Pakistani-Ukrainian billionaire Mohammad Zahoor believes “Ukraine is going to be the next Afghanistan for Russia". Talking with Arab News, he said: “This is time, actually, for us not to keep quiet. We have to take sides". After the Russian invasion, Zahoor left Kiev for Britain along with his wife and two daughters. Zahoor owns real estate and steel businesses in Ukraine. He is also a British citizen. He was recently in Pakistan to attend the funeral of his sister-in-law who died of COVID-19.
|Mohammad and Kamaliya Zahoor|
Zahoor told Arab News that the Russian invasion of Ukraine may have consequences for Russia similar to the fallout from the Soviet-Afghan war from 1979 to 1989, which drastically weakened Russia's military and economy. That defeat in Afghanistan was one of the major reasons for the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
“Ukraine is going to be the next Afghanistan for Russia,” he said. “I don’t know how many years they are going to be in Ukraine, but once they are out, they will be broken into pieces.
Zahoor's prediction can only be realized if there is a frontline state in Europe that is willing to take enormous risks that Pakistan took in the 1980s by supporting and providing sanctuaries to the Afghan Mujahideen insurgents who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan Air Force took on the Soviet Air Force and shot down several Russian fighter aircraft in dogfights. Pakistanis did this knowing that the US provided no security guarantees to Pakistan. Are Poland and Romania, both NATO members, willing to take such risks? Would the United States allow these NATO members to risk a broader war with Russia?
Oligarchs have shaped politics in post-Soviet Russia and other former Soviet republics including The Ukraine since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Among them is Karachi-born Pakistani Ukrainian Mohammad Zahoor, a member of growing Pakistani diaspora which is already the world's 7th largest. He owned the Kyiv Post newspaper which is widely believed to have led the campaign to topple pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Zahoor's father Khushal Khan worked for Pakistani government. He migrated to Karachi from Hasnaina village in the Mansehra district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Zahoor was born in 1955 in Karachi. His ISTIL Group operates from a head office in Kiev. It also has offices in the UK, Pakistan, UAE.
"When I arrived in Moscow in the late 80s, I started supplying spare parts to a company," he said. "At the same time, I told my company that moving steel from here could be a lucrative deal. Almost everyone in the steel mills knew me." His company exported steel to Pakistan using a barter system with payment from Pakistan coming in the form of clothes instead of cash. He said it was a highly lucrative business.
He later moved back to Pakistan. “Having a Russian wife limited my career development there,” he told Newsweek. “The secret services were also very active during the ’80s, and I thought it better to leave.” He moved to Moscow to work for a Pakistani steel company in the late ’80s, and hasn’t looked back since
He learned Russian and metallurgy well. Then he eventually found a way to apply those skills in Ukraine, one of the world’s top 10 steel-exporting nations. Zahoor also displayed a talent for knowing when to get out of a business, as he did in 2008 by selling his Donetsk steel mill for a top-drawer price of $1 billion, according to Kyiv Post. He has since invested in media and real estate businesses.
|Zahoor With Trophy Wife Kamaliya. Source: Politico.eu|
Zahoor divorced his first wife to marry Kamaliya (born as Natalya Shmarenkova in 1977) in 2003. Kamaliya won the Mrs. World title in 2008. She is involved in charitable work in both Ukraine and Pakistan. Before the Russian invasion, they lived in a mansion designed to resemble Dubai’s hotel Burj al-Arab in the suburbs of Kyiv. The couple has 8-year-old twin daughters. Zahoor has two grown children, Arman and Tanya, from his previous marriage.
|L to R: Kamaliya, Arabella, Mirabella and Mohammad Zahoor. Source: Dad.CEO|
Zahoor and Kamaliya have starred in a Fox Entertainment reality show "Meet the Russians". Kamaliya has a singing career with hit singles like "Crazy In My Heart," "Rising Up," and "Butterflies," and she is also famous for singing duets with Russian pop star Philipp Kirkorov.
Here's a BBC Urdu interview with Mohammad Zahoor: