Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Karachi-Born Ukrainian Billionaire Believes “Ukraine is Going to be Next Afghanistan for Russia"

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:

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:


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistani-American Banker Heads SWIFT, the World's Largest Interbank Payment System

Ukraine Resists Russia Alone: A Tale of West's Broken Promises

Ukraine's Lesson For Pakistan: Never Give Up Nuclear Weapons

Russia's Defeat in Afghanistan

Pakistan's Global Diaspora

Ukraine's Muslim Billionaire Akhmetov Holds Balance of Power

Ukraine's Muslims Oppose Russia


Riaz Haq said...

Could Ukraine be Putin’s Afghanistan?
Bruce Riedel Thursday, February 24, 2022

President Jimmy Carter rapidly mobilized a strategic alliance to fight the Russians. Within two weeks he had persuaded Pakistani leader Zia ul-Huq to support the mujahideen with refuge, bases, and training in Pakistan. The United States and Saudi Arabia would jointly fund the insurgency. The Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), would be the patrons of the mujahideen; the CIA and the Saudi intelligence service would be the financiers and quarter masters of the war. No CIA officer ever was deployed in Cold War Afghanistan. Our British counterparts, MI6, did send officers into Afghanistan to deliver select weapons and training. The ISI did all the rest; it was Zia’s war. The ISI trained and occasionally led the mujahideen in battle, even striking into Soviet Central Asia.

Being the frontline state behind the mujahideen brought considerable risk and danger for Pakistan. The Russians supported Pakistani dissidents who organized terror attacks inside the country including hijacking Pakistani civilian aircraft and attempts to assassinate Zia (who died in a suspicious plane crash in 1988). Pakistani fighters engaged Soviet aircraft in dogfights. The Pakistani tribal border areas became dangerous and unruly. A Kalashnikov culture emerged that still haunts Pakistan today.


The Afghan people paid a horrible cost for the war. As I wrote in “What We Won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan,” at least a million Afghans died, five million became refugees in Pakistan and Iran, and millions more were displaced in their own country. But they won.

The Soviets never sent enough soldiers to defeat the insurgents and could not recruit enough Afghans to fight with them. The Pakistanis were not intimidated by the Russians. The Afghan people fought for their independence.

The Afghan analogy offers important questions for the new war in Ukraine. Which state or states will be the frontline sponsor? Are they ready to take the heat from Russia? How much support will the United States and NATO provide? Will the insurgency spark a broader conflict, and can it be contained? Are Ukrainians prepared to pay the price?

Poland and Romania are the states closest to the Ukraine. Both are NATO members with U.S. troops deployed in their territory. The U.S. has an explicit commitment to come to their defense in Article Five of the NATO Treaty; we had no such commitment to Pakistan. (Ironically, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is in Moscow this week for a long-planned visit.)

I believe the United States and NATO should help the Ukrainian resistance but we should understand the potential consequences, risks, and costs up front. Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine could well prove to be another geopolitical catastrophe for Russia but only if we help the Ukrainian resistance.

Sheila Z. said...

U are right & it is wrong to compare Putin's Russia with U.S.S.R But even a frontline state like Poland ready to "take enormous risks" can't inject the fighting spirit into Ukrainians as the Afghan 'Mujahedeen' had to fight 4 their homeland

Shams N. said...

Mansoor is dead wrong about Ukaraine-Afghanistan comparison. Ukraine was never a country until USSR created it. Today, Russia wants it back, and Americans are simply using the war to ban Russian oil & gas. More than half the Ukrainians I have met here in the US are in favor of Ukraine becoming part of Russia again, so they could get some respect. The Jewish Ukrainian president has other goals.

Meer said...

Easier for Mr Zahoor to say in comfy living of luxurious mention from UK 😂 Watched his interview at BBC Urdu … the guy fled Ukraine before even the war started … so far so good to compare Ukraine and Afghanistan …

Anonymous said...

Irrespective of the geopolitical situation and Ukrainian history, question that should be asked is if they have what Afghans had to fight a prolonged war?

Wise said...

What an analogy. Afghanistan was, guess what, Always Afghanistan!
Now people want to emulate it?

Guess what Ukraine... your cities may end up looking like Iraq or Afghanistan but Russia may not leave.

Afghans had one big thing working for them... the foreigners from far away lands will return one day... they just had to keep their stay hostile enough.

Ukraine is 500 miles from Moscow... if anything they can repopulate their cities with Russians... they already speak more or less the same language.

Don't be an Afghanistan, but don't be a Ukraine either!

Don't play chicken with a neighboring state that can turn you cities into piles of dust and rubble. The joker their in a bid to emulate Afghans, played with his own people's freedom, property and most importantly Lives!
A bad deal was better than no deal!
He chose no deal and in turn larps as a warlord.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani #billionaire Mohammad Zahoor buys fighter jets for #Ukraine. Zahoor's wife, the Ukrainian singer Kamaliya Zahoor said her husband and other wealthy friends are quietly helping Ukraine in its fight against #Russia. #RussianUkrainianWar

Since the Russia-Ukraine war broke out in late February, Zahoor, who used to live in Ukraine and was the former owner of the Ukrainian newspaper Kyiv Post, has been pushing to ensure the safe evacuation of Ukrainian citizens, according to a Khaleej Times report.

The report said that the Karachi-born billionaire had been attempting to mobilize funds and help evacuate refugees to the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Zahoor has continued to meet with heads of state and other influential people to ensure safe passage for Ukrainians.

He has also called on the people of the world to support and side with Ukraine as it fights back against Russian aggression.

"This is time, actually, for us not to keep quiet. We have to take sides," Zahoor told Arab News in March. "I am openly taking the side of Ukraine because after seeing [reports from] Western, Ukrainian and Russian media, I can see and decide who is telling the truth. This is the time actually for everyone to speak up for Ukraine otherwise every big country is going to swallow its next-door neighbor."

He continued: "I think we are in the worst crisis in the world since the Second World War. We are in the middle of Europe, in fact. If something happens to those nuclear power plants, and Ukraine has got 15 of those...The nuclear power plant which was shelled is six times more powerful than the Chernobyl plant."

"The Russian equipment, I must say, they are not very precise," he added. "So, they're sending 10 rockets in order to get one to the destination."

More recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has tweeted about the importance of international support and the progress made by countries to help Ukraine.

"Finished a long and meaningful phone conversation with [French President]
@EmmanuelMacron," Zelensky tweeted on Tuesday. "Told about the course of hostilities, the operation to rescue the military from Azovstal and the vision of the prospects of the negotiation process. Raised the issue of fuel supply to Ukraine.

Riaz Haq said...

Why Is Ukraine's Foreign Minister Visiting Pakistan?

Ukraine Arms Likely on Agenda
Pakistan, like many non-Western countries, says it’s adopted a neutral position in the Russia-Ukraine war. But, compared to other countries in the Global South, it’s an outlier in one big way: it’s been providing Ukraine with weapons. Nothing fancy — mainly artillery shells — but Kyiv is burning through massive amounts of firepower and will take ammunition from wherever it can get it. (The U.S. decision to provide Ukraine with cluster bombs makes the coalition’s desperation clear.)

Kuleba — who may be joined by Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov — could ask for more arms during his visit, though that won’t be mentioned in any readout or local press reports.

The reason? Pakistan has yet to publicly acknowledge that it’s been providing Ukraine with arms. The weapons transfers have been covert, taking place indirectly through other European partners. The behind-the-scenes relationship was, however, acknowledged months ago by a European Union (EU) official in a television interview.

India AWOL on Ukraine
It does not appear that Kuleba will stop by New Delhi on this trip. Strikingly, Ukraine’s diplomatic engagement with India is taking place at a lower level. Emine Dzhaparova, the Ukrainian first deputy foreign minister, visited New Delhi in April. And last week, a mid-level Indian diplomat paid a visit to Ukraine.

India, whose leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made recent state visits to France and the United States — continues to remain an ally of Russia and has emerged as a major importer of Russian oil.

India is using its leadership of the G-20 this year to pronounce its rise as a global power. But it’s been absent when it comes to the biggest war Europe has seen since World War Two, seeing it as a sideshow. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar has been dismissive of the Ukraine war, calling it one of “Europe’s problems.”

For his part, Kuleba has harshly criticized New Delhi for its import of Russian oil. He said last August, “Every barrel of Russian crude oil delivered to India has a good portion of Ukrainian blood in it.” Months later, he said India was “benefit[ting] from our suffering,” and called on New Delhi to play a more diplomatic role in the war.

Insurance for the Pakistan Army
Though Kuleba’s visit to Islamabad was requested by Kyiv, it is important for Pakistan — especially its powerful army, which is behind the secret provision of arms to Ukraine. The Pakistan Army has been given a cold shoulder by Washington in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. By arming Ukraine, Pakistan is sending a message to Western powers courting India: we can still be useful to you.

The Pakistan Army is also under criticism domestically and internationally for its crackdown on the party of ex-cricketer Imran Khan.

Pakistani intelligence services have been forcing defections from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party after violence targeting military installations that followed the violent arrest of the ex-cricketer by paramilitary forces on May 9.

This month, EU Ambassador to Pakistan Riina Kionka said that “the crackdown on PTI and supporters in the aftermath of May 9th is certainly something that we’re paying a lot of attention to.” Khan and others who remain with PTI could be tried under military courts.


Dr. Riina Kionka, European Union's ambassador to Pakistan, in an interview with local media in Pakistan on 21 February 2023 said that Pakistan has been helping Ukraine in its protracted conflict with Russia by sending military and humanitarian aid.[24]

Riaz Haq said...

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's decision to replace his defence chief has been seen primarily as an attempt to clean up corruption. But the appointment of Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar and a Muslim, is a signal that Ukraine is serious about returning Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Speculations about the replacement of Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's defence minister since November 2021, have been rife for months.

While personally not accused of any wrongdoing, the man by President Zelensky's side since day one of the Russian full-scale invasion was seen as unable to stop corruption penetrating his ministry.

Military procurement scandals and accusations of bribery against officials at enlistment centres made him damaged goods in the eyes of Ukrainian society, currently in need of a morale boost in the wake of a slower than expected offensive.

This is where Rustem Umerov comes in.

The 41-year-old is a government official who for the past year headed Ukraine's State Property Fund, but is best known for negotiating with Russia and for organising successful prisoner exchanges.

Not a complete unknown but not someone in the media spotlight either, he is a Crimean Tatar born in exile and an active member of this ethnic community, trying to reinstate its cultural identity and its place in the world.

Most importantly for Ukrainians, he has not been accused of corruption, embezzlement or profiteering.

Mr Umerov came into politics in 2019 when he ran for parliament with the reformist "Holos" party, which he later left to become a government official.

Before that he worked in the private sector, first in telecoms and later in investment.

In 2013, he founded a charity programme to help train Ukrainians at the prestigious Stanford University in the US.

But the defining part of his identity are his Crimean Tatar roots and the role they can play in Ukraine's firm intention to return Crimea.