|History and Biodata
Background Zahid Walid Group of Companies:
Fahims Companies Abdul Hasin and his brother, Vice President Fahim offer a perfect examples of the new business elite. The two men are half-brothers, born to the two wives of a respected religious cleric from Marz, a village in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul.
In the early 1980s, Fahim, the older brother, joined the mujahideen forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud in the struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In 1992, three years after the Soviet army withdrew in defeat, Fahim was appointed head of intelligence in Afghanistan by the new president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in the midst of a fierce and destructive civil war among the victors. When the Taliban took control of the country a few years later, Fahim became the intelligence chief for the Northern Alliance, also led by Massoud, which controlled less than a third of the country.
On September 9, 2001, two days before the World Trade Center was attacked, Massoud was assassinated by al-Qaeda operatives and Fahim took control of the Northern Alliance, which the US would soon finance and support in its "invasion" of Afghanistan. A number of popular accounts of that invasion, such as Bob Woodward's book Bush at War, suggest that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directly gave Northern Alliance warlords like Fahim millions of dollars in cold, hard cash to help fight the Taliban in the runup to the US invasion. "I can take Kabul, I can take Kunduz, if you break the [Taliban front] line for me. My guys are ready," Woodward quotes Fahim telling a CIA agent named Gary after pocketing a million dollars in $100 bills.
Once the Taliban were defeated, Fahim was invited to become vice president in the transitional government led by Karzai, a position he held for two years. It was at this juncture that Fahim's brothers, notably Abdul Hasin, started to build a business empire - and not long after, good fortune began to rain down on the family in the form of lucrative "reconstruction" contracts. In January 2002, while Fahim took whirlwind tours of Washington and London, meeting General Tommy Franks, who had commanded US forces during the invasion, and taking the salute from the Coldstream Guards, his younger brother was putting together a business plan.
Soon thereafter, Zahid Walid, a company named after Abdul Hasin's older sons, not so surprisingly won a series of lucrative contracts to pour concrete for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) base as well as portions of the US Embassy being rebuilt in Kabul and the city's airport, which was in a state of disrepair. On a plot of land in downtown Kabul reportedly "seized" for a song by Fahim, Abdul Hasin also financed the construction of a high-rise building dubbed "Goldpoint", which now houses dozens of jewelry shops. Soon, the company was importing Russian gas, and not long after that, Abdul Hasin set up the Gas Group, a company that ran a plant in the industrial suburb of Tarakhil that marketed bottled gas to households and small businesses.
In the winter of 2006, Zahid Walid won a $12 million contract from the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water to supply fuel to the old diesel plant in northwest Kabul, according to data published on the website of the government's central procurement agency, Afghanistan Reconstruction and Development Services. In the summer of 2007, the company won another $40 million diesel-supply contract, and last winter it took on a third contract worth $22 million.
Zahid Walid's lives in a heavily guarded headquarters in the wealthy Kabul neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, not far from the even more heavily fortified US Embassy. There, Ramin Seddiqui, the managing director of the company's diesel-import business, the source was filled in on another exclusive contract the company had secured from the Afghan government only days before for an additional $17 million. Zahid Walid is now to supply diesel fuel to the new 100 megawatt diesel power plant being built by Black and Veatch, a Kansas construction company, with money from USAID.
Most senior Afghan government officials and political figures are loath to discuss how Zahid Walid has won all these contracts - at least publicly. On a recent visit to the Ministry of Commerce, the source asked Noor Mohammed Wafa, the general director of oil products and liquid gas, about them. He promptly claimed that he had never even heard of the company. He then shot a glance at my Afghan assistant and said in Dari, "That's Marshal Fahim's company, isn't it?" When the source asked whether the rules were different for powerful political figures - as everyone in Kabul knows is the case - Wafa politely denied any suggestion of favoritism in the awarding of import licenses.
In fact, dozens of people assured the source that favoritism and corruption were the essence of the Karzai government the US has helped "reconstruct" over the past eight years. Zahid Walid was hardly the only politically well-connected business to clean up: Ghazanfar, a company from Mazar-i-Sharif, also won $17 million in diesel-supply contracts in the winter of 2006-2007, and then an astonishing $78 million in new contracts for 2008, early 2009. Not surprisingly, Ghazanfar turns out to be run by a family that is very close to President Karzai. (One sister, Hosn Banu Ghazanfar, was the women's minister and a brother was a member of parliament.) In March 2009, the Ghazanfars opened a new bank in the capital, plastering the city with giant billboard advertisements featuring a cascade of gold coins. Less than six months later, the bank wrote out a $2 million interest-free loan to Karzai for his election campaign, paying back the favors his government had done for them over the previous three years.
According to the Central Bank report Abdul Hasin Fahim agreed with another shareholder, Khalilullah Fruzi, the bank’s former chief executive, to pay back $24 million he borrowed for Gas Group, one of his energy sector ventures. However, the total amount borrowed by Gas Group was at least $121 million, according to the report, leaving unclear how Kabul Bank will obtain the other $97 million. Abdul Hasin Fahim owes Kabul Bank a total of $40 million for a loan to the Zahid Walid Group. He has paid back $4 million and asked for a term-loan for the balance. (NYT 20110328).
ZWGroup Street# 10, Main Road ,
Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul
Phone# 0093 700 48 48 59