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Investors looking for a great new opportunity probably don’t think of Pakistan very often. Sandwiched between a war-ravaged Afghanistan and a hostile India, the country also has to cope with military rule and religious fundamentalism at home. But Arnold Weiss is convinced that Pakistan is the next new thing, and he’s trying to persuade U.S. investors to follow his lead. Weiss is the senior vice president and general counsel of Emerging Markets Partnership (EMP), a ten-year-old private equity fund based in Washington, D.C. He and his colleagues have been working for months to garner investors and U.S. backing for their next project: the first Wall Street-style investment bank in Pakistan. With backers such as American International Group, Inc., the New York- based insurance giant, EMP already boasts some $5 billion under management. As its name implies, the fund pushes the envelope in global investing. It runs several infrastructure projects in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and last year launched a fund to back projects in Islamic countries. Though its projects may be unorthodox, EMP’s staff is establishment-heavy. Chairman Moeen Qureshi, a former senior official at the World Bank, briefly served as Pakistan’s prime minister in 1993. Weiss’s deputy general counsel, J. Speed Carroll, is a well-known deal lawyer and former managing partner of New York’s Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. And then there’s Weiss, who started his career in 1952 as a staff attorney at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he advised on American membership in the International Monetary Fund. He also helped create the Inter-American Development Bank in 1959 and became its first employee. In 1977 he signed on as a partner at D.C.’s Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, and in 1992 helped cofound EMP. The fund began developing the Pakistani bank, Weiss says, soon after the United States upgraded its alliance with Pakistan as part of the American military operation in Afghanistan. The GC confirms that EMP has been in talks with U.S. investors, including Citicorp, about the Pakistani investment bank. Weiss also confirms that the fund has been negotiating for U.S.-backed guarantees from the Overseas Private Investment Corp. An OPIC spokesman declined to comment on its involvment in the Pakistani project. (The federal agency provides insurance, loans, and loan guarantees to encourage American investment in risky foreign ventures.) With OPIC’s backing, EMP would be much more likely to win the participation of U.S. institutional investors. Weiss says the fund also hopes to attract investors within Pakistan, and among Pakistani expatriates. If it gets off the ground, he adds, the new investment bank would serve as a credible and well-financed conduit for investments into Pakistani businesses, and would handle mergers and acquisitions. And what emerging market might draw Weiss’s attention next? Would he, for example, consider a project in a postwar Iraq? The GC declined to say, but does note, “Whether you like it or not, nation-building requires investment.”

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