“Mohtarma Benazir was a colossus, Nawaz Sharif is a patriot and loves his country”
Having come from esteem family background, Imtiaz Rafi Butt is a leading figure in the field of real estate. He is a Chairman of the prestigious Rafi Group, which has been a pioneer in the construction of magnificent commercial arcades and housing schemes all over Pakistan. He is a respected businessman with prominent personality with much sought after political aspects. He is also Chairman of the Jinnah-Rafi Foundation, which he set up in 1989 in memory of the Quaid-e-Azam and his father, Muhammad Rafi Butt. Imtiaz Rafi Butt is also the Honorary Consul for Malaysia in Pakistan.
PAGE: TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR FATHER, RAFI BUTT?
IMTIAZ RAFI BUTT: My father, Rafi Butt died in an airplane crash in 1948, I was two months old at the time. I had never known the man and in fact I discovered him much later in life when I was a young man at age of 40. After achieving business success, I yearned to know who my father was as a person, what he believed in and what he stood for. In my research, I came across some letters from Mohammad Ali Jinnah to Rafi Butt buried in the archives. A rich correspondence which eschewed a sense of intimacy between them, which to me was unbelievable. This fortuitous discovery led me on a quest to discover my father and through which I developed a love for Pakistan, A nation he and his colleagues sacrificed so much for.
I set up the Jinnah Rafi Foundation in his honor and would frequently gather the still living workers and leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League of the 1940s. I learned as much about my father as I did about my country. In essence, he was a boy who lost his father in 1928 at age 16, went on to form an empire by the time he was 24. In 1936 by the age of 27 he opened the Central Exchange Bank, which by the way was the first bank owned by a Muslim in undivided India. He answered the Quaid-e-Azam’s call for Muslims of means to join the Pakistan Movement, fight the hegemony of the British Raj and the Hindu economic domination of India and make our beloved nation a reality. He traveled frequently to Europe and the USA, I might add that today travelling to the West is commonplace but for an Indian Muslim in the 20’s 30’s and 40’s it was unheard off.
His mission from Jinnah required him gathering support for the idea of Pakistan in the political elites of the USA and organizing the import of essential industrial equipment which would make Pakistan a viable, modern and functioning state.
Most people forget that when Pakistan came into existence, everyone else doubted we would survive independently for a year never mind 70. Anyway, I could write a book on Rafi and some esteemed scholars have in fact written several books on the man, Mr Rafi Butt.
PAGE: AS I WALK INTO YOUR OFFICE I SEE PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE HALLS OF YOU WITH BOTH NAWAZ SHARIF AND BENAZIR BHUTTO, TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH THESE GIANTS OF PAKISTANI POLITICS AND POLITICS IN GENERAL?
IMTIAZ RAFI BUTT: Benazir was a colossus, she was forged in the fire of the aftermath of her father’s execution. She is “Never wavering, never surrendering. An eloquent speaker and an intellectual beyond reproach”. When I met her, I become enchanted by the capabilities of Mohtarma. I miss her greatly, Pakistan still has not come to terms with the magnitude of the loss suffered on 27th December 2007. She was the only real equal to Nawaz Sharif.
I have known Nawaz Sharif since 1960, we were in St. Anthony’s school together, we were both young boys less than 10 years old back then and were class mates and good friends for many years. Nawaz always displayed acumen for politics over business and as you can see Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chose his path well. I vividly remember how we campaigned together for his election to Chief Minister of Punjab in 1985. Nawaz has grown over the years in both stature and acumen. Allah has been very kind to Nawaz and he is a lucky man. Those who don’t know him, whatever his naysayers say about the man, “There is no doubt Nawaz Sharif is a patriot and loves his country”.
As for the future of politics and Pakistan, I think the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an opportunity that can yield unbelievable results. It is to the credit of the Pakistani State that it has brought the strategic environment in Pakistan to a stable enough state that China can take this massive venture on Pakistan. The gigantic size of investments and projects will advance Pakistan’s infrastructure and economy by decades. Our strategic location in the world has always been a curse and now it has turned into a blessing. China has chosen Gwadar as the nexus point of its $700 billion New Silk Road. Gwadar will be the focus of the largest infrastructure project in history.
PAGE: WHAT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY?
IMTIAZ RAFI BUTT: I have held certain business principles dear to me in my whole life, pay those you owe before they even ask for it, honor your commitments, treat your employees like family, create relationships not just transactions.
PAGE: WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE ECONOMY AND OF RAFI GROUP IN PARTICULAR?
IMTIAZ RAFI BUTT: If you look at the world today we are standing at an inflection point in history after the rise of class warfare and racism in the United States. Economic stagnancy and the rise of ultra right wing, anti immigrant views in Europe, as can be seen by the recent Brexit vote in which the UK decided to commit political suicide rather than continue with to the free movement of immigrants. The development of China, the dipping price of oil, the pivot of the USA towards India, the imminent conflict in the South China Sea and China’s New Silk Road initiative along with the formation of the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization defense bloc. All these things portend that the old world order is no more and Pakistan is definitely looking like a safe place to invest and a phenomenal place to grow your business.
If you look at the data, demographics, income, growth and add in the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) you’ve got a Pakistan that is ready to take off. I already see vibrant economic activity across the whole country and the projects have just begun. According to government statistics 2 million new jobs will be created. That is a number that even the Americans would be envious off.
I am embracing this opportunity wholly, Rafi Group is launching and developing Green Palms Gwadar, located on the Main Coastal Highway in Gwadar. Green Palms is planned as a world class housing project which will cater to the millions of people that are and will be moving to Gwadar to take part in Pakistan’s future and the jewel in the crown of China’s $700 billion New Silk Road also known as the One-Belt-One-Road Initiative. Soon there are major projects to be inaugurated and ground breakings, including the Gwadar International Airport, which by the way is going to be the Pakistan’s largest airport.
The Chinese officials that I have met on my visits to Gwadar are excited to develop this future major city as it not only means Pakistan becomes a developed country and major player in the region but also China will become a second ocean power, leading to superpower status.
PAGE: GWADAR IS AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY FOR PAKISTAN, AND I’M GLAD TO SEE EXPERIENCED PEOPLE LIKE YOURSELF AVAIL IT, HOW ARE THE DEVELOPMENTS THERE AND WHAT OTHER PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE IN THE PIPELINE?
IMTIAZ RAFI BUTT: I’m a Lahori and my heart has always been with this city. Rafi Group has always been a pioneering company and we see that Lahore’s growth has been horizontal meaning housing units. This has caused all sorts of administrative and travelling issues, along with unreasonably expensive housing for an individual of normal means. The time is now for this city with a population of 12 million people to take the path of mega cities around the world and start developing vertically.
However I am very focussed on Gwadar right now because the opportunities there are unlike anything I have seen in Pakistan’s history. Gwadar today is by far the best investment one can make. The price of entry today is so low and given the billions of dollars in projects that CPEC has started, land prices will sky-rocket. My sincere advise to Rafi Groups clients is that now is the time to invest in Gwadar.
Rafi Group plans to be at the forefront of Pakistan’s development, to provide a modern living and aspirational lifestyle along with phenomenal investment avenues, delivered with the quality and value for money that our clients have come to expect from us over the decades.