Family business in Pakistan-VI Dada, Ittefaq, Fecto and Saif Groups | By Ikram Sehgal


Family business in Pakistan-VI Dada, Ittefaq, Fecto and Saif Groups

Dada: One of the oldest commercial entities of the Memons is the Dada Commercial House. Long before the formation of Pakistan, the ancestors of present day proprietors established a group of trade and industrial enterprises in India, Burma, South Africa and countries of the Near East.

When Pakistan came into being in 1947 Dadas were among the major importers and exporters, at the same time to a considerable extent they retained their business interests in other countries including India.

The Dadas founded a great number of industrial enterprises in Pakistan including Asbestos Cement plant in Karachi, Hyderabad and Chittagong, three textile companies, Oil Mills, Cotton and chemical plants.

But Dada’s share in Pakistan’s big business must not be judged only on the basis of the enterprises which they control directly.

The point is that the Dada’s who have continuously held ruling positions in Karachi Stock Exchange, making full use of this concealed form financial control.

Being junior partners in number of Pakistani and foreign monopolies, this provided the basis for Mahbubul Haq’s including the Dada’s among the 22 monopoly families in Pakistan while Kasim Dada today has only two companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange, his name does not appear in the 22 families or anywhere in the income tax or wealth tax directory, yet undoubtedly, he is the single biggest investor on Karachi Stock Exchange.

He was perhaps Pakistan’s first industrialist to own a private Cesena plan in the 1960’s in which he used to fly down to his cement factory in Hyderabad.

His ancestors had set up the well-known firm of Dada Abdullah and Company which sent M K Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, to South Africa, as their legal representative 1890.

Ittefaq: The Ittefaq was originally a joint venture of seven brothers. At present 119 offspring of founding fathers are fighting in court in Lahore for division of the assets.

Ittefaq now has three distinct groups, Ittefaq group, Sharifs and Habib Waqas group of Industries.

The Sharifs have now established themselves in the UK, albeit the sons of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif have distinct businesses which are separate from each other.

Fecto: Founded by Ghulam Mohammad M Adamjee of Jetpur, Kathiawar, India, with the humble “Fecto group” began as a foot wear merchant at Bombay.

He established Mohammadi Oil Mills at Chittagong and Eastern Textile, East Pakistan’s first art silk mills in 1951 and signed an agreement with a Japanese company to assemble radio and transistors.

By 1970 he was managing director of companies manufacturing and/or distributing radio, television, electronic appliances, agricultural implements, fertilizers, pig iron, automobiles and their parts.

Fecto shifted its head office from East Pakistan to Karachi and acquired Adamjee Sugar Mills in 1971.

The group dropped the name Adamjee and Ghulam Mohammad M Adamjee became known as Ghulam Mohammad M Fecto.

Saif group: Married into the rich Marwat (Khan of Marwat) family, Begum Kulsum Saifullah’s husband died at a relatively young age of 49 in 1964, she had to take over the business while raising her five sons Anwar, Salim, Humayun, Javed and Iqbal were relatively young.

This tremendous lady succeeded in what was (and still remains) mostly a man’s world. Younger sister to three colossus personalities Aslam Khan Khattak, Yusuf Khattak and Lt Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak, she matched them in more ways than one.

One lady I really admired, she was always kind to me because of my friendship with her nephew Gen Ali Kuli.

Begum Kulsum was Pakistan’s first woman Federal Minister. Not surprisingly her sons have done exceedingly well across the board, not only in politics and business, Dr Iqbal Saifullah is an extraordinary cardiovascular surgeon.

The Saifullahs missed out being named by Dr Mahbubul Haq’s 22 families in 1970 but are today one of Pakistan’s leading conglomerates.

They are a force to be reckoned with in oil and gas exploration, textiles, real estate, their greatest entrepreneurial initiative being in the telecom sector which was not targeted by the Memons and Chiniotis.

Past and present: That Pakistan’s 22 families’ economy became dominated by 44 families after nationalisation is to imply that the club of 22 remained intact and grew slightly larger.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Only five of the original 22 families – the Habibs, the Dawoods, the Habibullahs (Ghandhara and the Saifullahs), the Babar Ali and the Bhimjees – are part of the original club of 100 or so families dominating commerce and industry by the turn of the century.

The rest of the original 22 families are not exactly poor. Some exist in name only while others do continue but are not counted once the nationalisation had taken over and they divided what remained of their assets among many heirs and other claimants.

Their descendants today tend to be lower and of the rich class and some even on the upper end of upper middle class rather than the wealthy captains of industry that they were in the 1960s.

Those who were unable to withstand the onslaught of nationalization almost vanished. For example Arag industries Ltd, public was incorporated on 06 Jan 1953 in Karachi. Very little information is available as to what they are doing now.

Milwalas, Hafiz Karim, Rangoonwala, Fancy, Valika, Ispahani, Beco, Arag, Milwala, Khyber and Hyesons groups are alive mainly in the history books, some are wealthy individuals but not as a Group.

Among those who survived included 15 Chiniotis, 9 Memons, 2 Ismailis, 1 Khoja and 3 Pathan Groups.

Nationalization stunted Pakistan’s economic growth but by fault rather than design, contributed to the meteoric rise of the Chanioti business community in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab.

Nationalization opened new opportunities for Punjab-based groups, particularly Chiniotis, to venture into areas previously forbidden for them because of the monopoly of the Memons.

By 1970, other than those who “commercially” and/or “industrially” disappeared today those who were either feudal, rich and/or upper middle class in the 1960s – and rose up through either entrepreneurial ambition, or proximity to powerful politicians, or both.

This is very important to note because what it means is that wealth in Pakistan is not something static that simply gets passed down from generation to generation, some can rise while others can fall.

Most of the 22 lost their wealth due to government expropriation, and at least some of those who gained it were ones who were the beneficiaries of the government selling those assets back to the private sector on the cheap after having systematically destroyed them for over a decade and a half.

However a study is required about those bureaucrats who from 1972 till today remained in the Ministries of Finance, Production, etc. who served as Directors or senior executives in these units.

Even as they systematically beggared those units which were once lucrative financial, commercial and/or industrial enterprises.

Most of this daylight robbery took place during Zia’s Martial Law when Ghulam Ishaq Khan let bureaucracy run riot in commerce and industry.

It has continued in the “democratic” and “military rule” since with “privatisation” being dragged over 3 decades.

The bureaucrats became the new captains of commerce and industry. Among the new “families” created by Bhutto’s nationalisation, they became fabulously wealthy and are mostly living abroad (The last article on the major family business in Pakistan).

—The writer is a defence analyst and security expert, based in Karachi.


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