From cement to steekworks

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When most people decide they want to become an accountant, it doesn’t mean leaving your family and friends to make a 3,800 mile journey to a foreign land.

But, that was the challenge facing Muhammad Zahur in 1971.

Not long out of the University of the Punjab, where he had qualified as a statistician, he opted to leave a secure job with a major cement producer, seen as the “ICI of Pakistan” to end up, almost by chance, in Sheffield.

“It was difficult to gain articles in Pakistan – that was the major reason I came here – and I came to Sheffield because I had a friend who was here,” he recalls.

“It was a very, very big change. I came from a smallish village. When I came here, Sheffield was filled with smoke from the steelworks and, the first time it snowed, the snow was black.

“Now it has changed a lot. It’s much fresher and there are more opportunities for the children to play.”

Getting a job as an accountant wasn’t difficult and Mr Zahur says that because of his job and qualifications he always felt accepted.

After 10 years he got the chance to buy a stake in the business he had joined when founder Harry Altman retired, becoming the sole proprietor about 10 years later on.

In addition to building up the accountancy business, rescuing a closure threatened care home and establishing a property portfolio that includes domestic and commercial property, Mr Zahur has also found time to get involved in the local community.

He was one of the founding members of the campaign to set up Sheffield’s Pakistani Muslim Centre as a place where members of the community could meet, discuss and arrange self-improvement classes, serving as its chairman at the turn of the century, served as chairman of Hallam Rotary Club and is a city Magistrate.

He has also been active in politics, joining the Social Democrats when it was established as a breakaway from Labour in 1981 and serving as a Liberal Democrat ward chairman – although he wouldn’t want to stand for office.

“I don’t think I would like to be a politician. I am quite happy being in the background, as part of the organisations,” he says.