor in sub-continent's history. This prominent scion of the Memon clan had remained a strong believer that General Zia-ul-Haq bad launched systematic discrimination against the Karachi businessmen that made the Memons fly outside Pakistan with their money. Yosuf's younger brother Mahmood A.Haroon has also remained Sindh's Governor, besides having served as ADC to Quaid-Azam at the age of 17. The Haroons; wealthiest in the country once, are prominent media barons of today who enjoy unmatched influence in country's political and business arena. Sir Abdullah Haroon, father of Yousuf and Mahmood, had died in 1942, but not before he had devoted his residence for the cause of Pakistan. Handling both business and politics at the same time never seemed tough job for the disciplined sons of Sir Abdullah Haroon. Yousuf Haroon also served a country's High Commissioner to Australia. The great grandfathers of the Haroons had migrated to Karachi some 150 years ago where they made fortunes in clothing and sugar trades.


17. The Yunus Brothers

The Chairman of this group is Abdul Razzak Tabba. This group owns one of the largest warehouses (textile products) in Pakistan. The concerns falling under the ambit of the Younus Brothers are Fazal Textiles, Gadoon Textiles, Lucky Cement, Lucky Energy, Lucky Power-Tech, Lucky Textiles, Younus Textiles, Security Electric Power Company and Younus Brothers etc. Razzak Tabba is an active player in the politics of the prestigious All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) too, apart from assuming a king-maker's role in the political arena of the FPCCI. Tabba came to more limelight last year when he hosted very heavily attended dinners in honour of the textile magnates from all across the country, while siding with Messrs Tariq Saigol and Mian Mansha in their battle against the APTMA Chief Waqar Monnno. He is quite a philanthropist too and has initiated various welfare projects for his Memon community in Karachi and Sindh. He frequently stars in the community welfare programmes held under the auspices of the Asia Tabba Foundation, World Memon Foundation and the Kathiawar Cooperative Housing society etc. Tabba is a man who likes to keep away from camera and despite all his influence and riches-something which has made him earn tots of respect.


18. Gul Ahmad/Al-Karam Group

Gul Ahmad is one of the most vibrant Memon business houses in the country that was founded by Haji Mohammad Pakolawala, but is now split between Gul Ahmad and Al-Karam Group of Industries. While Gul Ahmad is headed by Bashir Al Muhammad, the Al-Karam faction is controlled by Umar Haji Karim. In 1953, Gul Ahmad was incorporated as a private limited company with a capital of Rs eight million. Gul Ahmad is presently a composite unit with an installed capacity of 88,000 spindles, 108 air-jet looms and 297 conventional looms. The group has been a pioneer in the field of power generation as well. Gul Ahmad's directors have held top positions in various textile bodies, export committees, besides having assisted government of Pakistan in few major talks with EU and US. The group is set to launch the Excel Insurance Company shortly as required licenses/documentation stands done. Al-Karam, on (be other hand, is one of the largest textile concerns in Pakistan producing superior quality yarn, apart from having Amna Industries, Orient Textiles, Imran Crown Cork, Gul Agencies, Dabheji Salt Works and Pakistan Synthetics in its wallet. It owns a dairy-related establishment too by the name of Pakistan Dairy Products Limited. During Moeen Qureshi's tenure, Ali Muhammad was appointed Vice Chairman of Export Promotion Bureau.


19. The Bawany Group

Bawany dynasty was founded by two Bawany brothers, Ahmad Karim Ebrahim Bawany and Abdul Latif Ibrahim Bawany born in 1882 and 1890 respectively at Jetpur, Kathiawar, who had migrated to Burma towards end the end of 19th century and set up Ahmad Violin Hosiery Works in Rangoon. In 1947, they migrated to Pakistan. It was perhaps in memory of the Hosiery Mills at Rangoon that a company with the same name was incorporated in Karachi and is doing a flourishing business. The name Bawany has its origin in the name of an elder of the family, who was known for his honesty and hard work in home-town Jetpur. They were the first among the Memons to open a purchase office in Japan and are currently active in textiles, jute, sugar, particle board, Oxygen, leather, garments, tanneries and cables. Bawanis are known to have made right investments at the right time-something their contemporaries acknowledge.


20. The Servis Group

Shahid Hussain is the Chairman of this massive foot-wear giant whicb now is neck-deep in textile business too. Shahid has replaced Ch Ahmad Saeed (sitting PIA Chairman) as the Servis boss. Both Chaudhary Ahmed Saeed and President General Musharraf happen to be old friends from their Forman Christian College days. Ch. Ahmad Saeed's younger brother Chaudhary Ahmed Multhtar is a well-known Pakistan Peoples Party leader who has been the Federal Commerce Minister of Pakistan during one of the two tenures of two-time ex-Premier Benazir Bhutto. Ch. Ahmad Saeed's son Arif Saeed is Chairman APTMA Punjab and is siding with his Central Chief Waqar Munnoo against a huge number of textile gurus. The Servis Group operates in sectors like shoes, tyres, cotton yarn, leather, syringes and retailing. The political constituency of these politicians-cum-businessmen also happens in be the feud-ridden Gujrat district of Punjab where Ahmed Mukhtar sometimes emerges triumphant against President Pakistan Muslim League Ch Shujaat Hussain, and at times loses the support of voters for a National Assembly seat. It is this proximity with various regimes that the Servis Group bus been rated so highly. And then, even if alleged for a white-collard crime, these Servis guys remain relatively comfortable-courtesy their clout as a political-cum-business family.


21. The Tata Family

Do not confuse the Tatas in Pakistan with their name-sake market leaders in India. Having migrated from Nepal Mehboob Elahi started with a tannery in Bangladesh much before 1971 but his five Sons Mehboob lqbal 'Tata ( Chairman Jinnah Hospital Lahore). Riaz Tata (President FPCCI) Anwar Tata (Former Chairman APTMA), Khalid Tata and ljaz Tate together built 15 odd units, ably supported by the third generation scions like Shahid, Masud and Hasan Tata. Tatas are in textile spinning, weaving, denim, woven, knitwear, leather and energy business. Having annual turnover in excess of Rs 1.5 billion, this Chinioti family too traces its presence in business as early as 200 years from now. Bound in a cohesive bond, each of the Tatas heads a separate unit. The sitting Federation President Riaz Tata heads the Naveena Exports Division and despite having faced some tough times at the top slot in the apex body. Pakistan's key business leader is holding his throne tightly, though there have been occasions when he (Riaz Tata) seriously thought in terms of vacating office due to business pre-occupation. But the mammoth number of colleagues and friends around him barred him from doing so. The vintage Tatas overall lead unassuming life styles. They love to remain in low key but prove their worth when times demand.


22. The Alam Group

This establishment comprising three leather and two textile units is led by former President Karachi Chamber Shahzada Alam, elder brother of sitting Vice President FPCCI and Senior Vice chairman Pak-USA Business Council Arshad Alam. Messrs Leather Connections, a joint venture with a UK conglomerate, is one of those units managed by this group which happens to be Pakistan's largest exporter of value-added leather products. While Leather Connections is looked after by Arshad Alam's son Khurshid Alam, the textile arm of this group is supervised by Faraz Alam son of Shafiq Alam, the youngest Alam brother. The family has also made huge investments in real estate and stocks, within and outside Pakistan. While the younger creed looks after business, the elder Alams give time to their passion of playing ring leaders in the politics of the FPCCI and other business chambers. The group also runs an import/export entity by the name of Continental Traders, besides having recently set sails for investment in media too. Shahzada Alam gained more recognition when he went out airing strong resentment against the involvement of business institutions in country's politics. The Alams are an eminent Chinioti family in business for the last 150 odd years, known more for dominance in leather sector. COMPASS is the name of the philanthropic school for retarded and disabled children which the Alams operate in Gulberg Lahore sans any external assistance.


23. The Guard Group

The 87-year old Malik Shafi, decorated with Pakistan's highest civil award, still looks after numerous business entities with complete vigour. Eldest of his four sons is the former LCCI/FPCCI President lftikhar Malik who is also the sitting Chairman of Pak-US Business Council. The Guard Group deals in automotive parts, filters, brake fluids and other vital accessories of motor vehicles. The group has enjoyed monopoly in this business since 1959, when the government servant turned magnate Malik Shaft decided to enter business. Guard Rice, one of the largest exporters of this community around the world, is being run by Shafis youngest son Shahzad Matte who is also holding the slot of Lahore Chamber's Vice President. The' other two Maliks-Waqar and Shahbaz control the technical sides of their family business, apart from keeping an eye on this group's real estate & agricultural land holdings. Maliks are an Arain Punjabi family that also runs a few free hospitals and dispensaries. Malik lftikhar however, is keener with his hobby to be in limelight all the time and is perhaps Pakistan's most photographed tycoon. While people refrain from coming under camera when they grow in stature, Malik loves operating a Lahore-Islamabad shuttle service to sit next to anyone who is ruling. But then he delivers when needed


24. The Ejaz Group

This establishment owns country's largest knitwear-cum-dyeing facility at Lahore. More than half a dozen textile units of Ejaz Group are being run by yet another chinioti scion Mian Gohar Ejaz, son of late Senator Sheikh Ejaz. Gohar held the reins of this group very much during his college days when Sheikh Ejaz left for his heavenly abode after protracted illness that lasted months. Gohar is now a noted policy maker at both Federal and Provincial Textile Boards. He is one of the Boards of Governors at the Punjab institute of Cardiology Lahore. People started paying a heed to his leadership abilities in 1997, when he took on the APTMA grey-heads convincingly during the 1997 annual polls and narrowly lost to his opponent in fight for the top slot. Gohar then had led a rebellion comprising promising youth from renowned textile families. Against the hegemony of stalwarts including the likes of Messrs Tariq Saigol, Mansha and Jahengir Elahi etc. His younger brother Mian Faisal Ejaz is the son-in-law of Shahzada Alam Monnoo. He is yet another investor in mutual funds and real estate, though relies more on his obsession i.e the textiles and his passion which is value-addition in this sector. The services Gohar has rendered for creating awareness with reference to value-addition are certainly quite meritrions.


25. The Tabani Family

The Tabanis are also deemed as one of the biggest groups associated with manufacturing, trade, export and import business. They are one of the few Pakistani industrialists holding massive stakes in Central Asian Republics. They own Pakistan's first private airline-Aero Asia. Yaqoob Tabani is this group's chairman. The fields of Tabanis' businesses include counter trade and barter transactions, textiles, fashion garments, leather, tourism, automobiles, shipping, power generation, oil and gas, metals, chemicals, fertilizers, cigarettes, cement and medicines. Tabanis have wings stretched everywhere. You name a business field and Tabanis are there. But despite all the clout it enjoys at the top levels, the family opts to remain modest. Ashraf Tabani, an elder Tabani, has served Sindh's Governor, Provincial Minister of Finance, Industries, Excise and Taxation between 1981 and 1984. He was appointed Honorary Administrator of the FPCCI during the 1971-1973 periods soon after Bhutto's Nationalization. Ashraf Tabani has also served as Chairman Employers Federation Pakistan, President Silk and Rayon Mills Association and former Chairman of Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan's Board of Directors. They are a leading Memon family, also engaged in funding various public welfare schemes. Though scandals can confront any industrial establishment of this size, Tabanis have been fairly lucky in evading them.


26. The Tapal Group

Is headed by Aftab Tapal. The group's success in tea business has astounded many. The journey of Tapal's remarkable success is the combined harvest of three generations of this family. In 1947, Tapal started out as a family concern under the supervision of Adam Ali Tapal. Faced with tough competition from very well known tea brands in the market, the Tapals dispelled the common impression that their capital base would soon be eroded. The company grew under Faizullah Tapal, whose son Aftab today brings a lot of innovation and marketing vision to make Tapal a household name. After having lived abroad, Aftab rushed hack home with flourishing ideas and introduced new concepts in the commodity that was first sold at Thomas Garway's Coffee House in London in 1657. Equipped with latest state-of-the art blending and tea-mixing paraphernalia. Tapal is today Pakistan largest tea company as its consumption runs into millions of cups every month, according to an estimate by this company's marketing division. In December 1997, Tapal Tea became the first Pakistani of its kind to have attained the ISO-9001 certification. Tapals are also known to have stakes in power generation business. But their tea makes the Tapals known to all. The group claims nearly 1.4 million cups of tea in Pakistan are made of Tapal every hour.


27. The Atlas Group

This group was founded by Yousaf Sherazi, a former Income Tax official and journalist in 1962 with a capital of Rs 03 million only. The first company set by the Atlas Group was Sherazi Investments (Pvt) Limited and since then, there is no looking back. The East Pakistan tragedy, however, nearly crippled Sherazi but he never lost hope and went out forming numerous joint ventures with leading Japanese concerns like Honda. Atlas-Honda today is a name to reckon with in country's engineering sector and associated with this just one name are hundreds of vendors. He holds stakes in insurance, financial services, information technology, leasing, warehouses, office equipment, motor cars and motorcycle-assembling units, besides running a renowned firm that manufactures batteries. Sherazi owns the Atlas Investment Bank too. The Federal Budget 2004-05 is perhaps the only budget in country's history that has hit the very influential car manufacturers on the head, otherwise people like Yousaf Sherazi have always managed to dictate terms where it matters. The Atlas Group owns no less than seven companies quoted on the stock exchanges of Pakistan. The group's assets are believed to have touched the Rs 15 billion mark and so have the sales.


28. The Abid Group

Is run by Sheikh Abid Hussain alias Seth Abid. He is one of the most resourceful developers/builders in the country owning vast stretches of land in major cities. On this land worth many billion of rupees, Seth has constructed residential schemes under the brand name of "Green Fort." Seth came into this business after decades of notoriety as being one of the spearheads in cross-border smuggling. While many remember Seth for his allegedly illegal trading stints, a lot of informed circles still say with conviction that he, along with Dr.Qadeer and former Premier Bhutto, was the brain behind the success of Pakistan's nuclear programme. About three dozen of Seth's very close relatives, friends and nephews are members of country's bourses and for many years now, the Seth Abid group assumes the role of king-makers during the annual polls of these stock exchanges. He is a leading investor in stocks, metals and currency but what gives him immense pleasure is his philanthropic institution Hamza Foundation that he sponsors for the welfare of deaf and dumb children. Pakistan has not had a single ruler, politician, bureaucrat or Army General who doesn't know the Seth who is more of a myth for most. The Seth, throughout his life, has avoided publicity-a fact known to most journalists.


29. The Sheikhani Family

They are one of the most reputed land developers in the country. The Sheikhani, although not a very big industrial establishment by any means, are led by Abu Bakar Sheikhani. The Sheikhanis are famous for their construction and land development-related errands. Abu Bakar is deemed to be one of the largest investors in real estate trade at Gwadar Port. He has all the right connections that are required to be in such business. Despite being well known to the national political circles, the man in street knew more of him during March/April 1991 when he surfaced as the single largest contributor to then Premier Nawaz Sharif's Debt Retirement Fund with a donation of Rs 450 million. Today, his adversaries dub him a land mafia man, alleging him for selling his Gwadar land at only $ 4000 per acre only to senior Army officials while the same was being sold at $ 2,50,000 per acre to ordinary investors. But that is the way Sheikhani runs his vast land/construction empire. Accusations don't disturb Sheikhani, who according to many large developers is a man who has managed to create tremendous impression in land business. The rumours of his landing in any Pakistani City for land acquisition purposes, helps the price of real estate surge unprecedently overnight.


30. The Dadabhoy Group

Abdul Ghani Dadabhoy was the founder of Dadabhoy group, starting in trade and branching off into the construction business. The group has a big share of cement market in Southern Pakistan. Memons by clan, Dadabhoys are closely related to the Bawanies. Abdul Ghani Dadabhoy had five sons and two daughters, namely Noor Mohammad Dadabhoy, Mohammad Farooq Dadabhoy, Mohammad Hussain Dadabhoy, Abdullah Hussain Dada Bhoy and Ghulam Mohammad Dadabhoy. Daughters are Mrs Mehrunisa Jaffer and Mrs Zaibunisa Tanveer. This Group has massive investments in cement, energy, construction, leasing, polyester, banking and insurance etc. Dadabhoys are seasoned campaigners and perhaps do not like being brought into any sort of reckoning like the Habibs. Despite being a formidable business entity, this family is deemed to be extremely reluctant throughout its history, when it comes to flashing headlines, but mind you these unassuming Dadabhoys are still news-worthy. Any good day, you might hear them doing something new. Stock pundits know a lot more about their past stints at the country's bourses.

31. The Bahria Town (Pvt) Limited

Malik Riaz Hussain heads the massive project which is currently developing state-of-the-art schemes in Lahore and Rawalpindi/Islamabad. Though Malik Riaz may not be having a very renowned name in business circles, fact has it that the value of his land-holdings both within & outside Pakistan amounts dozens of billions of rupees. Emerging out of the blue, this developer has reportedly developed tremendous connections where it matters in Pakistan-One of the few reasons why his constructed projects get completed in time without hindrance. Whether he has gifted bungalows free of cost of country's bigwigs or offered them at highly concessional rates, the reality on the ground is that Malik has managed to mesmerize most through his generous wallet. Possessing no convincing financial background, Malik Riaz is known to have been benefited immensely-courtesy patronage of former Pakistan Navy chief admiral retired Mansoor ul Haq. Others say both Malik and the admiral had stuck a $ 200,000 deal but the man behind the Bahria Town is least moved and irrespective of who is in power; he continues to build house after house-swelling his wealth. And then he is happy being a sponsor for many-welfare parties held under patronage of the ruling elite.


32. Adamjee Group

The seed of the formidable Adamjee Empire was sown by Haji DAwood in 1896 by establishing a commodity trading company. His son Sir Adeamjee, Haji Dawood went out building a match factory, second largest of its kind then, in 1923 at Rangoon (Burma). By 1947 Adamjee Group wan the biggest exporter of jute from Calcutta. During Bhutto's nationalization, they lost the Muslim Commercial Bank & stakes in the Mohammadi Steamship Company, leaving then with only Adamjee sugar Mills and Adamjee Cotton Mills, Karachi. Toda, they own the KSB pumps, besides having poured money in paper flooring, diesel engineering, construction centre, garments, general trading, insurance and chemicals etc. one of the biggest names in 1970's, the Adamjee some-how failed to keep hold on Pakistan's largest insurance companies. The Adamjee Insurance Company is one of them, which still has around 70% of country's total insurance business & is the most internationally reputed and accepted Pakistani company of its kind.


33. Jahangir Siddiqui & Co

This firm has floated ABAMCO which is perhaps the largest mutual fund in Pakistan's capital market arena. The firm offers full financial services in the securities industry. ABAMCO is a joit venture among major Pakistani and foreign institutions including International Financial Corporation (IFC) headquartered in Washington. Muslim Commercial Bank, Saudi Pak Commercial Bank & Messrs AMVESCAP, which is a British company created through the merger of the AIM Management Group with and into a subsidiary of INVESCO which is one of the largest asset managers on the globe having assets worth approximately $ 348 billion under its direct management. While the Munawwar Aslam Siddiqui is the Chairman of this apex capital market operator, Najam Ali sits in the Chairman's office of the Jahengir Siddiqui and company. The Pakistan Credit Rating Agency (PCRA) has awarded heartening long and short term ratings to this concern. ABAMCO was incorporated in 1995. ABAMCO is the first asset management company in the private sector in the country. MCB, with a deposit base in excess of Rs 182 billion & operating with a network of 257 on-line branches too has played a major role in ABAMCO's success.


34. The Din Group

The group is headed by S.M.Muneer, former president of FPCCI and that of the Karachi Gymkhana. He is vice chairman of Muslim Commercial Bank too.Muneer's din Group is engaged in textiles and leather business mainly, though this Chinoti family has also made massive investments in real estates and stock business too.Muneer has been active in few political tenures too, as the former two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto had appointed him Minister of state along with Mian Habibullah, another Chinoti who has headed the FPCCI too. Though people still remember Habibullah as having served as Chairman Export Promotion Bureau during Benazir Bhutto's regime, they tend to forget that time had come when Muneer also shared EPB's Fairs and Exhibition Division with him.Muneer's son SM.Tanveer is a key figure at APTMA Punjab Zone. He is a busy bee in business politics. Despite hectic life schedule, he still manages to take time out and play an active role at prime business bodies in one way or the other.muneer has a visible instinct to be district-a passion that has helped him rise to all heights. At Din Textiles, the entrepreneurs have strived to produce nearly 1000 shades by mixing dyed cotton.


35. The Adil Group

Mian Adil Mehmood, who is married to Mian Mansha's niece, is in textiles business mainly, but what has actually helped him climb the ladder of fame and respect, have been his untiring efforts to resolve the problems of bank defaulters under Governor State Bank of Pakistan, in collaboration with country's Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) all of which has resulted in revival of sick induxtries. Both defaulters & banks appear indebted to Adil as he has visibly save one party from a possible action & other from spending millions of rupees on lenghthy litigation. Along with Mian Usman, Adil was appointed member Governor SBP, s Dispute Resolution Committee on Defaulted Loans in 2001 and since then he has been flying between Lahore & Karachi to provide respite to some 700 defaulters meaning thereby that he has been catalyst in helping banks recover billions of rupees from their stuck up credits. Adil is also senior Vice Chairman APTMA Punjab zone. By vitue of the honorary slots he holds, this Chinoti magnate has been one of the most sought after businessman in the country of late, despite him chanting the merit slogan. Like most of his contemporaries, he too has excelled in philanthropic services. Free eye-treatment is what his charity specialises in.


36. Chenab Group

Mian Muhammad Latif supervises this group along with his brother Mian Ashfaque- a legislator in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Founded in 1975, Chenab Limited set up its first fashion outlet "Chen One." Chen One has seven outlets throughout Pakistan. After establishing its retail chain stores in various cities of Saudi Arabia, the group is now planning to establish its new retail chains in Bahrain, UA.E, Qatar, Kuwait and Central Asian Republics. While Chenab Group is an eight-time Export Trophy winner, its Chief Mian Latif has won the 'Businessman of the Year award on four different occasions from various business bodies. Chenab is principally engaged in manufacture and distribution of clothing, furniture goods, including non-iron suit, quilt cover and curtains etc. Chenab processes 50 million square metres fabric weaving and 75 million square metres fabric dyeing every year and has established a global sales network spanning across five continents. Chenab is licensed to the Swedish Texcote Technology in the manufacturing and sale of textile materials, garments and textile house-hold goods. In August 2003, the Chenab Group signed a Rs 900 million loan facility with the National Bank of Pakistan. The group's textile products have been awarded the Oekotex 100 accreditation.


37. Sitara Group

Started its activity with textile weaving as early as 1956, under brothers Haji Abdul Ghafoor and Haji Bashir Ahmed. It is now its textile cloth finishing and processing, textile spinning, chlor-alkali sector and in power generation. The units owned by this establishment include Sitara Chemicals, Sitara Chemicals (Textile Division 1) and Sitara Chemicals (Textile Division 11), Sitara Textiles, Sitara Energy and Yasir Spinning. The charities being managed under the aegis of Sitara group are Aziz Fatima Hospital, Ghafoor Bashir Children Hospital and Aziz Fatima Girls School. Sitara's name with the industrial City of Faisalabad is synonymous. They are the decades-old veterans in business, who have excelled in leaps and bounds. At their units, the owners of Sitara use technology imported from Japan, UK and Germany and are export leaders in bedding and fabric collection to South America, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Europe. Their textile divisions together operate at strength of 33,984 spindles. The Sitara (group, to a common man, is more famous for its lawn brands like Sitara Sapna and Mughal-e-Azam. The men at helm of affairs in Sitara hardly believe in setting up dozens of units, of which they are otherwise very much capable of.


38. The Colony Group

Mian Muhammad lsmaeel Sheikh, who laid the foundation stone of this group, set up his first factory in 1898, first flour mill in 1908, taking Colony Group's total tally to 14 ginning factories and 4 flour mills by 1947. The group suffered heavily during Zulfiqar Bhutto's nationalization and it was left only with a few textile mills, flour mills and ginning factories. Though Sheikh Ismaeel's heirs could not manage to take Colony's name to the top, they have had an excellent time. But despite their share of hard luck, Colony Group's owners that still run some jute, textile and financial companies. Colony Textile Mills was the first unit of its kind to go into operation in independent Pakistan. Ismaeel Sheikh's sons Aziz, Naseer, Farooq and Mughis have also been active in politics. They once owned equities in newspaper and a few of them even went out contesting elections in 1970. These Colony people, many thought, could have scaled far more greater heights, because the kind of start they had in business falls in the lap of very lucky people only.


39. Arif Habib Securities

This company is owned by Chairman Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) Arif Habib. It is one of the largest brokerage operations on the bourse. One of its subsidiaries-Arif Habib Investment Management Limited-specialises in mutual funds. By 2001, this concern was listed on all the three stock exchanges. Since its inception, Arif Habib Securities has been one of the best-performing and most profitable brokerage houses in the country, helping its net profit jump to Rs 751.9 million by almost 200%. At the same time, the overall capital base of this firm had almost doubled to Rs 1415.1 million till 2003. Recently, Arif went out slating the imposition of 0.1 per cent Capital Value Tax on turnover and managed to get it slashed through negotiations with the government. Operating with numerous high-worth clients, Arif Habib has won it all through the reputation and connections he has managed to build since 1989. Arif's success is also attributed to the generous per centage of cash dividend and bonus issues that he believes in announcing regularly. The company's assets had surged from Rs 73.54 million in 1997-98 to Rs 2178.95 million by 2002-03, while earning per share had soared from 3.72 to 12532 during the same corresponding period.


40. Kassim Dada

Kassim Dada, hails from a 19th Century Memon business family known to have possessed the vision of international trade when most of their contemporaries were rather naïve on this count. This family had offices in Burma, South Africa and countries of the Far-East long before 1940. Dadas, have held decisive positions at the Karachi Stock Exchange and own shares of various Pakistani and foreign monopolies without creating any hype. Kassim Dada's family is known to have held major local equity in multinationals like Glaxo SmithKline, Brook Bond and Berger Paints, besides being the sponsoring directors of Messrs Hyderabad Electronics, Automotive Battery Limited and Interfund Bank etc. Kassim Dada is one of the few Pakistani Tycoons who used to fly on private planes from Karachi to hit cement plants in Hyderabad. It was this family which had hired Mahatama Gandhi as a solicitor in 1890 to contest a business case in South Africa. Dada, was once a symbol of wealth.

Source:ShiaChat