Biography of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah

Dr. Abdullah

by Abdullah Qazi on March 29, 2010
last updated by S. Ghilzai on October 21, 2015

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 King Mohammad 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 of Afghanistan.

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 Najibullah Ahmadzai’s 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 Hamid Karzai. 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 Bashardost.

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 round.

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.

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