Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

New Faces Versus Old Structures: Afghanistan’s national unity cabinet (amended)

AAN Team 19 min

Finally, Afghanistan has a cabinet, pending parliament’s approval of course, three and a half months after Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah were inaugurated as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of a national unity government. Getting an agreed-upon list has been a long, painful process, for both negotiators and for Afghans waiting for a government to start governing the country. As the AAN team reports, we have a reasonably new set of faces (with one or two very familiar faces from earlier eras) and a lack of the sort of ‘commander heavy-weight types’ seen in previous administrations.

Some of the cabinet candidates (left to right: sitting: Rabbani, Maiwandi, Karimi, standing: Ulumi) at today's press conference. Photo: screenshot from Ariana TV.Some of the cabinet candidates (left to right: sitting: Rabbani, Maiwandi, Karimi, standing: Ulumi) at today's press conference. Photo: screenshot from Ariana TV.

We have given biographical information for the appointments at the end of the dispatch. This will be added to as we get more information, particularly on some of the lesser known new ministers.

In front of all the ‘inaugurated’ members of the government – the president, CEO and their assorted deputies as well as a number of advisors –, the presidential spokesman announced the names of the candidates for 25 ministries and two for other senior positions (director of NDS who is also a cabinet member and the head of the Central Bank) live on national television. As the spokesman said, these are all ‘candidate ministers’; approval for their appointments is needed by parliament. Karzai did frequently keep ministers on as acting ministers after the parliament rejected them , so this could be an option, too this time, but not an ideal one.

Indeed, getting approval from the MPs has proved tricky in the past, and costly, especially for those without natural allies in the parliament who can be mobilised cheaply or without payment to support them. (AAN has reported on MPs taking payments for ‘yes’ votes, see here and here.) Also, several of the ministers have been in exile and may well have gained second nationalities in the process. This is not permitted for ministers and the parliament tends to take a dim view of second passports.

Who’s in the cabinet?

An initial look at the list reveals a lack of heavy-weights – not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be flagged up. There are none of the party-affiliated former commanders seen in previous cabinets, no-one like Bismillah Khan, former Interior and Defence Minister, or Ismail Khan, formerly Minister for Water and Power, or former NDS chief Aref Sarwari who had been a hot candidate for Interior. The possible exception is General Nur ul-Haq Ulumi (Interior), a Parchami activist who rose to become governor-general of the Kandahar ‘zone’ in the late 1980s, during the PDPA regime, but he is now in his 70s and, up till now, has appeared to have relatively weak networks of his own and has mainly been relying on his political alliance with Abdullah.

There are senior members from tanzims (political-military formations originating from the decades of factional wars) in this cabinet, but they tend to be from their civilian wings and – with a few exceptions – were not prominent during earlier phases of the conflict. They include Faizullah Zaki (Transport), former PDPA youth activist and later Jombesh stalwart, most recently the party’s deputy chairman; Mahmud Saiqal (Water and Power) and Zalmai Yunusi (Education), both Jamiat-e Islami intellectuals; Salahuddin Rabbani (Foreign Affairs), the son of the former Jamiat leader and president Borhanuddin Rabbani; and former MP Sayed Hussein Alemi Balkhi (Refugees), one of the founders of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami. There is also Jailani Popal (Finance), former deputy leader of the political party Afghan Mellat.

Ghani stuck to his promise not to re-appoint former ministers or serving MPs. (See our reporting during the long wait for the cabinet and issues at stake here, here and here.) His desire that his ministers should have some sort of professional background suitable to their new job looks to have been somewhat, but not completely honoured. Kakar and Firuz (Anti-Narcotics and Public Health) have a medical background; Maiwandi, with degrees in engineering and management, was nominated for Urban Development. But for example, Saiqal (an architect) is running the nation’s water and electricity supplies. Zaki and Najiba Ayubi (both journalists) did not get Information and Culture, while this ministry will be run by someone with experience, in her province, in labour and social affairs (Ai Sultan Khairi).

It is not always obvious just from the names who – Abdullah or Ghani – had proposed whom for particular ministries as many do not have obvious party affiliations to the two leaders or their key backers in the election campaign (although there are lists detailing this, here for example, in Dari; Abdullah’s nominees are listed in English here).

At the same time, this does not mean that the lesser known minister candidates do not belong to certain political organisations or networks. Also, that some candidates ended up with ‘unlikely’ ministries indicates that they became victims of political, ethnic or even gender balancing. (Zaki was said earlier to be a candidate for Information and Culture which would have seemed a better fit.)

A fine balance

Getting a balance of backgrounds and affiliations – and expertise – in the key ministries – interior, defence, NDS, finance and foreign affairs – appears to have been the main sticking point. Names for Interior included Shura-ye Nazar/Jamiat-e Islami stalwarts, like Sarwari and Amrullah Saleh, both former NDS bosses, and Atiqullah Baryalai, a former deputy minister of defence. All appear to have been rejected by Ghani. Ulumi is an interesting compromise choice here. Like the other heads of the security services (and the National Security Council – Hanif Atmar), he is Pashtun, but also a long-term, loyal political ally (against the majority of the members of his National United Party) of Dr Abdullah, supporting him since he (Ulumi) was elected to the first parliament in 2005 and later in the 2009 and 2014 elections. He was a committed Parchami of Abdullah’s old enemies in the PDPA during the jihad, but one who worked with the mujahedin when appointed to Kandahar during Najibullah’s ‘national reconciliation’ years, getting a tacit mutual ceasefire into place that held during the last Najib years. He also handed over power in the capital when the Najibullah government fell in 1992 to the mujahedin.

Ghani really wanted Popal at Finance despite Abdullah’s misgivings that he was just rewarding him for support during the election; Popal was one of the deputy ministers when Ghani headed the finance portfolio (2004-06). Later Popal became powerful as head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance. There, he was seen as a Karzai loyalist, although it seems he may have resigned over unhappiness with Karzai’s ‘partisan’ appointments. Abdullah nominee Rabbani at Foreign Affairs was, like Nabil (who stays on at NDS) and Karimi at MoD, a fairly fixed name mentioned repeatedly from the start.

We do now have three professional people heading up the Afghan National Security Forces at a time when the insurgency has intensified. Two, however, are not youngsters anymore: Karimi turns 70 this year, and Ulumi is already in his 70s.

Mainly young, inexperienced, three women only

Generally, though, this is a young and fairly inexperienced cabinet – not many have a history in government or of running big organisations. (There are four former deputy – or caretaker – ministers: in addition to Popal, they are Kakar, Durani and Firuz.) Whether that will be a weakness or a breath of fresh air remains to be seen. It may be, though, that the need to compromise led to some weaker candidates slipping in. If nothing else, there will be interesting days ahead at some of the ministries: the ministry of education, for example, run previously by the Hezb-e Islami member Faruk Wardak, now gets a minister with a background in Tajik leftist nationalism. Also in the same cabinet, Zaki and Yunusi know each other from earlier days as leading officials in their respective, heavily competing organisations, Jombesh and Jamiat, during armed clashes in and around Mazar-e Sharif in 2002/03. They also, however, worked with the United Nations to settle the conflict.

The initially suggested quota of four female ministers – similar to Karzai’s first interim administration – was not achieved. There are three women among the 27 candidates. They include Najiba Ayubi, director of the Killid media group for Women’s Affairs, Khatera Afghan (for Higher Education), from the influential Wasefi family in Kandahar, but still possibly the least known on the ministers’ list, and Ai Sultan Khairi (Information and Culture).

It should also be noted that there are still some key appointments to be made, not just deputy ministers, but also the Attorney General and Director of the Independent Directorate of Local Government as well as the Chief Justice and the provincial governors.


The appointments with biographies

(sources for nomination by both sides – Ghani = AG; Abdullah = AA – here and here)

Defence: Sher Muhammad Karimi (AG)

Sher Muhammad Karimi was born in Khost in 1945. He is currently head of the Afghan National Army and is a professional officer, trained before the 1978 Saur Revolution. He was either the first or second Afghan to attend the elite British officer training academy Sandhurst in the 1960s and also received training, in the 1970s, at the National Defence College of India and the US Army Command and General Staff College where he completed the Special Forces, Airborne, and Ranger training programs. He was a member of Daud Khan’s presidential guard when the PDPA seized power in 1978 and was detained by first communist president Nur Muhammad Taraki. He was released, family sources said, by Taraki’s successor, Hafezullah Amin. He returned to serving in the army, before, at some point, fleeing to Pakistan. Post-2001, he has risen through the ranks in the ANA, eventually becoming chief of operations and chief of the general staff.

Interior: Nur ul-Haq Ulumi (AA)

General Ulumi, a Barakzai Pashtun from Kandahar, was born in 1941. He was an activist in the Parcham wing of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and an army officer – trained both in the USSR and the US – before the 1978 Saur coup. Although detained in Pul-e Charkhi as a political prisoner early on, he subsequently rose through the ranks of the security forces. He was appointed in charge of the Second Corps in Kandahar and then as the Kandahar (‘southwestern’) zone’s governor-general. Credited with good relations with the local mujahedin during that time, he kept Kandahar stable and under government control for three years after the Soviet withdrawal. Subsequently, as the man in charge of Kabul, he handed over control of the city to the mujahedin in 1992. He subsequently went into exile in the Netherlands, returning to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taleban, when he established the National United Party (Hezb-e Mutahed-e Melli) in Kabul in 2003, in a (failed) attempt to re-unite different post-PDPA leftist groups (more background here). He was voted into parliament as a Kandahar MP in 2005, where he was a strong anti-Karzai’s voice. He failed to win his seat again in the 2010 elections. He has long been a staunch ally of Dr Abdullah, hosting him at rallies in Kandahar, and a member of the National Front of Afghanistan.

Foreign Affairs: Salahuddin Rabbani (AA)

Salahuddin Rabbani rose to prominence rapidly after his father, former President Borhanuddin Rabbani, was murdered in September 2011 by a suicide bomber. He ‘inherited’ his father’s position as chair of the High Peace Council and acting head of Jamiat-e Islami. However, Rabbani does have experience in diplomacy, as ambassador to Turkey (2010 to 2011) and political counsellor at the Afghan mission to the United Nations. He has also worked in the private sector in the Gulf and has substantial education: a BSc in Marketing and Management from the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and Masters degrees in International Affairs from Columbia University and Business Administration from Kingston University. Rabbani was an Abdullah choice, but one which appeared not to be particularly controversial with the Ghani team; his name was in the foreign affairs slot for a long time (see biography here and here).

Finance: Ghulam Jailani Popal (AG)

Popal was a key member of Ghani’s campaign and served as one of Ghani’s deputies (for Revenues and Customs) at the ministry of finance (2003–2005). Popal’s last job in government was a key one, the first Director General at the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) (2007-2010), which had been intended as a mechanism for merits-based appointments. As reported in AAN’s e-book “Snapshots of an Intervention”, however, “the IDLG, rather than being a neutral mechanism for generating policy and representing the interests of subnational tiers of administration and local populations, became another arena for political contestation and the centralising instincts of the government, possibly contributing to Popal’s resignation in 2010” (e-book here; see the chapter by Hamish Nixon).

Popal has a long history as senior manager with NGOs, working as a programme officer with the Salvation Army Refugee Assistance Program (1982–1989) and managing the Afghan Development Association (ADA) (1990–2000). He also lived in the US for three years (2000-2003) where he worked as a senior social worker in San Joaquin County, California (2000–2003). He is also a former deputy leader of the Afghan Mellat party, consisting of Pashtun nationalists (although the party has tried to widen its membership in recent years). Popal has a degree in political science from Kabul University (1978; see also here).

Justice: Ahmad Sayer Mahjur (AA)

Ahmad Sayer Mahjur is a Tajik from Baghlan, born, according to Pajhwok news agency, in 1965 and, according to Hezb-e Islami, introduced by them for the cabinet.  Mahjur completed his education in Pakistan (Islamic Studies) and went to France in 1992 where he obtained an MA degree in political philosophy from Nanterre University of Paris. He has additional degrees from respectively Rouen University in France, where also worked as a lecturer, and Durban University.

Education: Muhammad Gul Zalmay Yunusi (AA)

Zalmai Yunusi is a Tajik from Balkh, born in 1958. He has a degree in law and political science from Kabul University. He was a prominent member of the Jamiat-e Islami party in the northern provinces in the post-2001 period onwards and is close to Balkh’s governor, Atta Muhammad Nur. He served as his deputy for political affairs when Nur was commander of Army Corps No 7 in Mazar-e Sharif and as his political advisor when Atta became governor. In 2002, he was a member of the UNAMA-brokered northern security commission, established after Jombesh-Jamiat clashes. At the same time, he was in charge of the political affairs of Jamiat-e Islami for northern Afghanistan (Balkh TV, Mazar-e Sharif, 17 March 2003). During that period, as a delegate to the 2003 Constitutional Loya Jirga, he was one of the major spokesmen of the ‘northern’ opposition against the presidential system and for larger provincial autonomy, the so-called 11 Jaddi Front (mainly composed of Jamiatis, Jombeshis and northern leftists; he is reported to have belonged to a leftist ethno-nationalist group, SAZA, in the past). In 2005, he ran unsuccessfully for a Balkh seat for the Wolesi Jirga, but later was given a seat as successor to a local MP who had been assassinated. Yunusi ran again in 2010, but was not re-elected. Later, he worked in the ministry of foreign affairs and the Attorney General’s office. In 2009, he was head of Mr Abdullah’s provincial campaign team during the presidential campaign.

Women’s Affairs: Najiba Ayubi (AA)

Najiba Ayubi, born in 1968, is from Parwan province. She has a Bachelor degree in Dari literature from the Parwan Institute of Pedagogy, looks back on a long career in journalism career and has a background in human rights. She has worked for Save the Children and been the managing director of the Killid Group, a well-known Afghan media group, that runs eight local radio stations and two weekly nation-wide magazines. She was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award in 2013 by the International Women’s Media Foundation (read here and here).

Public Works: Ghulam Abbas Basir (AG)

Dr Ghulam Abbas Basir is a Hazara from Ghazni province and was born in 1968. He has a Masters degree in Sharia from the Global Centre for Islamic Studies in Qum, Iran, and a PhD and a second Masters in International Law from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. He was chief of staff for Second Vice President Karim Khalili from 2011 until 2014. Before that, he served as senior adviser and policy deputy for the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) from 2009 to 2011, as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in New Delhi (2006-9) and as deputy and acting head of the Department of Cultural Relations at the ministry of foreign affairs (2003-6).

Public Health: Firuzuddin Firuz (AA)

Pajhwok news agency reports that Firuzuddin Firoz was born in 1971 and studied medicine at “various universities such as Jaipur University in India, the Medical Academy of Afghan Army, and Kabul University.” According to Tolo, he has a degree in administration from London and has served as a deputy public health minister and World Bank advisor at the Iraqi public health ministry. He is from Panjshir province.

Agriculture: Yaqub Haidari (AG) updated

Yaqub Haidari is a 53 year old Tajik from the Guldar-e Koh Daman area in the Shomali plains, north of Kabul. In an interview with Tolo News, he said he had gone to a technical school in Kabul and gained an MA in the Soviet Union. He said he “worked a short time with the government”; sources in the Ghani camp said this had been with the intelligence agency, KhAD. Haidari said he had started business in Eastern Europe and Russia in 1989 and had a number of agriculture factories and dairies as well as grazing land. Later, he started an import-export business for agricultural and dairy products in Afghanistan and this regularly took him to Eastern Europe and Russia. He said his business was today focused on construction, IT and still the export and import of agricultural products. Haidari is said to still have good relation with Russia and East European countries, especially Lithuania. He said he had been working as an advisor for Ahmad Zia Massud since 2002 and had headed up his 2014 presidential campaign team and they had put his name forward for this ministry.

Since Haidari was named as the government’s choice for minister of agriculture, it has transpired that, as he is wanted in Estonia for “large-scale tax evasion and fraudulent conversion” (see this notice posted by Interpol). He confirmed to Reuters that he is wanted, but said he was innocent and the taxes were owed not by him, but by a person who had bought a company from him that did business in Estonia: “I am being targeted by a political conspiracy. When you enter the world of business and politics, this is what happens.”

Mines: Daud Shah Saba (AG)

Daud Shah Saba, a Popalzai Pashtun, was born in 1964 in Herat. He has a BA in Geology from the Polytechnic in Kabul and an MA and PhD in Geology from Mumbai University in India. He taught at the Kabul Polytechnic from 1986 to 1993 and then emigrated to Canada. He has worked in international development, national resources and environmental management, including as deputy of IRD, as Human Development Adviser to President Karzai, and as the head of Afghan-based consulting companies Afghan Green Leaf Consulting and, more recently, Afghan Strategic Resources. Saba was governor of Herat from August 2009 until June 2013. Tensions between him and Herati strongman, Ismail Khan, were legendary – they eventually forced his resignation (see more detail from AAN, here and a general bio here) .

Telecommunication: Barna Karimi (AG)

Barna Karimi, a Hazara, was born in Kabul in 1974. He studied General Medicine for one year until, in the summer of 1992, Kabul University closed. He has a MA in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix (2003) and worked for several companies in the US until he returned to Afghanistan. There he became deputy chief of staff in the president’s office in 2005. He was appointed as deputy for policy affairs of the Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG) in 2007 and Ambassador to Canada in 2012. He left the embassy in June 2013 to work in the private sector.

Rural Rehabilitation and Development: Nasir Durrani (AA)

Nasir Durani, a Pashtun from Logar, was, according to the head of Hezb-e Islami’s youth department, Saifuddin Omarkhel, introduced by the party. Pajhwok news agency said he has a “development degree from the Nebraska University in the US,” and an “engineering degree from the Kabul Polytechnic University.”  According to Tolo, he has worked as deputy/acting minister of mines and is 62 years old.

Higher Education: Khatira Afghan (AG)

Khatira Afghan is a member of the Wasefi family of the Pashtun Alekozai tribe from Kandahar city. (The family’s elder, Azizullah Wasefi was a minister under President Daud in the 1970s but supported the return of former King Muhammad Zaher to head post-Taleban Afghanistan. This brought him into strong opposition to fellow Kandahari Hamed Karzai. Later, Karzai and Wasefi reconcilied.) She studied at Kabul University and obtained a Masters degree in the US (currently no information about the field of study). She is working in UNICEF’s Kabul office.

Energy and Water: Mahmud Saiqal (AA)

Saiqal is member of a prominent Kabul family with Tajik and Pashtun elements in his background. He graduated as an architect from the Universities of Canberra and Sydney. His elder brother Amin teaches at the Australian National University) where Mahmud Saiqal himself worked on a temporary contract in 2013. His political and diplomatic career started when he joined the diplomatic service during Burhanuddin Rabbani’s mujahedin government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan (ISA) during the 1990s. He became First Secretary and then Minister Counsellor to Japan (1993-94). He later moved to Australia, where he also worked as an architect in Canberra, and was made the ISA’s Honorary Consul for Afghanistan (1994-2002).

The Karzai government appointed him ambassador to Australia and New Zealand (2002-2005). From 2005 to 2006, he served as deputy minister of foreign affairs for international cooperation and development. He says he resigned from the position because of Karzai’s inactivity regarding the corruption in his ministry. As
UNDP adviser, he assisted in writing the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. He was also acting CEO of the Dehsabz City Development Authority (Financial Times 29 May 2008, not online) and senior adviser to the Independent Board of New Kabul City Development.

Saikal has long been one of the closest advisers to Dr Abdullah and helped him in establishing a political opposition coalition with Jamiat at its centre, first called Change and Hope (Taghir wa Omid), later National Coalition. Here, he was responsible for international affairs. He is pro-decentralisation. Outspoken and sharp, Saikal is often a guest on Afghan TV talk shows. In 2014, he was a key member of Dr Abdullah’s negotiation team regarding the formation of the national unity government. It was said he had had hopes for the ministry of foreign affairs.

Labour, Martyrs, Disabled & Social Affairs: Sayed Sadat Naderi (AG)

Sayed Sadat Naderi is the son of the religious leader of one of the main branches of the Afghan Ismaili sect and former militia commander allied with the PDPA (and after 1992 the ‘Northern Alliance’), Sayed Mansur Naderi, also known as Sayed-e Kayyan. (The family’s headquarter is in the Kayyan valley of Baghlan.) Sadat Naderi has a BA in Economics/International Business from the University of London (1999). According to Tolonews, he was on the board of the Afghan central bank. He is also the chairman of Afghan Gold and CEO of SMN Investments, a privately held group of companies active in nearly all of Afghanistan’s main economic sectors – including fuel import and storage, construction, precious metals and gems, security, property dealing, advertising, supermarkets and insurance (also providing coverage for the Aynak Copper Mine). Sadat Naderi was awarded the 2012 Peace through Commerce award by the United States Department of Commerce.

Refugees: Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi (AA)

Alemi Balkhi was born in 1965 in Balkh province. He has a PhD in Islamic Studies and Jurisprudence from Iran and has published six books on the subject. He was the founder of the Jebha-ye Mutahed-e Enqelab-e Eslami (United Front of Islamic Revolution), one of the eight Shia mujahedin factions which, in 1989, merged to form Hezb-e Wahdat Islami. He was a member of the new party’s Supreme Monitoring Council.

Balkhi was Minister of Commerce in Rabbani’s mujahedin government, from 1994 until the Taleban took control of Kabul in 1996. In the presidential election of 2004, he ran as second deputy to presidential candidate Yunus Qanuni. In 2005, he was elected as a parliamentarian and re-elected in 2010, both times in Kabul. Balkhi resigned from parliament in 2013 to run as second deputy for Gul Agha Sherzai in the presidential election. He is a member of the Shia Ulema council and of the Afghanistan Brotherhood Council. He is owner of the daily newspaper Rah-ye Nejat.

Haj and Religious Endowments: Faiz Muhammad Usmani (AG)

According to Tolonews, Usmani is 42 years old and a Turkmen from Kunduz. He has a degree in Islamic education and has worked as a university lecturer. He became better known when he began hosting a religious programme on Tolo TV.

Counter-narcotics: Faizullah Kakar (AG)

Faizullah Kakar is a Pashtun from Gurziwan in Faryab province. While studying medical science at Kabul University, he received a scholarship from Earthham University in the US, where he completed his bachelor degree. He has an MA in Toxicology from Indiana University and a PhD in Epidemiology from Washington University. He served as minister-adviser on health and education affairs, deputy minister of public health and advisor to the World Health Organisation, as well as a lecturer at Washington University’s public health department. According to Tolonews, he also was an advisor to President Karzai. In 1988, he moved to Peshawar where he served as the head of the Islamic University. He reportedly has Hezb-e Islami links, but is said not to be a ‘hardliner.’

Information and Culture: Ai Sultan Khairi (AG)

The third female nominee in the cabinet, Ai [not Aya] Sultan Khairi, is a lecturer at Kabul University. According to the CV, she was born in 1965, did a degree at Kabul University in 1983 (no subject mentioned) and later went back to university in Turkey where she studied for an MA (2004-2007). In between, she served as the head of the labour and social affairs department in Balkh (1995-1998) during Dostum’s rule there before Mazar was taken by the Taleban. At that point, she fled to Pakistan and ran a school. Khairi is from a very well-known ‘old’ Uzbek family from Faryab. Her grandfather, according to a cousin, Kazim Amini, was Amir Delawar Khan who was famous for having had his own local administration and of having been assassinated by King Abdul Rahman Khan. Her uncle, well-known poet Nazar Muhammad Nawa, was elected to the 1949 parliament and her father, Abul Khair Khairi, a senator, was the founder of a northern pan-Turkist group, Ittehad wa Taraqi, or Unity and Progress which supported the then liberal opposition to Zaher Shah. Later, according to Khairi’s cousin, the Zaher Shah government seized the family assets and land and they escaped from Faryab. However, Khairi may owe her current position to more recent political connections: as well as having served in Dostum’s 1990s administration in Mazar, her brother, Humayun Khairi, is a prominent intellectual and Jombeshi (described as “spokesman of Dostum” in an RFE report on 7 March 2005 (not online)) and a former head of Dostum’s station, Ayna TV.

Tribes and Border Affairs: Qamaruddin Shinwari (AG)

Qamaruddin Shinwari, of the same eastern Pashtun tribe, is from Haska Mena district of Nangrahar. He studied at the Dar ul-Ulum-e Arabi of Kabul and graduated in 1979. Later on (no date given), he also attended courses at the Sharia Faculty of Kabul and in Pakistani madrasas. He calls himself ‘Sheikh’ (both Sheikh al-Quran and Sheikh al-Hadith). He is the brother of Mawlawi Jalaluddin Shinwari, the Taleban’s (pre-2001) attorney general and acting minister of justice who had a background in an early, later sidelined pro-royalist faction. Qamaruddin Shinwari is currently the leader of the Council of Tribes of the Eastern Provinces. He and his younger brother Noman Shinwari actively campaigned for Ghani in the east.

Economy: Sardar Muhammad Rahmanughli (AA)

Sardar Muhammad Rahmanughli is an Uzbek from a well-known family from Pashtun Kot district in Faryab. He studied at Balkh University and has a Master degree (media-related). He has worked as a lecturer at Balkh University, with the National Television and as the director of the commerce department in Balkh. He lived in Turkey for a while where he worked as the head of the Refugees Association and as director of the Turkish branch of Radio Azadi. Rahmanughli was an active supporter of Dr Abdullah in both 2009 and 2014 presidential elections. He served as a member of parliament for Faryab province in the first Wolesi Jirga (2005-2010), but was not re-elected in the 2010 parliamentary election.

Commerce: Sardar Muhammad Rahimi (AA)

Rahimi is a Hazara and originally from Uruzgan. He has a Masters degree in political science and a PhD in geopolitics and political geography, both from Tehran University. He is the head of the Afghan Association of Geopolitics (AAG), where he publishes most of his articles, and is the author of “Afghan Geopolitics in the Twentieth Century”. He is currently a university lecturer in a private university. Politically, he is close to Muhammad Muhaqeq. He served as the spokesman for the National Front of Afghanistan (NFA) in 2013 and was one of the spokesmen for the Dr Abdullah team during the 2014 presidential election.

Transport and Aviation: Faizullah Zaki

An Uzbek born in Kabul in 1958, he obtained a degree in geology from Kabul University and later in worked in journalism. He made it from communist youth functionary (DYOA head for Kabul in the 1980s) to deputy leader of Jombesh, a non-mujahedin tanzim, ie the military-political network established and led by now First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum. He left Afghanistan in the early 1990s and worked for a family firm in Uzbekistan. He became one of the major proponents of reforming and democratising Jombesh (background in this AAN paper), representing its non-commander wing and pro-federalism current. He comfortably won a Wolesi Jirga seat from Jowzjan in 2005, where he was far ahead of all other candidates with 20.6 per cent. When planning to run for a parliament seat in 2010, Dostum and nominal Jombesh leader Nurullah (who had own ambitions and lost) stopped him, fearing Zaki might become too independent.

Zaki was also spokesman for the short-lived National Front in 2012, combining Jamiat, Jombesh and other then anti-Karzai parties. Trademark: his long, greying hairdo.

Urban Development: Shah Zaman Maiwandi (AG)

Shah Zaman Maiwandi, was born in 1976 – which makes him one of the youngest ministers – and hails from the Maiwand district of Kandahar. He is Muhammadzai by tribe. He lived in Kabul as a child, then in Germany for a long time where he also obtained a Bachelor degree in industrial engineering, followed by an MBA and later on by a certificate from a university in Pennsylvania in operational management. In recent years, he worked with a private firm on capacity building for ANA and ANP, for example on literacy programs. He worked in the Ghani presidential campaign in PR and marketing.

National Security Directorate (NDS): Rahmatullah Nabil (stay on in his post)

Engineer Nabil, (see his official biography here and a fuller AAN biography here), a Pashtun from Jaghato district of Maidan Wardak, was born in 1970 and went to primary school in Kabul, and after the Soviet invasion, to secondary school in Peshawar. He studied for a degree in engineering in Peshawar at a private university and then worked as an engineer with NGOs and the UNHCR. In late 2002, Nabil was brought in by Karzai loyalist (and deputy advisor to the National Security Council), Engineer Ibrahim Spinzada, to be a security officer at the presidential palace. Nabil was one of several former UNHCR officers brought in by Ibrahim and was also a member of a group which was given specialised American training in order to guard the president. He eventually was promoted to head of the presidential special guards unit.

After eight years at the palace – when he became a general -, he was appointed the head of the Afghan intelligence agency. Nabil was replaced by Assadullah Khaled in 2013, but then brought back after a suicide attack on Khaled which left him in permanent ill-health. He is one of the few senior officials who have survived the 2014 election in place and has always been considered a staunch Karzai loyalist.

Director of the Central Bank: Khalil Sediq (AG)

Sediq, a Pashtun from Logar, moves from CEO of Afghanistan’s probably most successful bank, AIB (Afghanistan International Bank, his job since 2006), to head up the central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank (which he first worked for in 1971). Sediq holds a BA in macroeconomics from Kabul university and according to the website of Harakat, an investment organisation on which he is a board member, he “has 30 years experience as a central banker” and “commercial banker in Afghanistan and America.” He is also chairman of Afghanistan’s bank association and a director of the Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance.


Cabinet Ghani Nabil national unity government Popal Salahuddin Rabbani Sher Muhammad Karimi Ulumi