Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is a major political figure in Afghanistan today. He was
involved in the resistance against the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan,
a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, a candidate in the 2009 and 2014 Afghan
presidential elections, and currently the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Afghanistan.
Abdullah was born in 1960 in Kabul to a religious family from Panjshir province. His father, Ghulam
Mahyyoddin Zmaryalay, served as a senator during the final years of the rule of
Zahir. After graduating from Naderia High School in 1976, Abdullah went on
to study ophthalmology at Kabul University’s Department of Medicine, and in
1983, he received his M.D. degree. He went on to serve as the Resident
Ophthalmologist at the Noor Eye Institute in Kabul.
In 1984, as the Soviet Union
expanded its occupation of Afghanistan, Abdullah left Afghanistan to go care for
Afghan refugee families at the
Sayed Jamaluddin Hospital in Pakistan. A year
later, he joined the resistance against the Soviet Union's invasion and occupation
From 1985 to 1986 he worked in the Ophthalmology Hospital for Afghan Refugees
in Peshawar, Pakistan, and was also the Director of Healthcare for the Resistance
Front. In 1986, Abdullah became the Special Advisor and Chief Assistant to the
legendary Afghan guerilla Commander and later Defense Minister,
Ahmad Shah Masood.
In 1992, after the Mujahideen took control of Kabul from
government, Abdullah became the spokesperson for the Defense Ministry of the
Islamic State of Afghanistan.
After the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in late 1996, Abdullah served as
the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Afghan government-in-exile, which
was officially recognized by the United Nations, and all other countries, except
for Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates supported and officially recognized the
Taliban government in Afghanistan. In 1998, Abdullah became Afghanistan's
(government-in-exile) Foreign Minister. He served in that role until the removal
of the Taliban from power in late 2001.
On December 22, 2001, during the Intra-Afghan talks in Bonn, Germany,
Abdullah was selected as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Interim
Administration of Afghanistan under then Chairman
Later in June of 2002, Abdullah was again confirmed as the Minister of Foreign
Affairs of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan by a Loya Jirga. When
Hamid Karzai won Afghanistan's first presidential elections in 2004, he
initially re-appointed Abdullah as Afghanistan's Foreign Minister, but later in
2006, he replaced him with Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta.
Abdullah soon became a very vocal opponent of President Hamid Karzai's
government, and joined other former Ministers such as
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and
Ramazan Bashardost in accusing Karzai's administration of being corrupt and
having failed the Afghan people. On May 6, 2009, Abdullah officially registered
as an Independent candidate for the 2009 Afghan presidential election. Other
major candidates were the incumbent Hamid Karzai, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and Ramazan
When the preliminary results came out in September, it was announced that
Abdullah had come in second place, and that Hamid Karzai had the over 50%
majority needed to avoid a run-off election. According to Afghanistan's
constitution, a candidate must receive over 50% to win or a run-off election is
triggered. However, as soon as the elections had begun, reports of widespread
fraud (in Karzai's favor) were being reported. Journalists had reported numerous
instances of ballot stuffing and officials appointed by Karzai involved in the
cheating process. An investigation was done and Karzai's share of the vote in
the first round fell to 49.67% - after over one million of his votes were found
to be fraudulent.
This automatically triggered a run-off election. This made many in the
international community who funded the political process, and the country's head
of the Election Commission nervous in terms of the cost and the level of
security that will be needed for another election. There were even speculations
by many observers that the election was purposely rigged so that Karzai would
win in the first round - thus saving the costs associated with another election
Abdullah accused the head of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC),
Azizullah Ludin, who was appointed by Hamid Karzai as favoring Karzai and
rigging the votes. He demanded that Ludin step down or be removed from his seat
or he would not participate in the run-off election. One of Abdullah's senior
advisors, Ahmad Wali Masood, told reporters: "The fact is that the
infrastructure of this fraud is still there. Almost 1.5 million votes were
rigged. Nothing has changed...So if you go back and do the second round
election, it means that it will happen again. So, therefore, I don't think that
we would be willing to participate." Abdullah also demanded that various
Ministers (Interior, Education and Tribal Affairs) in Karzai's cabinet, be suspended from their positions during the election period. They were accused
of using their positions inappropriately to help Karzai in the election.
When his demands were not met, On November 1, 2009, in front of his supporters,
Abdullah announced that he will not participate in the run-off election. "Since
the election commission is not an independent body we cannot expect to have a
fair result and the outcome of the runoff would be more fraud-tainted than the
first round, so I have decided not to participate in it," Abdullah said. A day
later, the head of the IEC, Azizullah Ludin, announced Karzai as the winner and
Afghanistan's newly elected president. Ludin told reporters: "His Excellency
Hamid Karzai, who has won the majority of votes in the first round and is the
only candidate for the second round, is declared by the Independent Election
Commission as the elected president of Afghanistan."
In 2014, Abdullah Abdullah tried again to run for president. Since Karzai, by law, could not run again, the election was to be a very interesting one. Abdullah kept coming out in polls as the people’s favorite, and it really looked like he was going to win, until all of a sudden- it was announced that Ashraf Ghani had won the election. However, again, there were strong allegations (some even with evidence) of fraud, and Abdullah demanded a recount. When Ghani was declared the winner of the election even after the recount, there was intense pressure from the United States to come to a compromise, to avoid a potential parallel government being setup, and possibly, the division of Afghanistan. Abdullah finally agreed to being Ghani’s CEO, a newly made position, after the United States threatened to stop all aid to Afghanistan. This is the position Abdullah currently holds.
Abdullah is married and has four children - three daughters and a son. He
speaks Dari, Pashto, and English, and is proficient in Arabic and French.
by Abdullah Qazi on March 29, 2010 / last updated by S. Ghilzai on October 21, 2015
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