Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

2010 Elections 5: What’s in a name? Relatives of the powerful run for parliament (Updated)

Kate Clark 6 min

Khalili, Karzai, Dostum, Naderi, Gailani, Chamkani: the last names of a couple of dozen candidates in Saturday’s parliamentary elections are more famous than the candidates themselves. It is Nabil, not Karim; Jamil and Hashmat, not Hamed; and Qadir rather than General Abdul Rashid, who are running for election. In an election without parties, where the ideology of the two and a half thousand candidates is largely unofficial or confused, it is difficult to assess who is up and who is down in Afghan politics, but one clear trend is the high number of candidates who are the relatives of those already in power. AAN’s senior analyst, Kate Clark, and political analyst, Gran Hewad, have been looking at how the candidate lists illustrate who may be constituting the new Afghan elite – or rather, who from the younger generation is trying to find their place in the old elite.

Brothers of ministers, daughters of MPs and multiple relatives of heads of politico-religious networks are among the rather large number of relatives of those with clout, money or government positions standing for election. Some families are fielding multiple candidates. For instance fve scions of the Naderi family are running – sitting MP (Baghlan) and Ismaili militia leader, Sayyid Mansur, has two sons running, Olfat (Baghlan) and Jaffar (Badakhshan, his election office was burned down recently in Faizabad) -, a daughter, Farkhonda (Kabul), and a nephew, Sayyed Daud (Kunduz). There is also a son-in-law, Hossamuddin Haqbin (Baghlan), who is estranged from Mansur: whether or not his symbol – the axe – was chosen after finding out about his father-in-law’s – the palm tree – is not known.

Another politico-religious family, the Gailanis are fielding two candidates, both nephews of Pir Saheb Sayyed Ahmad: Mohammad Eshaq, a sitting MP in Paktika and Mahmoud Hossamuddin, a candidate in Ghazni. The governor of Helmand, Gulab Mangal, also has two close relatives running: his brother, al-Haj Nawab (Paktia) and son, Ajmal Gulab (Kabul).

Then there are the brothers: of General Dostum, of Second Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili, of the Ministers of Education and Finance, of the Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, of the Head of the National Security Council, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the deputy head of NDS; there is also the cousin of the Minister of Defence, the sister of the Chief of Staff of the Army and the brother-in-law of former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmai Khalilzad. The same candidate is also the father of the current Afghan ambassador to Qatar.

Some of those standing for parliament are men or women who have influence or substance in their own right. Zahera Sharif, sister of Chief of Staff, General Shir Mohammad Karimi, is a lecturer at Khost University and sitting MP for the province. One of her rivals admitted to AAN that Zahera was the only female candidate in the province able to do her own campaigning. But other relative-candidates may leave the voter wondering whether their only way into parliament will be on the coat-tails of their more powerful relatives. Often it all looks like an attempt to consolidate family fortunes, by having one member in the government and another in parliament. The synergies are obvious.

Also running are a number of candidates who are relatives of those who were killed while in office. Those trying to fill the shoes of the family shahidinclude the brothers of two men killed along with dozens of others, mostly children, in the 2007 attack on a sugar factory in Baghlan: Qudratullah Zaki (Takhar), brother of late MP Sebghatullah Zaki, and Ali Kazemi (Kabul), brother of Sayyid Mustafa Kazemi who was a commerce minister and jihadi factional leader (Sepah-e Pasdaran, Wahdat and finally his own Eqtedar-e Melli). Other relatives of the dead include Mujib al-Rahman Chamkani (Paktia), son of the Paktian MP, Fazl al-Rahman Chamkani, who was killed during the attack on the 2008 celebrations at the Kabul Stadium for mujahedin Victory Day and Makhdum Abdul Ali Mohammadi (Samangan), son of the MP, former Taliban governor of Bamyan and Jamiat commander, Mawlawi Mohammad Islam Mohammadi. Makhdum became an advisor to President Karzai after his father was murdered in early 2007 and was subsequently accused of helping get a presidential pardon for two men convicted of rape; the victim and her family had accused one of Mawlawi Islam’s sub-commanders of ordering the rape whilst working on his parliamentary campaign in 2005.

A fuller list of the ‘relative candidates’ appears at the end of the report.

It is not necessarily easy for non-Afghans to work out who exactly is related to whom. (Afghans, by contrast, often are able to reel out long lines of family genealogies.) Afghan methods of naming can easily obfuscate. Afghans have various choices of how to name themselves – their own name, with any or none of the following additions: father’s name, grandfather’s name, takhalus or nick name – which could be a tribe, a place, a nom de guerre or anything else which has taken their fancy. Like Karzai (the one from Karz village), Chamkani (a Pashtun tribe) or Karmal (friend of Labour[ers]).

Moreover, individuals can – and do – change their names mid-career. Women do not generally take their husband’s name, or sons and daughters that of their father – but they might do if they are urban, educated and modern (the opposite of their western feminist sisters). A candidate like Qadir Dostum who chooses to run under the takhalus of his powerful brother is clearly hoping it will bring in votes. For other candidates, it is less obvious that they are related to a powerful person because they share no name in common. Then there is the common name which only gives the appearance of a shared family, such as the two Chamkanis in the list below who actually belong to the same tribe, not family.

The 2010 elections have also seen the phenomena of posters featuring candidates against a backdrop of pictures of other people. One former Wahdat commander, Qadam Ali Khadem has a poster with a picture of himself as a wild, long-haired, young mujahed fighter, as if the younger self was father to the man. Other candidates claim to be the spiritual or political heirs of famous Afghans, picturing themselves with men like last year’s presidential contender, Dr Abdullah, General Dostum, Mohammed Muhaqiq and Sayyed Naderi.

Other ‘fathers’ appear to bless their ‘sons’ from beyond the grave. They include former presidents, Dr Najibullah and the 1973-78 President Sardar Da’ud Khan, Kings Amanullah, Habibullah and Bacha-ye Saqao, aka Habibullah II and one man who has fathered several political sons in West Kabul, the former leader of Hezb-e Wahdat, Abdul Ali Mazari, killed in mysterious circumstances by the Taleban in 1995.

One candidate, al-Hajj Mohammad Hassan Hussam (pictured above), head of the Qalam – Writers – Association (Kabul), has chosen the foremost Islamic thinker of the modern age, Sayed Jamal-uddin Afghani, to gaze alongside him into the voters’ eyes. Another, Ismat Qane (Kabul), has claimed several ‘fathers’, picturing himself on campaign posters with Mirwais Nike (the founder of a short-lived Ghilzai emirate), Ahmad Shah Durrani (or Abdali), aka Ahmad Shah ‘Baba’ (Father, i.e. the founder of ‘modern’ Afghanistan in 1747) and the defeater of the British, Wazir Akbar Khan.


AAN has managed to come up with the following list of relatives of the powerful running for parliament – in roughly alphabetical order. If we have missed anyone out, please let us know on the AAN Facebook page.

1. Abdul Wali Baz (Kabul), brother of Karim Baz, Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.

2. Adela Bahram (Kabul), sister-in law of the head of the Republican Party and head of the Policy Department of the President’s Office, Sebghatullah Sanjar.

3. Ahmad Wahid Taheri (MP for Herat) brother of Ragin Dadfar Spanta, Head of the National Security Council.

4. Ajmal Chamkani (Kabul), son of Haji Mohammad Chamkani, a tribal leader turned (party-less) vice president, who was acting president for two weeks during Dr Najibullah’s rule.

5. Dr Almas Bawar Zakhilwal (Kabul), brother of Minister of Finance, Omar Zakhilwal.

6. Ehsan Munawar (Nangrahar), brother-in law of Zalmai Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan and father of Wali Munawar, Afghan Ambassador to Qatar.

7. Ezzatullah Wasefi (Kandahar), former Farah governor and controversial former head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, son of Alekozai leader in Kandahar and former minister from Da’ud Khan’s government, Azizullah Wasefi.

8. The Gailanis: Sayyid Mahmud Hossamuddin (Ghazni), and Sayyid Eshaq (Paktika), both sons of the jihadi factional leader, Pir Sayyid Ahmad Gailani.

9. Hashmat Karzai (Kandahar), cousin of President Karzai and owner of the Asia Security Group (although ownership has recently been denied), and Jamil Karzai (another cousin and sitting MP for Kabul).

10. The Kufi sisters: Fauzia, MP (Badakhshan) and Mariam, hopeful candidate (Takhar).

11. Abdul Qader Imami Ghori, MP in Ghor, who, this time round, is standing as a candidate in Faryab, while his daughter Jamila Ghori runs in their home province.

12. Mirza Mangal (Paktia), brother of deputy Paktia governor, Abdul Rahman Mangal.

13. Mohammad Eshaq (Kandahar), brother of former Minister of Tribes and Borders and presidential advisor, Aref Nurzai.

14. Mohammad Zia Yari (Kabul), son of Senator Sulaiman Yari.

15. Haji Nabi Khalili (Kabul), brother of Second Vice President and leader of one of the split factions of Hizb-e Wahdat, Karim Khalili.

16. The Naderi family: Sayyid Mansur, MP (Baghlan) and former commander of an Ismaili militia; his son, former commander and former governor of Baghlan, Jaffar (Badakhshan); another son, Olfat (Baghlan); daughter, Farkhonda (Kabul); the nephew Sayyed Daud Naderi (Kunduz) and son-in-law, Hossamuddin Haqbin, who is not running under his in-laws’ name (Baghlan).

17. Qudratullah Zaki (Takhar), brother of the murdered MP, Sebghatullah Zaki.

18. Engineer Sher Wali Wardak (Kabul), brother of the Minister for Education, Faruq Wardak.

19. Sayyid Ali Kazemi (Kabul), brother of the late MP and leader of Eqtedar-e Melli, Sayyid Mustafa Kazemi, who was killed in the 2007 attack on the Baghlan Sugar factory.

20. Qadir Tariq (Kabul), cousin of the Minister of Defence, Rahim Wardak.

21. Zahera Sharif (Khost), MP, lecturer in Khost University and sister of General Shir Mohammad Karimi. Chief of Staff of the ANA.

22. Qadir Dostum (Jawzjan), brother of General Abdul-Rashid Dostam, factional leader of Jumbesh-e Melli.

23. Razia Sadat Mangal (Paktia), the daughter-in-law of former Interior Minister and Paktia governor, Taj Muhammad Wardak.

24. Al-Hajj Nawab Mangal (Paktia) is the brother of Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal, and Ajmal Gulab (Kabul) is his son.

25. Haji Fazel Seyyedkheli (Parwan) is the brother of Maulana Seyyedkhel, the police chief of Kunduz (and earlier of Parwan and Baghlan).

26. Muhammad Rahim Katawazai (Paktika) is the brother of this province’s former governor Muhammad Qayyum Katawazai, now deputy head of the NDS.


Democratization Elections Government