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Tuesday Feb 05 2019

Real Pakistani Americans

Javaid Anwar with former US President George Bush Jr and Laura Bush 

President Trump believes that the United States has become a dumping ground for people other countries don’t want. For him, most of the immigrants are smugglers, criminals, killers, rapists and recently one step even lower than animals. And he assumes himself as a messiah who is working round the clock to make America safe again.

But, before accusing others, the Republican president of the United States must think twice. With open eyes, Donald Trump can find countless immigrants who have made their promise land so great that even almost three years of his divisive actions could not reduce the stature of the United States.

In mid-January, Donald Trump visited the Texas border area and inquired about the number of Pakistani immigrants among those who cross illegally. I wish President Trump had recalled the name of the American Pakistanis, who he had been invited to the White House. There are innumerable personalities across the globe who wish to toast with Trump but there are some Pakistanis who have politely refused to enjoy dinner with Donald Trump, due to prior commitments.

Even if it was difficult to recall, President Trump should have better telephoned former President George Bush to know how Pakistanis behave in his hometown. And, I am sure Trump would have been instantly told about a number of highly respected families including the one closest to him, Syed Javaid Anwar.

Recently, Javaid Anwar received another feather in his cap. The oil tycoon was awarded Permian Basin Petroleum Association ‘Top Hand award’ by the Governor of Texas. It is the highest honour distributed by the PBPA. The prestigious prize is basically an acknowledgement of Javaid’s tremendous contribution to the oil & gas industry and the community.

The oil business is a roller coaster ride. Keeping up with the pace is itself a challenge. But, for the last four decades, Javaid Anwar is successfully drilling one well after another to multiply his wealth and contribute ever more to philanthropy across his preferred motherland.

Javaid Anwar with US Vice President Mike Pence 

Javaid Anwar is also one of the top Pakistani donors to the ruling Republican Party. The reason is simple. Republicans are considered more pro-businesses than their rival Democrats. And, businessmen like him believe, if fewer taxes are levied on big companies, they will further invest into the economy. Hence, it will create more jobs, better future for the employees and much-needed money to the exchequers.

As a generous donor, Anwar has cultivated friendship with all the top guns of the Republican party. He is also the one who had cultivated most cordial friendship with the Bush family. Last November, he was the only Pakistani who was at the deathbed of former President George Bush. No surprise as in the late 90s, it was Anwar who had actually encouraged Bush junior to contest Presidential election. So, no wonder if Bush Junior calls him J Daddy.

Despite rubbing shoulders with all the top notch politicians, Javaid Anwar has remained humble to the core. He proudly recalls how he started his life. His journey has been one of rags to riches and reflects the true struggle of the immigrant community.

Anwar's life can be compared to that of Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich who was born into poverty and raised by an uncle. Abramovich had started a small toy company and then went on to build an oil business empire.

Born to a single mother who worked as a telephone operator, Javaid Anwar’s initial life was full of challenges. The poor lady invested all her earnings to the education of her son. She preferred to send him to a private school when government-owned institutions were still maintaining some standard.

The toughest moment came to her life when Anwar expressed his wish to study engineering in America. His privileged classmates had already enrolled there. And, as one of the top student, Anwar also wanted to study abroad. The straightforward lady tried best to convince his ambitious son that affording that was beyond her means.

To realize his dream, the young boy travelled to Multan to meet his estranged father, who had left him even before he was born. Nothing worked out and even the paternal uncle who had promised him with money proved to be a big talker.

Eventually, the maternal grandparents came to his rescue. But, what they could afford was a semester fee and a one-way ticket to Texas. He still recalls how his mother advised him to work hard by saying it would be up to him to ‘either sink or swim’.

Once Anwar reached the University of Wyoming, he dedicatedly pursued his goal to become a nuclear engineer. But, it was a visit to an oil field and a luxury office of his friend that changed his mind. Now he wanted to become a petro-chemical engineer and hence changed his majors.

Most of his classmates were the exploited kids of industrialists. Despite having no money to spend on them, he got to fame for being the brightest of them all in maths.

But, life as a working student was not easy. By every passing day, the challenges became exponential. Despite working 30 hours on weekdays in a cafeteria, even two meals a day turned out to be a luxury. On weekends, when he wouldn’t have a job, sometimes, the whole day would pass without a proper food.

It was a time when Anwar was going through the same phase another self-made Pakistan American Shahid Khan had endured. Shahid Khan owns one of the largest private companies in the United States besides boasting to have a hand on NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Premier League football club Fulham. But, when Khan landed as an immigrant he washed dishes for almost a dollar an hour.

Unlike some other classmates, Anwar couldn’t secure top grades as he had to allocate more time to his job. But, he was happy to be, at least, graduating on time. That year 1976, brought him good luck. Soon, the young professional was offered a job in California which he declined to avoid unbearable weather conditions.

Staying back in Texas proved to be a good start that had a lifelong impact on his career. In 1966, Anwar started his first job in Midland Texas. In no time, he was recognized as a thorough professional who knew ins and outs of his field.

Relatively quickly, he was able to pay off three loans incurred to him during his studies. By then, Anwar had also met the love of his life in the very company he was working for. They were married and later blessed with twins- a baby boy and a girl.

Only a few years were spent in enjoyment when he hit bombshell news. A friend told him that his most able boss was laid off from his job. ‘You must be kidding!’ was the only thing Anwar could say in utter disbelief.

The man in question was an established manager who had dedicated half his life to the oil industry. He was an icon, who had nourished innumerable young professionals. An international oil crisis will uproot such a giant, was a tremendous shock. Anwar held his head as all his dreams seemed shattered.

For a few days, Anwar's mind was filled with thoughts leading him to an uncertain world again. The black gold industry appeared to him as a black hole. He kept wondering if it’s a wise decision to prefer petrochemicals over nuclear engineering?

The answer was simple but very bold. He decided to say goodbye to his job and sought an independent career in the same field. But, he hardly had any cash on him. The young professional was acclaimed for solving calculus problems on his fingertips but here he found himself quite at sea. Whatever he had managed to earn was spent fast, as by then he had started enjoying life.

He weighed in if a penniless graduate who only had a few years’ experiences could become an entrepreneur? Every time he reached the same conclusion. For him, the tougher question was what if he would be laid off like Kelly in his late 40s or even worse in 50s?

Anwar thought of seeking money from his trusted friends. His mind took him back to Lahore when he was 17 and had gone to seek tuition fee for the University of Wyoming. Will his friends lend such a big amount needed to start offshore drilling or prove to be big talkers like his uncle?

To his satisfaction, his friends appeared more than willing to invest. Finally, in 1984, he stepped in uncharted waters and established his own company. His business motto was a tested saying of his maternal grandfather, ‘buy low, sell high’.

Selling high proved easy but the most ardent question was how low can the market go? At that time, the market had just nosedived from $42 a barrel to $24. Anwar was convinced that it was the time to heavily invest and mint money.

The young blood was about to stick his hand in the dark hole when it turned out to be a pit full of venomous snakes. The oil prices fell further to $11 and then went all time low to crash any record and touched $9. It was all thanks to then President Reagan’s deregulation policy. For refraining himself from investing all he could collect from friends, he thanked God and his mother who kept praying for his good luck.

There he learnt a lifetime lesson to explore more and more. So, years later when it came to drilling oil fields, Anwar was equipped with the right approach. Even his first oil well proved to be a goldmine.

A one-man company he had established started hiring people and offering them small participation in different projects. He always had high regards for hard-working employees. The lady who worked part-time as his first secretary is still associated with his company.

Anwar also made it upon himself to live close to his work. He wanted to keep a check on the work in progress. And, that paid him well, as those who had invested from their deep pockets were able to get instant answers to the developments taking place around their projects. Every time they were greeted with good news. That hard work made ranchers and surface owners turned their backs to the multinationals who would only return their calls after days.

Then came a prediction that changed his fortunes forever. Former Saudi Arabian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi was on an annual hunting tour to Texas. One of Anwar's friend used to host him. It was the late 90s when the oil market was facing turmoil.

At the dinner table, Naimi pointed towards Javaid and quipped,’ He seems quite interested in the oil business but never inquires about the market.’ But, not this time, remarked Javaid Anwar who wanted to know if the oil prices would cross any more limit to further tumble down. Naimi predicted that soon the prices will touch 16 and asked Anwar to mark his words. In less than a year, it proved true. That was the day, Javaid hit jackpot. And since then, he is flying high.

After settling himself well, Anwar started paying back to America that has helped him reach such heights. He made his mission to support young entrepreneurs in establishing their own businesses. But, he would lend money, only if the proposals were viable and a big chunk was being invested by the men seeking capital injection. He generously donated money to American Universities, hospitals, parks and in the upgradation of other civic amenities.

In the United States, those who make money come to politics, but Javaid Anwar harbours no such ambitions. He is equally close to top Pakistani politicians. Yet, has never sought a post in the high echelons of power.

Once, he was asked what impressed him to step into philanthropy? Was he following the examples set by Bill Gates who had donated $65 billion or Warren Buffet who set aside $31 billion to charity? No. He quoted his mother, who would always say,’ if you are blessed, share it’.

From a young age, his ideal is a humble philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi who took his last breath thinking of those who were neglected even by their own families.

Javaid Anwar has strong faith that ’giving is taking. He says,’ you can make friends who are rich but don’t forget the ones who have helped you or the less privileged ones’.

Like another philanthropist Howard Schultz, Anwar says that 'growing up he always felt like he was living on the other side of the tracks. He may have a bespoke suit and tie on now but he remembers where he has come from and he knows what it likes.’

Across the United States, there are millions of immigrants like Javed Anwar who have actually made America great. If Trump administration really wants to contribute to the greatness of America, such stories of immigrant struggles shouldn’t fall on deaf ears.

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