Mian Mansha: building a business empire amid social and political turmoil
The recent turbulence at the heart of Pakistan’s political machine raised significant but nuanced questions for Mian Mansha. The two individuals publicly responsible for ousting Pervez Musharraf as president – former premier Nawaz Sharif, and Asif Ali Zardari, the current president and widower of the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto – are also prominent members of the country’s rich list. Zardari, second in the rankings, is worth an estimated $1.8 billion, while Sharif, ousted as premier in 1999 by Musharraf, is worth $1.4 billion (but possibly as much as five times that tally), largely thanks to his shareholding in the Lahore-based Ittefaq Group, founded by Sharif’s father, Muhammad.
Both politicians have played, and continue to play, key roles in Mansha’s life. Sharif, in the first of his three stints as prime minister, between 1990 and 1993, was responsible for privatizing MCB. Under his watch, the bank was sold to a consortium comprising Mansha and several Chinioti families including the Din Group, run by SM Muneer, vice-chairman at MCB. Mansha’s tender was only the third highest, yet it was accepted by the Sharif government.
The two highest bids, led by the Tawakkal and Adamjee families, were rejected by then-finance minister Sartaj Aziz because the bidders had declined to disclose the source of their income. Many in Islamabad have long believed that Mansha’s consortium won with a lower bid because it was willing to hand Sharif a sizeable chunk of the new, privatized MCB.
Mansha dismisses the allegation. "I’ve never met Nawaz Sharif in my life," he says. "Where the rumours came from I don’t know – it was a bank that we bought during [Sharif’s] tenure, so people say that I have a connection to him, but it’s not like that at all."