by S. Ghilzai / October 21, 2015
Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai 1 is the current President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He was born in 1949 in the province of Logar to a wealthy Pashtun family. Spending his early years in Logar, Ghani went on to attend Habibia high school in Kabul. For his Bachelor’s degree, Ghani attended the American University of Beirut for Anthropology. At the time the American University of Beirut was a world-renowned learning establishment. This is where he met his future wife, Rula Ghani, a Lebanese Christian woman, with whom he shares two children with. After his degree, Ghani came back to Afghanistan to teach at Kabul University and subsequently won a government scholarship to attend Columbia University in New York City to pursue his Master’s degree in 1977.
During his studies, the communists invaded Afghanistan, and most of Ghani’s family was imprisoned, so Ghani stayed put in the United States, and started working on his PhD, also at Columbia. His thesis was titled ‘Production and domination: Afghanistan, 1747-1901’. This would be a foreshadowing of Ghani’s career and later works, mixing Anthropology and Economics.
After his PhD studies, Ghani moved onto teaching at universities around the U.S, as well as working for BBC’s Pashto and Dari units, broadcasting to Afghanistan. Throughout the time of war in Afghanistan, Ghani worked at the World Bank. After the 2001 American-led invasion and removal of the Taliban from power, Ghani went back to Afghanistan and worked as Finance Minister (under Hamid Karzai) and Chancellor of Kabul University. Ghani also co-founded the Institute for State Effectiveness. Together with Clare Lockhart, Ghani wrote a book titled The Framework: Fixing Failed States published in 2008 with Oxford University Press.
Ghani moved between the East and the West, giving TED talks in English to sold out audiences, and never letting his Pashto falter in a room full of elders. When Ghani ran for President of Afghanistan in 2014, he was a top contender because of this fact, because of his seamless permeability into both territories. He was Afghanistan’s modern-day technocrat, yet at the same time staunchly Pashtun.
A major criticism Ghani encountered, especially in international eyes, was taking General Abdul Rashid Dostum as his running mate (after calling him a known killer in a earlier interview). Of course, Afghan presidental candidates try to garner as much support by having a “well-rounded” ballot, representing different ethnic groups, areas, sects, and since Dostum has a lot of support in the North, juxtaposed with Ghani’s ‘Pashtunism’, it makes sense, but is a bit jarring.
When Ghani was declared the winner of the election, he agreed to a compromise – making Abdullah Abdullah the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) – a newly created position- to avoid a potential parallel government being setup. Abdullah agreed after intense pressure from the United States, as they had threatened to stop all aid if he didn’t.
So far, Ghani has meant well, trying to rid the country of corruption, making surprise visits to hospitals, and cutting down the Palace’s expenditure. However, the Taliban have encroached closer on Kabul than they have ever before.
Note: Ashraf Ghani’s full name is Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, however, he prefers to go by just Ashraf Ghani, and has made a formal request regarding this. Many believe that during the 2014 presidential elections, he used his full name (Ahmadzai) when campaigning in order to further identify himself as a Pashtun.
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