Ashraf Ghani: From academic to ‘state builder’

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appears to have secured a second term according to preliminary results.

During his time as finance minister, Ghani introduced a new currency and set up a tax system [Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]

Incumbent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is lovingly called Ghani Baba (or father) by his supporters, for his dream to rebuild the country.

Born in Afghanistan’s Logar province, the 70-year-old politician, academic, economist and former World Bank employee, is an ethnic Pashtun belonging to the Ahmadzai tribe.

Studying at New York’s Columbia University, he earned his Master’s degree and a PhD in the 1980s, teaching at several universities in the United States during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Just months after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Ghani returned home where he was assigned a United Nations special adviser role. That same year, under President Hamid Karzai, Ghani was appointed as finance minister in an attempt to recover the economy after the collapse of the Taliban government in 2001.

During his time as finance minister, until December 2004, he introduced a new currency and set up a tax system.

Ghani gave up his US passport to run for Afghan presidency in 2009 but did not find a support base, finishing fourth in the first round with less than 3 percent of the votes.

In 2014, he ran again. Ghani and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Abdullah failed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote and the election went into a runoff.


However, with the polls largely disputed with accusations of fraud, then-US Secretary of State John Kerry intervened and negotiated a power-sharing government.

Ghani was declared the new president while Abdullah became chief executive officer of the country.

During his tenure, Ghani brought strongman Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hezb-i-Islami back to Afghanistan after signing a peace deal which resulted in the UN sanctions against him being dropped.

Ghani has repeatedly called on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table and also offered for the group to form a legitimate political party. But the Taliban has repeatedly refused to negotiate with the government and called it the puppet of the US.

At a Geneva conference for Afghanistan in 2018, Ghani made an investment pitch describing business opportunities in the country, saying the country needed to focus on “market building”.

Ghani’s campaign for the 2019 polls was run under the slogan of “Dalwat Saaz” (or state builder). He picked Amrullah Saleh, a former spy chief who is an ethnic Tajik, as one of his two running mates. The other one was Sarwar Danish, who is an ethnic Hazara and one of Afghanistan’s two vice presidents.

Source: Al Jazeera