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Like other MNCs, Wyeth also had long serving people. My manager Sharaf Iqbal had previously worked in Bahawalpur and Multan. We knew each other. Most other colleagues working at Lahore were not known to me previously, but they were all cooperative with each other. Along with the pharmaceutical products, we also promoted SMA and S26, the two infant milk formula products. During that time, milk formula promotion was open. These could also be advertised through media. Major companies in this area were Wyeth, Abbott, Mead Johnson and Nutricia. A single Japanese formula ‘MEIJI’ had been growing rapidly and became a big brand. Meiji was the most advertised brand on media. Their promotional theme was that Meiji children were chubby. Their competitors said Meiji formulation fattened the babies and that was why they looked healthy. Meiji kept growing anyway. It was the time when infant milk formulas were in fashion and their use by mothers multiplied, not through doctor recommendation, but through word of mouth. Couple of years later, the tide turned against the use of infant formulas, and in favor of breast-feeding. The regulatory restrictions came in, and promotion was severely restricted within a short span of time.
During noon time, I would sit mostly in British Council Library which was then located on Mall Road, on the corner of Maclagan Road. In the adjacent building, there was a café by the name of PEJO. It was a rather tiny place, couple of tables on the ground floor and few on the first floor. I liked it and sat here many times alone. British Council Library was fully open at that time. I had membership and I could sit and read or could get three books issued at one time, probably for twenty-eight days. In the evenings, Farhat Jamil and I would sit in some restaurant over coffee and cigarettes and long talks.
The world around was spinning in late 70s. General Zia overthrew Bhutto regime and hanged him in April 1979. General Zia then went on to Islamize Pakistan with full force and polarized the country forever. In the neighboring Afghanistan, Soviet Union overthrew the sitting government and sent in armed forces, also in 1979. The US and Allies started counter-war a little later which raged for a long time. Soviet Union under Gorbachev and his ‘glasnost’ finally broke into several pieces. Afghanistan war still simmers even after almost 40 years.
Another huge change in 1979 was the revolution in Iran. The Shah of Iran had been trying to grapple with the rise of Islamists under Ayatollah Khomeini. Finally, he lost his Kingdom. King Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi abdicated, leaving the space open for Islamists. Ayatollah Khomeini became the Supreme leader. Iran went through a lot of duress and change. Many high-profile figures were sentenced and executed. I read several books on the subject coming out at that time. Two were written by King Raza Shah himself; one during the height of turmoil and one soon after abdicating kingship. He was on the run and his biggest ally, the US was not willing to let him enter the US. He lived briefly in Egypt, Morocco, Bahamas, Mexico and finally returned to Egypt, as Anwar El-Sadat, then President of Egypt allowed him permanent exile in Egypt. Sadat also married his daughter to Shah’s son. Shah had been suffering from cancer for few years and he died in July 1980 due to complications.
Shah of Iran rose to the greatest height of power and self-glory and fell as pariah whom no one wanted to touch, only in one life time. His books help to understand greatly as to what happened and how; despite his angle.
Another revealing book was written by Fereydoun Hoveyda, brother of former Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda. Amir Abbas Hoveyda was the longest serving Prime Minister of Iran, serving for thirteen years, until 1977. He was tried by Islamic court and executed in April 1979 (also). Fereydoun was certainly grieved but the book throws light on the frenzy of that time.
I felt strongly about these developments……