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Credibility

October 10, 1999

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WE can go round and round in circles, forwards, backwards, sideways, but we end up always with one man, a man who knew what sort of a country he wanted to make for what sort of people, and who went about it as best he could, on his own. Since he left us, all who have ruled have made such a complete hash of it, to the extent that half of his country was lost within 25 years of its birth.

Way back in 1946, Jinnah, realizing that a modern state must have a progressive economy generated by men of ability, integrity, and, most importantly, credibility, took stock of who and what was available.

For banks, he had the Habibs and the Habib Bank and the Adamjees and The Muslim Commercial Bank. For insurance, he had the Eastern Federal Union Insurance Company of which the Ispahanis were large shareholders. For tea merchants he had the Ispahanis. For the jute industry he had the Adamjees. He organized the formation of an airline, Orient Airways, forerunner of PIA, run by the Ispahanis and the Adamjees. He had the credible merchant houses of Bantwa and Dhoraji, Hussain Kassim Dada and Abdul Rahman Abdul Ghani amongst them, backing him.

He needed a shipping company, so his trusted lieutenant Yusuf Haroon was asked to request the premier shipowner of Karachi, Rustom Cowasjee, to come to Bombay to meet him. Jinnah told Rustom what he wanted, and that was the start of Muhammadi Steamship Company. Rustom delivered, and within one month of Pakistan's birth Muhammadi's flag was flying on Muhammadi's ships. More on this some other time.

Now back to 1880, when in Kathiawar a son, Adam, was born to Haji Dawood, a merchant of Jetpur, and his wife Hajra. As the boy grew the secret of success was slowly and inexorably ingrained into him - hard work, more hard work, and yet more hard work, and, above all, that hard work had to be complemented by integrity without which there can be no credibility. A man's word must be his bond. Adam grew up to be a fine businessman. His businesses multiplied. Integrity, wisdom, respect and age added to Adam's name first the suffix 'jee' and later the prefix 'Sir' which title he later renounced when Jinnah joined the fight for India's freedom.The headquarters of the Adamjee businesses was in Burma and one of his ventures there became an international adventure. Realizing that Burma grew the right type and sufficient quantity of wood to support the manufacture of matches in abundance, Adamjee established Asia's largest and most modern factory at Pazundawung, near Rangoon. He imported machinery from Germany and Japan, he employed German engineers and technicians, assigning them the task of teaching the Indians. The factory commenced production in 1923, and attracted the attention of the Swedish financier, Ivar Krueger, born also in 1880, known to the world as "The Match King."

Krueger's ambition was to gain a worldwide monopoly over the production of matches. Based in Sweden, himself an engineer, he realized the danger posed to his plan by Adamjee's factory. So he travelled to Rangoon to strike a deal with Adamjee and hopefully take over his factory. Krueger's overtures were rejected, cut-throat competition followed and losses were made which Adamjee bore. Clever Kreuger made peace.

The Adamjee family and businesses have survived the vicissitudes of time and tide. After World War II, they had to leave Burma for Calcutta, then with the advent of Pakistan they moved to Dacca, and with the loss of East Pakistan they are now concentrated in what is left of our country, with their headquarters in Karachi. The family has branched out into many other businesses and one branch, Hanif's, owns and controls the Adamjee Insurance Company, Pakistan's largest and most trusted insurance concern.

On August 14, 1999, the government honoured Sir Adamjee Haji Dawood by minting a stamp showing his portrait as one of the men honoured in the series entitled 'Pioneers of Freedom.'

A month later, on September 17 at 1800 hours, extortionists of this irresponsible government, men of the sales tax department with a bevy of policemen, swooped down on the offices of Adamjee Diesel Engineering and conducted an illegal raid. The department had previously asked for an audit, Adamjees had asked for a postponement up to October 11, and their application, unrejected, stood on the records. The raiders forcefully entered the premises, no warrants were shown or served. Filing cabinets were broken open, and files, records, computers, diskettes etc. were impounded, the telephones disconnected, and the offices ransacked. No inventory was made of what was seized and taken away. The chairman of the company, 70-year old Hamid Adamjee, grandson of Sir Adamjee, a heart patient who has twice had bypass surgery, was forcibly taken out of his office, put in the sales tax men's jeep, and driven to their offices in Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

Whatever was done was illegal, mala fide, and violative of the rules of natural justice. No notice of any demand was served, nor was any wrongdoing alleged. No cases were pending against the company in respect of any non-payment of sales tax. Hamid was illegally detained and held incommunicado until 2200 hours that day when his son, Zahid, the managing director of the company, voluntarily offered to be held in place of his ailing father.

Throughout Zahid's custody that night, he was threatened with what might happen to his person and how he would be treated in jail, where they intended moving him. He was only freed from his illegal detention after the sales tax men had managed to get from him pay orders and postdated cheques drawn in favour of the Collector of Sales Tax (West), totalling Rs.12.5 million, to meet the demands for which no notices had been served.

When all this came to the notice of Senator Khwaja Qutubuddin, he immediately appraised Sindh Governor Mamnoon Hussain, who, to his credit, acted as a governor should act. He sent for the sales tax people and laid into them. He then informed Finance Minister Dar of the highhandedness of his men and also informed the prime minister. Mamnoon, an IBA MBA and himself a businessman, knows well how corrupt the taxmen are, how they extort by claiming taxes that are not due. Zahid was freed at 0300 hours on the 18th.

The Adamjees naturally moved the High Court of Sindh. On September 23, the court ordered, inter alia: "at present postdated cheques amounting to Rs.95 lakhs are lying with the defendants [Sales Tax Department] which according to the plaintiffs [Adamjees] were obtained under duress and coercion. In the backdrop of these allegations defendants are restrained from encashing the same till the next date subject to the condition that the plaintiffs will submit bank guarantees in the amount of Rs.9.5 million to the satisfaction of the Nazir of this Court within one week. . . . . . Notice for 28.9.99. Till then defendants are restrained from adopting any coercive methods against the plaintiffs. . . . . . ".

The methods of the tax collectors, the corruption that prevails in the tax department, and the ways and means of extortion are well known to citizens of Pakistan here and abroad and to the multinationals which remain encaged in this country.

How do we describe Finance and Commerce Minister Ishaq Dar of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the virtual deputy prime minister, of late displaying arrogance? He is not straight enough to be able to force the loan defaulters, ministers and members of his party who have robbed the banks and the exchequer to repay their loans. He issues orders and notifications at will, he breaks promises, he has issued savings certificates and documents promising to pay certain amounts to the depositors on the date of maturity and has reneged, not paying the promised amounts. He does not pay back billions of rupees worth of undisputed tax refunds due to be paid back to the taxpayers. He constantly threatens to raise the price of fuel and power. He naturally has a problem raising loans from abroad, with his taxmen abducting company executives and holding them in unlawful detention. He persists in saying we may soon expect billions of dollars of foreign investments, though no one believes him. All that has so far come in are bun-maskawallahs and moorgi-chaapwallahs. Has Mr Dar calculated how much the hamburger man brings in and how much he takes out?

In yesterday's Dawn there appeared an article headed "Overhaul of system needed to take country out of crisis : Burki." Shahid Javed Burki recently said in London that "the savings and assets of overseas Pakistanis living in the US were estimated at $ 20 billion; $ 15 billion in the Middle East; and $ 8 billion in the UK."

What is Shahid's advice to his fellow compatriots living abroad? Send your money to Pakistan? Or, save it where it is?