A new memoir by Pakistani businessman Sahruddin Hashwani offers unique insight into life, business, and politics in both historic and modern-day Pakistan. Dr. Kiran Hassan of SOAS provides her guest analysis.
Mr. Sadruddin Hashwani, the sixth richest man in Pakistan, is internationally acclaimed for his personal courage and conviction in his fight against terrorism in Pakistan, particularly when he rebuilt his famous Marriott Hotel in 98 days after the terrible suicide bomb attack of 20 September 2008. This devastating attack could have killed himself and his son.
A corporate icon, Hashwani surprises many by his recent memoir, Truth Always Prevails, in which he shares his arduously challenging journey as a businessman in Pakistan’s dubious political scene.
Through his remarkable story, we find that despite the many odds stacked against his business endeavours by civilian and military regimes, which included prolonged unwarranted harassments, he emerged as Pakistan’s most respected businessmen. His saving grace was continuing to fight against a heavily corrupt system, and his belief in the Pakistani masses.
Mr Hashwani’s anecdotal journey deserves grand acclaim because he offers neutrality. Never enjoying a high government position or political affiliation, he exposes flaws consistently embedded in Pakistan’s political structure. Through his narration we experience a system full of corruption, coercion, fraud, force, and manipulation. Yet, his story exuberates optimism because he offers refreshing insights into an otherwise misunderstood country.
For instance, he highlights Jinnah’s secular Pakistan. Through his reminiscence we are taken back to Karachi during the 1950s and 1960s – a cosmopolitan and secular city full of mosques, churches, temples, and even synagogues, where Urdu speaking Jews and Balochi speaking Hindus resided peacefully.
During the same period, strengthened bonds between trusted Hindu and Muslim traders is discussed. Mr Hashwani laments Jinnah’s envisaged Pakistan. His remorse is particularly heartfelt when he remembers the brutal murder of his dear friend (the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer) who was trying to defend a Christian woman.
The book offers another equally important message: that businesses can both survive and thrive within a non-regularized, corrupt, ill-equipped, adversarial and terror-plagued system. As we are introduced to Mr Hashwani’s fearless fight and defiance where he and his family often had to endure the wrath of military dictators and elected presidents/prime ministers while evading terror attacks, we are led to believe in the “Pakistani dream”.
Mr Hashwani derived his vigour to fight against odds through the support of his hardworking, diligent, and loyal workforce. He proudly shares his business triumph with the talent and the ability of the Pakistani people, which according to him has been repeatedly maligned and often exploited by the corrupt and inefficient leaders.
His faith in the competence and sincerity of the average Pakistani towards nation building is refreshing and a needed vison for the currently despondent Pakistani youth.
So, who is Sadruddin Hashwasni? – We ask ourselves after reading the book.
Is he a loving father, a devoted son, an amateur cricketer, a visionary, a rebel, a national asset, a hospitality icon, a cotton king, a self-made man, a corporate genius or all of the mentioned? But if I had to describe him with one quality, I would say Mr Hashwani is a man of tremendous courage.
A man to be saluted for his solitary struggle leading to enormous success, just because he wouldn’t give up.
Moreover, Mr Hashwani needs to be applauded for his positive take on corporate social responsibility and criticism around religious intolerance.
Dr. Kiran Hassan is Senior Teaching Fellow at the Department of Politics and International relations at SOAS, University of London.