Last updated by Abdullah Qazi – November 27, 2007
Mohammad Yunis Qanuni is currently the Speaker of the Lower House (Wolesi Jirga) in Afghanistan’s National Assembly. He was elected Speaker after receiving 122 votes; his closest challenger Abdul Rasul Sayaf received 117 votes. Qanuni is also the founder and head of the New Afghanistan political party (Hezb-e-Afghanistan Naween) formed in late 2004. He was also a co-founder of the National Movement of Afghanistan (Hizb-e Nahzat-e Melli-ye Afghanistan). During the Mujahideen government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Qanuni served in various high level government positions. When the Taliban came on the scene, Qanuni worked closely with Ahmad Shah Masood to put together the United National and Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (UNIFSA). UNIFSA was composed of various political parties/groups brought together in their common struggle against Taliban rule in Afghanistan. It primarily consisted of Jamiat-e Islami, Hezbe-e Wahdat, Harakat-i-Islami, Haji Qadeer’s eastern Shura, and Ittihad-i-Islami Barai Azadi Afghanistan. In the western media, it is incorrectly referred to as the Northern Alliance.
After the Taliban fell from power, Qanuni served as the Interior Minister in Afghanistan’s Interim Administration headed by Chairman Hamid Karzai. The administration was put together in Bonn, Germany in late 2001. When Afghanistan’s Transitional Government was formed in 2002, Hamid Karzai chose Qanuni to be his Education Minister. Close to the presidential elections in late 2004, Qanuni took his own path and declared himself a presidential candidate, challenging Hamid Karzai. Qanuni lost to Karzai, however, it was reported that when Karzai was putting together his new cabinet, Qanuni was offered the Ministry of Defense. Qanuni rejected the cabinet position, and instead decided to create his own political party (New Afghanistan Party) to challenge Karzai and allies in future elections.
On March 31, 2005, Qanuni announced the formation of a political alliance named Jabahai Tafahim Millie or National Understanding Front. According to Qanuni, the goal of the alliance was not war against the government, but to establish a legal body to monitor and serve as a check on the government as a political bloc. The most important aim for the alliance, he added, was to try to change the strong presidential system enshrined in the Afghan Constitution into a parliamentary system in order to create a more representative governing system. “A government without a parliament or opposition will drift towards dictatorship,” The New York Times” quoted Qanuni as saying on March 31, 2005. The formation of the alliance was welcomed by President Hamid Karzai. Karzai stated said that he appreciated Qanuni’s initiative to establish an opposition front to the government that is within the democratic framework and he regarded the move as “an important step towards strengthening democracy” in Afghanistan. Karzai wished Qanuni and his colleagues success.
When Qanuni was elected Speaker of the lower house, he resigned as the head of the National Understanding Front. Today, the National Understanding Front is no longer active. However, on March 13, 2007, the formation of a new political grouping called the United Front of Afghanistan was announced in Kabul. The goals of this group are very similar to goals Qanuni’s National Understanding Front had put forth. The new United Front also wants to amend Afghanistan’s constitution in order to transform the political system from a presidential system into to a parliamentary system. The group also wants provincial governors elected rather than selected by the president. Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the former defense minister, Ismael Khan, the former governor of Herat and Mustafa Zahir, a grandson of king Zahir Shah are all members. Burhanuddin Rabbani was chosen as its leader. Qanuni has also joined this group, but has taken on a much quieter role.
Mohammad Yunis Qanuni was born in 1958 in the Panjsher Valley. He is married and has 6 kids (3 daughters and 3 sons).