Who’s who in President Ashraf Ghani’s cabinet

After weeks of dilly-dallying and wild speculations, the national unity government finally announced the new cabinet on Monday. The widely-anticipated announcement was made in presidential palace in the presence of President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah, and other high-level government officials.

The new government had come under blistering criticism for delaying the announcement of new cabinet, which also gave rise to rumors and speculations about alleged rift between various camps in the government. There were reports that coalition leaders had serious differences over the composition of new cabinet and distribution of key portfolios. However, the Monday’s announcement put all speculation to rest.

We present the profile of each of the nominated ministers.

Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi – Minister of Defense
The 70 year old veteran army officer from Khost province served as Chief of Army Staff in the previous government headed by Hamid Karzai. Owing to his close association with President Ashraf Ghani, he has been assigned the key portfolio of Defense.

Gen. Karimi, who is fluent in Pashto, Dari and English, completed his primary education in Kabul. He has received military training from many prestigious military academies including National Military Academy  Kabul, Royal Military Academy  UK, Fort Bragg Academy US, National Defense College (NDC) India, besides others.

Following the 1978 coup by Soviet forces, Gen. Karimi was arrested and incarcerated by communist regime. During the government of Dr. Najibullah, he was appointed as a Director in Ministry of Defense. Unlike many other senior Afghan army officers, Gen. Karimi did not receive military training from Soviet forces. He was forced into exile in Pakistan and returned back after the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Gen. Noorul Haq Ulumi – Minister of Interior Affairs
The 75 year old seasoned military officer and politician from Kabul served as the Member of Parliament from 2005 to 2010. A close aide of Dr. Abdullah, he has been nominated as the Minister of Interior Affairs, an important cabinet post.

Gen. Ulumi went to Habibia High School in Kabul before joining the National Military Academy. He received military training both in Russia and in the U.S.

A respected parliamentarian with years of experience, he served as the Head of Defense Committee in Wolesi Jirga (lower house of Afghan Parliament). He is currently the leader of National United Party of Afghanistan, a small left-wing party in Afghanistan.

Earlier, Gen. Ulumi was a member of Parcham faction of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. He also served in Afghan army during the years of civil war and retired as the Lieutenant General. Apart from serving in various important positions in Afghan National Army, he also conducted training programs for army officers.

He served on frontlines during the famous Battle of Jalalabad, following which he was made the Governor of Kandahar. In 1980, he was imprisoned in the notorious Pul-i-Charkhi jail. Two years later, he left for Russia to complete his education and training.

Salahuddin Rabbani – Minister of Foreign Affairs
The elder son of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani and the noted diplomat, Salahuddin Rabbani is considered a close confidante of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. His name was doing rounds for past few weeks as a potential nominee for Foreign Ministry.

Born in 1972 in Kabul, Mr. Rabbani studied business management at King Fahd University, Saudi Arabia. He also studies at Kingston University, UK and Columbia University, US.

He has previously served as the Afghan Ambassador to Turkey. Following the assassination of his father, he was appointed the leader of Jamiat e Islami Party and Head of High Peace Council (HPC).

During the election campaign, he endorsed the candidature of Dr. Abdullah and was almost certain to get a cabinet berth in the national unity government. By handing over the Foreign Ministry to Mr. Rabbani, both President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah have shown confidence in him.

Ghulam Jilani Popal – Minister of Finance
The 58 year old is a prominent name in the political circles of Kabul.  Born in Kabul, where his family had moved after the national capital changed from Kandahar to Kabul, Mr. Popal studied at Habibia High School and Kabul University.

He later went abroad and pursued higher education at some American and European universities. Between 1982 and 1989, he was the program officer for Salvation Army Refugee Assistance Program in Pakistan. He was the founder of Afghan Development Association, and also one of the founding directors of Afghan Health and Development Services (AHDS).

Between 1995 and 1999, he served as the representative of Afghan civil society at United Nations. After the fall of Taliban, between 2003 and 2005, Mr. Popal served as Deputy in the Ministry of Finance under Karzai government.

Between September 2007 and December 2010, he served as the Director General of Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG). In 2012, he was appointed an advisor to President Hamid Karzai.  

Mahmud Saiqal – Minister of Energy and Water
Born and raised in Kabul, Mr. Saiqal has extensive experience in politics and humanitarian work. He has held many important positions in the previous government, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Saiqal had his primary education in Kabul and later studied architecture, besides international development and diplomacy from Australia. He has worked as an advisor to United Nations and as Afghan Ambassador to Australia. 

His new assignment as the Minister of Energy and Water is considered important as the new government looks to manage water resources inside Afghanistan and resolve disputes over water with some neighboring countries.

Shah Zaman Maiwandi – Minister of Urban Development
The 37 year old Shah Zaman Maiwandi is one of the youngest nominees in the new cabinet. Born in Kandahar province, he is considered a close associate of President Ashraf Ghani. During the election campaigning, he endorsed and campaigned for President Ghani.

Appointed as the Minister of Urban Development in the national unity government, Mr. Maiwandi has his task cut out. His biggest challenge would be solving the problems related to urban development and housing, especially in Kabul.

Sadat Mansoor Nadiri – Minister of Social Affairs
The 37 year old Sadat Mansoor Nadiri was born in Baghlan province and is a close confidante of President Ashraf Ghani. He is the son of Sayed Mansoor Nadiri, the spiritual leader of Ismaili community in Afghanistan and brother of prominent parliamentarian Farkhanda Zahra Nadiri.

Mr. Nadiri holds a degree in international trade from UK. Previously, he has served as an advisor for Bank Millie Afghanistan and worked with many international organizations in Afghanistan.

Khatera Afghan – Minister of Higher Education
The 36 year old Khatera Afghan is one of the three women nominees in the new cabinet of ministers and one of the youngest as well. Born in Kandahar province, Ms. Afghan’s name was proposed by President Ghani over many other contenders for the Ministry of Higher Education.

Ms. Khatera has a Master’s degree in public administration and has been active in political circles. It will be her first major political assignment and the biggest challenge for her would be improving the quality of higher education in Afghanistan.

Barna Karimi – Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology
The 39 year old Barna Karimi was born in Uruzgan province. He has a Master’s degree in business administration from Phoenix University, California. A nominee of Dr. Abdullah, Mr. Karimi has been entrusted the responsibility of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Mr. Karimi is not new to political arena. He has held many important positions in the past including Deputy Chief of Staff to President, and Ambassador to Canada.

Dr. Ahmad Seyar Mahjoor – Minister of Justice
Born in 1965 in Baghlan province, Dr. Ahmad Seyar Mahjoor has been nominated as the Minister of Justice. A close associate of Dr. Abdullah, he worked as an advisor to parliament previously.

Dr. Mahjoor has advanced degrees in Islamic studies and political science from Islamic University of Islamabad, Pakistan. He has also studied law, philosophy and sociology in France, and later taught at some French universities.

Dr. Abbas Basir – Minister of Public Works
The 52 year old Dr. Abbas Basir was born in Ghazni province of Afghanistan and is a close aide of President Ghani, who proposed his name for a cabinet post.

He has doctorate in environmental studies and has worked for various international organizations over the past 13 years, since the ouster of Taliban.

Faizullah Zaki – Minister of Transport
The 56 year old was born in Kabul and is a nominee of President Ghani’s camp. A seasoned politician, he studied geology at Kabul University.

In 2005, for the first time, Mr. Zaki was elected member of parliament from northern Jawzjan province. A member of Jumbish-i-Milli Party, his political affiliation is with first vice president Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Mr. Zaki aggressively campaigned for President Ghani and Gen. Dostum during the elections and it was almost certain that he will be rewarded with a cabinet berth.

Ay Sultan Khairi – Minister of Information and Culture
The 50 years old Ay Sultan Khairi hails from northern Faryab province and is a nominee of President Ghani’s camp. She is a member of Gen. Dostum’s Jumbish-i-Milli Party.

Dr. Khairi has a doctorate in literature and is one of the three women members in the new cabinet of ministers. She has been given the important Ministry of Information and Culture.  

Faiz Mohammad Osmani – Minister of Haj and Religious Affairs
The 42 year old Faiz Mohammad Osmani is a prominent religious scholar and media personality. Originally hailing from northern Kunduz province, Mr. Osmani is a nominee of President Ghani.

An ethnic Turkman, Mr. Osmani has a degree in Islamic Studies and has taught at Kabul University. He has also written many books on Islamic culture and civilization and hosts a show on Tolo TV.

Considering his academic background, he has been entrusted with the responsibility of Haj and Religious Affairs Ministry in the national unity government.

Najiba Ayoubi, Nominee for Ministry of Women Affairs
The 47 year old Najiba Ayoubi is from central Parwan province and is a nominee of Dr. Abdullah. Ms. Ayoubi has a degree in journalism and literature from Kabul University.

A prominent media personality, she has worked as Head of Radio Killid, a local radio station in Kabul. An ethnic Tajik, she vigorously campaigned for Dr. Abdullah’s team during the elections. 

Nasir Ahmad Durani – Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development
The 62 year old Nasir Ahmad Durani was born in central Logar province and is a nominee of Dr. Abdullah. He has a degree in development studies from Nebraska University, U.S. and another degree in engineering from Kabul Polytechnic University.

He has previously worked as Deputy Minister of Mines and campaigned for Dr. Abdullah’s team during the elections. His nomination for a cabinet post was almost certain.

Mohammad Gul Zalmai Younusi – Minister of Education
The 57 year old Mohammad Gul Zalmai Younusi is from northern Balkh province, nominated by Dr. Abdullah. He has a degree in law and political science from Kabul University. Earlier he worked as a prosecutor in the Attorney General Office (AGO).

Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz – Minister of Public Health
The 48 year old Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz was born in northern Panjsher province. An ethnic Tajik, he is a nominee of Dr. Abdullah in the new cabinet.

He is a doctor by training and has studied at Jaipur University, Medical Academy of Afghan Army, and Kabul University. He has previously worked as deputy Minister of Public Health and advisor for World Bank.

Sayed Hussain Alami Balkhi – Minister of Refugees and Repatriation
The 60 year old Sayed Hussein Alami Balkhi was born in northern Balkh province and is a nominee of Dr. Abdullah. He holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies from a university in Iran. He served as a member of cabinet in Hamid Karzai administration and was also a member of parliament.

Sardar Mohammad Rahman Oghli – Minister of Economy
The 46 year old Sardar Mohammad Rahman Oghli was born in northern Faryab province and is a nominee of Dr. Abdullah. He was part of the electoral team of Dr. Abdullah and campaigned vigorously for him in northern provinces. Mr. Oghli holds a Master’s degree in media studies.

Faizullah Kakar – Minister of Anti-Narcotics
Faizullah Kakar 60 was born in Faryab province of Afghanistan; he is a proposed minister of President Ashraf Ghani for Ministry of Anti-Narcotics. Earlier in Hamid Karzai’s administration, he had been working in high level government positions.  

Yaqoob Haidari – Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock
The 53 year old Yaqoob Haidari was born in Kabul and is a nominee of President Ghani. He was one of the active campaigners for President Ghani’s team during the elections.

Sardar Mohammad Rahimi – Minister of Commerce
The 36 year old Sardar Mohammad Rahimi is from Uruzgan province and is a nominee of Dr. Abdullah. He was one of the active members in Dr. Abdullah’s electoral team.

The youngest member in the new cabinet, Mr. Rahimi has a doctorate in political science and teaches at Kabul University. He belongs to the political outfit headed by Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and was previously the spokesman of Jabh-i-Mili Party.

Daud Shah Sabah – Minister of Mines
The 52 year old Daud Shah Sabah was born in Herat province of Afghanistan and is a nominee of President Ghani. He actively campaigned for President Ghani’s team during the elections.

Mr. Sabah did his schooling from Kabul, and later attended Kabul Polytechnic Institute and obtained a degree in economic geology. He taught in the same institute for six years.

He earned his doctorate in earth science from University of Mumbai in mid 1990s. He previously served as governor of Herat, his native province.

Qamarruddin Shenwari – Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs
Born in Nangarhar province, Qamarruddin Shenwari is a nominee of President Ghani. He was part of President Ghani’s electoral team.