Ashraf Ghani

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Ashraf Ghani
Ashraf Ghani August 2014.jpg
Chancellor of Kabul University
In office
22 December 2004 – 21 December 2008
Preceded by Habibullah Habib
Succeeded by Hamidullah Amin
Minister of Finance
In office
2 June 2002 – 14 December 2004
President Hamid Karzai
Preceded by Hedayat Amin Arsala
Succeeded by Anwar ul-Haq Ahady
Personal details
Born 1949 (age 64–65)
Logar, Afghanistan
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Rula Ghani
Children 2
Alma mater American University of Beirut
Columbia University
Religion Islam

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (Pashto: اشرف غني احمدزی‎, Persian: اشرف غنی احمدزی‎) is an Afghan politician and a candidate in the 2014 presidential election. He is usually referred to as Ashraf Ghani, while Ahmadzai is the name of his tribe, which some Pashtuns, like Ghani, use as their last name. Ghani previously served as Finance Minister and as a chancellor of Kabul University.

Before returning to Afghanistan in 2002, Ghani was a leading scholar of political science and anthropology. He worked at the World Bank working on international development assistance. As Finance Minister of Afghanistan between July 2002 and December 2004, he led Afghanistan's attempted economic recovery after the collapse of the Taliban government.

He is the co-founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, an organization set up in 2005 to improve the ability of states to serve their citizens. In 2005 he gave a TED talk, in which he discussed how to rebuild a broken state such as Afghanistan.[1] Ghani is a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, an independent initiative hosted by the United Nations Development Programme. In 2013 he was ranked second in an online poll to name the world's top 100 intellectuals conducted by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines,[2] ranking just behind Richard Dawkins. He previously was named in the same poll in 2010.[3]

Ghani came in fourth in the 2009 presidential election, behind Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, and Ramazan Bashardost. In the 2014 presidential election, Ghani placed second in the first round, qualifying for the run-off election against Abdullah. The official run-off results show Ghani in the lead,[4] though accused of mass fraud in which President Karzai was allegedly complicit in [5] and the UNAMA has warned it would be "premature" for either side to claim victory.[5]

His brother is Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, Grand Council Chieftain of the Kuchis.

Early years[edit]

Ghani was born in 1949 in the Logar Province of Afghanistan. He completed his primary and secondary education in Habibia High School in Kabul. He escaped to Lebanon to attend the American University in Beirut, getting a degree in 1973, where he also met his future wife, Rula Ghani. He returned to Afghanistan in 1977 to teach anthropology at Kabul University before being given a scholarship by the government in 1977 to study for a Master's degree in anthropology at Columbia University in the United States.

Academic career[edit]

When the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) communist party came to power in 1978, most of the male members of his family were imprisoned and Ghani was stranded in the United States. He stayed at Columbia University and earned his PhD in Cultural Anthropology. He was invited to teach at University of California, Berkeley in 1983, and then at Johns Hopkins University from 1983 to 1991. During this period he became a frequent commentator on the BBC Farsi/Persian and Pashto services, broadcast in Afghanistan. He has also attended the Harvard-INSEAD and World Bank-Stanford Graduate School of Business's leadership training program. He served on the faculty of Kabul University (1973–77), Aarhus University in Denmark (1977), University of California, Berkeley (1983), and Johns Hopkins University (1983–1991). His academic research was on state-building and social transformation. In 1985 he completed a year of fieldwork researching Pakistani Madrasas as a Fulbright Scholar. He also studied comparative religion.

World Bank[edit]

He joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East and South Asia through the mid-1990s. In 1996, he pioneered the application of institutional and organizational analysis to macro processes of change and reform, working directly on the adjustment program of the Russian coal industry and carrying out reviews of the Bank’s country assistance strategies and structural adjustment programs globally. He spent five years each in China, India, and Russia managing large-scale development and institutional transformation projects. He worked intensively with the media during the first Gulf War, commenting on radio and television and in newspaper interviews.


After the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, he took leave without pay from the World Bank and engaged in intensive interaction with the media, appearing regularly on PBS's NewsHour, BBC, CNN, US National Public Radio, and other broadcasters, and writing for major newspapers. In November 2002, he accepted an appointment as a Special Advisor to the United Nations and assisted Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Representative of the Secretary General to Afghanistan, to prepare the Bonn Agreement, the process and document that provided the basis of transfer of power to the people of Afghanistan.

Return to Afghanistan[edit]

Returning after 24 years to Afghanistan in December 2001, he resigned from his posts at the UN and World Bank to join the Afghan government as the chief advisor to President Hamid Karzai on February 1, 2002. He worked "pro bono" and was among the first officials to disclose his assets. In this capacity, he worked on the preparation of the Loya Jirgas (grand assemblies) that elected Karzai and approved the Constitution of Afghanistan. After the 2004 election, Ghani declined to join the cabinet and asked to be appointed as Chancellor of Kabul University. As Chancellor he instituted participatory governance among the faculty, students and staff, training both men and women with skills and commitment to lead their country.

After leaving the university, Ghani co-founded the Institute for State Effectiveness with Clare Lockhart, of which he is Chairman. The Institute put forward a framework proposing that the state should perform ten functions in order to serve its citizens. This framework was discussed by leaders and managers of post-conflict transitions at a meeting sponsored by the UN and World Bank in September 2005. The program proposed that double compacts between the international community, government and the population of a country could be used as a basis for organizing aid and other interventions, and that an annual sovereignty index to measure state effectiveness be compiled.

Ghani was tipped as a candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations at the end of 2006[6] in a front page report in The Financial Times (September 18, 2006) that quoted him as saying, “I hope to win, through ideas.” Two distinguished experts on international relations told the paper that "the UN would be very lucky indeed to have him" and praised his "tremendous intellect, talent and capacity."[citation needed]

In 2005 Ghani gave keynote speeches for meetings including the American Bar Association’s International Rule of Law Symposium, the Trans-Atlantic Policy Network, the annual meeting of the Norwegian Government’s development staff, CSIS’ meeting on UN reform, the UN-OECD-World Bank’s meeting on Fragile States and TEDGlobal.[7] He contributed to the Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

Finance minister of Afghanistan[edit]

Ghani was recognized as the best finance minister of Asia in 2003 by Emerging Markets. He carried extensive reforms, including issuing a new currency, computerizing treasury operations, instituting a single treasury account, adopting a policy of balanced budgets and using budgets as the central policy instrument, centralizing revenue collection, tariff reform and overhauling customs. He instituted regular reporting to the cabinet the public and international stakeholders as a tool of transparency and accountability, and required donors to focus their interventions on three sectors, improving accountability with government counterparts and preparing a development strategy that held Afghans more accountable for their own future development.

On March 31, 2004, he presented a seven-year program of public investment called Securing Afghanistan’s Future[8] to an international conference in Berlin attended by 65 finance and foreign ministers. Described as the most comprehensive program ever prepared and presented by a poor country to the international community, Securing Afghanistan’s Future was prepared by a team of 100 experts working under a committee chaired by Ghani. The concept of a double-compact, between the donors and the government of Afghanistan on the one hand and between the government and people of Afghanistan on the other, underpinned the investment program. The donors pledged $8.2 billion at the conference for the first three years of the program—the exact amount requested by the government—and agreed that the government’s request for a total seven-year package of assistance of $27.5 billion was justified.

Poverty eradication through wealth creation and the establishment of citizens' rights is the heart of Ghani’s development approach. In Afghanistan, he is credited with designing the National Solidarity Program,[9] that offers block grants to villages with priorities and implementation defined by elected village councils. The program covers 13,000 of the country's estimated 20,000 villages. He partnered with the Ministry of Communication to ensure that telecom licenses were granted on a fully transparent basis. As a result, the number of mobile phones in the country has jumped to over a million at the end of 2005. Private investment in the sector exceeded $200 million and the telecom sector emerged as one of the major providers of tax revenue.

2009 presidential election[edit]

Ahmadzai with Rajiv Shah and Karl W. Eikenberry

In January 2009 an article by Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute included Ghani on a list of fifteen possible candidates in the 2009 Afghan presidential election.[10] On May 7, 2009, Ashraf Ghani registered as a candidate in the Afghan presidential election, 2009. Ghani's campaign emphasized the importance of: a representative administration; good governance; a dynamic economy and employment opportunities for the Afghan people.[11] Unlike other major candidates, Ghani asked the Afghan diaspora to support his campaign and provide financial support.[12] He appointed Mohammed Ayub Rafiqi as one of his vice president candidate deputies, and hired noted Clinton-campaign chief strategist James Carville as a campaign advisor.[13]

Preliminary results placed Ghani fourth in a field of 38, securing roughly 3% of the votes.[14]


On January 28, 2010, Ghani attended the International Conference on Afghanistan in London, pledging his support to help rebuild their country. Ghani presented his ideas to Karzai as an example of the importance of cooperation among Afghans and with the international community, supporting Karzai's reconciliation strategy. Ghani said hearing Karzai's second inaugural address in November 2009 and his pledges to fight corruption, promote reconciliation and replace international security forces persuaded him to help.[15]

World Justice Project[edit]

Ghani is on the Board of Directors of the World Justice Project, which works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law in developing countries.

2014 presidential election[edit]

Ghani sitting with Abdullah Abdullah and John Kerry in July 2014

Ghani is one of the main and leading candidates in the 2014 presidential election. His running mates are Abdul Rashid Dostum, Sarwar Danish and Ahmad Zia Massoud. It was reported that Ghani secured roughly 56% of the total votes. After challenger Abdullah Abdullah becoming unsatisfied with the result, a complete auditing of votes was initiated under the watch eyes of the international community. Ghani is widely expected to win the election.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Foreign Policy's Second Annual List of the 100 Top Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ "Sekretarz generalny ONZ. Wybory 2006". Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  7. ^ TEDGlobal
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ National Solidarity Program
  10. ^ Ahmad Majidyar (January 2009). "Afghanistan's Presidential Election". American Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on 2009-09-18. "A world-renowned economist, Ghani was a key figure in the formation of the post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. The chairman of the Institute for State Effectiveness, he served as an adviser to the United Nations for the formation of the Bonn Agreement and as finance minister of Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004. His recent harsh criticism of Karzai’s government has prompted speculation that he may run for president. An ethnic Pashtun, Ghani has not officially announced his candidacy." 
  11. ^ "Ashraf Ghani for President » Ashraf Ghani’s registration for the 2009 Presidential Elections". Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  12. ^ "Ashraf Ghani for President". Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  13. ^ "James Carville Joins The Afghan Campaign Trail". NPR. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  14. ^ "Preliminary Result of Afghanistan Presidential Contest". Sabawoon online. 2009-08-20. Archived from the original on 2009-08-30. 
  15. ^ "Ghani Pledges to Back Karzai in Rebuilding Effort "

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Hedayat Amin Arsala
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Anwar ul-Haq Ahady