(1957– ) Afghan president
Hamid Karzai was the first elected president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. At the conclusion of the presidential election on October 9, 2004, Karzai was declared its winner, with 55.4 percent of the vote. On December 7, 2004, Karzai took the oath of office as the first democratically elected leader of Afghanistan.
Hamid Karzai was born on December 24, 1957, in the village of Karz, near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. His grandfather, Khair Mohammed Khan, was a key figure in Afghanistan’s war of independence. Karzai’s father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was a popular national figure who was also an influential member of the parliament during the 1960s.
The early education of Hamid Karzai took place in various Afghan schools, including Mahmood Hotaki Elementary School, Sayeed Jamaluddin Afghani School, and Habibia High School. Later, Karzai went to India, where he received graduate education in international relations and political science from the Himachal Pradesh University in Simla.
After the formation of the mujahideen government in 1989, Karzai was made the director of the Foreign Relations Section in the Office of the President, Burhauddin Rabbani. He became a deputy foreign minister in 1992. When the civil war between the contending mujahideen groups engulfed Afghanistan in 1994, Karzai resigned from his official position. He strove for a free and open national assembly (loya jirga).
In August 2000, when the fundamentalist Taliban regime was ruling Afghanistan, Karzai formed resistance groups and vowed to oust them from power. There was an element of personal revenge to his actions, as his father had been assassinated by the Taliban. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Karzai, in coordination with U.S. forces, worked to overthrow the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar.
On December 5, 2001, exiled Afghanistan political leaders representing various ethnic tribes gathered in Bonn, Germany, and named Karzai the chair of a 29-member governing committee and the leader of Afghanistan’s interim government.
Karzai has traveled extensively around the world and has pleaded for donations in order to rebuild infrastructure and other facilities in his country. Karzai married Dr. Zeenat Quraishi in 1999. He has one sister and six brothers, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, who helps coordinate humanitarian relief operations in the province of Kandahar.
See also al-Qaeda.