Gul Agha Sherzai (Pashto language: ګل آغا شيرزی), also known as Mohammad Shafiq, is a politician in Afghanistan. He is the former governor of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. He previously served as Governor of Kandahar province, in the early 1990s and from 2001 until 2003. As of October 2013, Sherzai resigned from his post as governor and formally announced himself as a candidate for Afghanistan's 2014 Presidential Election.
Sherzai was born in 1954 as Mohammad Shafiq in the Barakzai area of Kandahar province. His father was Haji Abdul Latif, proprietor at a small tea shop in Kandahar who rose to become a famous Mujahideen commander. Sherzai took the name Gul Agha when he joined his father in the Mujahideen, who were fighting in the southern Afghanistan area against the Soviet invasion.
His father was later murdered and he added Sherzai (Pashto for "son of lion") as his last name. He is an ethnic Pashtun from the Barakzai tribe. His father was locally known as Haji Latif Sagwan, ("Sagwan" is a term used for a "dog fighter"), who was a well known dog fighter in southern Afghanistan. After the collapse of the PDPA government in 1992, Sherzai served as Governor of Kandahar. He was known outside of Afghanistan as one of the major warlords until around September 1994 when the Taliban began their conquest in Kandahar. Sherzai resigned from his post as governor and remained hidden until late 2001.
The Karzai administration
Sherzai's capture of Kandahar in late 2001, with assistance from American special forces and Hamid Karzai, marked the first time territory in southern Afghanistan had been captured from the Taliban forces.
According to Matthieu Aikins, writing in Harper's magazine Karzai appointed a Mullah Naqib to the Governorship of Kandarhar. Aikins reported that American officials favored Sherzai over Karzai's choice, and encouraged him to oust Mullah Naqib.
An on-the-ground witness, Sarah Chayes, has written a well documented account of Sherzai's warlord behavior following the U.S. invasion.
In August 2003, Afghan President Karzai decreed that officials could no longer hold both military and civil posts, and replaced Sherzai with Yousef Pashtun as Governor of Kandahar.
Political career after Kandahar
In 2004, Sherzai was appointed Governor of Nangarhar Province, after a spell as "Special Advisor" to Hamid Karzai. Sherzai was removed as Governor of Kandahar after criticisms of his warlord-style leadership, poor human rights record and suspected involvement in opium trafficking in the province. However, Sherzai has been an important political ally of Karzai, and looks to play a role in Afghan politics for some time to come.
In July 2006, Sherzai narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at a funeral outside Jalalabad. The attempt killed five police officers and wounded several more people, including some children. He opened the newly built highway connecting Jalalabad city with Torkham, which is one of the most popular border towns between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan President Karzai and Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz were also present during the inauguration.
In January 2009, an article by Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute included Sherzai on a list of fifteen possible candidates in the 2009 Afghan Presidential election. In May 2009, he announced that he would not be a candidate. Nevertheless his name was on an August 2009 ballot, and preliminary results placed him 17th in a field of 38.
On October 2, 2013, Sherzai resigned from his post as Governor of Nangarhar Province and formally announced himself as a candidate for Afghanistan's 2014 Presidential Election.
Sherzai's name was mentioned during the administrative reviews of three Guantanamo captives.
- Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was alleged to have participated in a plot to kill Sherzai. After his death in custody Carlotta Gall and Andy Worthington published a profile of Hekmati that challenged the credibility of the allegations against him, because the Guantanamo intelligence analysts never realized that the Taliban had placed a $1 million bounty on his head.
- Hajji Shahzada, a prominent landowner in Kandahar, was asked to explain why he might have been falsely denounced to the Americans. He explained that he might have enemies who would denounce him because he worked with Sherzai.
- An affidavit submitted on behalf of Haji Bismillah by his brother Haji Wali Mohammed, listed Sherzai as one of the prominent Afghans who would vouch for Bismillah.
- "Biographies of 10 presidential runners". Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN). 26 October 2013. http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2013/10/26/biographies-10-presidential-runners. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- Matthieu Aikins (2009-12). "The master of Spin Boldak: Undercover with Afghanistan's drug-trafficking border police". Harper's Magazine. http://harpers.org/archive/2009/12/0082754?redirect=429066851. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
- The Punishment of Virtue, Sarah Chayes, Penguin Press, 2006.
- Ahmad Majidyar (2009-01). "Afghanistan's Presidential Election". American Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on 2009-09-18. http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aei.org%2FdocLib%2F20090129-No1MEO23850g.pdf&date=2009-09-18.
- Starkey, Jerome; Sengupta, Kim (2009-01-23). "Obama ready to cut Karzai adrift". London: The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/obama-ready-to-cut-karzai-adrift-1513407.html. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- "Preliminary Result of Afghanistan Presidential Contest". Sabawoon.com. 2009-08-20. Archived from the original on 2009-08-30. http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sabawoon.com%2Findex.php%3Fpage%3Dafghanelection&date=2009-08-30.
- OARDEC (date redacted). "Summarized Unswon Detainee Statement (ISN 952)". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 88–96. http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/operation_and_plans/Detainee/csrt_arb/Set_50_3381-3489.pdf#88. Retrieved 2008-03-26.
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