On the Issues Episode 13: Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai

My guest today is Ajmal Khan Zazai, tribal leader and Paramount Chief of Paktia Province in Afghanistan. As a tribal leader, he works to bring an end to insurgency and corruption in Afghanistan, and support a process to bring peace, stability, and prosperity to all Afghans.

Born Aug 25th, 1968 in Kabul, Afghanistan, Khan attended primary school in Kabul until emigrating to Pakistan in 1980 due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While studying at Sidiq-i-Akbar High School in Peshawar, Khan continually crossed the border between 1984 and 1986 into Afghanistan to fight the Soviet army. From 1986 till 1989, he worked for the NGO Afghan Health and Social Assistants (based in Peshawar) as Assistant Director for Public Relations.

In an ambush in 1989, he survived an attempt on his life by extremist elements and was forced to immigrate to Canada. From 1990 till 1993, he studied microcomputer management at the Herzing Institute Toronto, and returned to Paktia province in 1995. From 1996 till 1998, he worked with his father Raiss Afzal Khan Zazai, who was the head of the United Tribes front, in organizing Afghan tribes to revolt against the Taliban regime in Paktia. The attempt was unsuccessful, and some prominent tribal leaders were killed by the Taliban, including his father in 2000.

In 2004, the Zazi tribes appointed Khan as the chief of the Zazi tribes.

He continued with the vision of his late father by uniting the Afghan tribes into the United Afghan Tribes Jirga and continued to unite the tribes within Paktia and across Afghanistan. In 2008, he was elected as the paramount chief of all the tribes in Paktia province. From 2008 till 2012, he channeled over $20 million US into community development projects through the Central Asia Development Group by building retaining walls, water canals, dams, girls’ schools, and bridges and roads in Paktia. These efforts provided employment for over 46,000 people.

In 2009, Khan received a fellowship degree in the Silk Road studies program at SAIS (sponsored by the Rumsfeld Foundation) in Washington, DC. In 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree for services provided in the implementation of democracy and the rule of law in London, and was given a honorary degree as well for numerous lectures given in the United Kingdom.

His vision is to unite the Afghan Tribes in order to bring an end to insurgency, corruption, and warlordism in Afghanistan, and support a process which could bring peace, stability, and prosperity to all Afghans.