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Hamid Karzai a royalist by clan

K J M Varma in Islamabad

Hailing from a royal clan of the majority Afghan Pushtun tribe, Hamid Karzai, the nominated head of the new Afghan interim administration, is by far the most westernised Afghan tribal leader to have taken over the reigns of the country.

An ethnic Pashtun and head of the Afghanistan's most influential Popalzoi clan, a position he inherited in 1999 after his father was shot dead by the Taliban in the Pakistani town of Quetta, 46-year-old Karzai emerged as a powerful tribal leader from the Taliban's political stronghold of Kandahar.

Almost every King of Afghanistan since 1747 has been drawn from Popalzoi ranks. The Popalzois draw their lineage from a tribal grouping called the Durrani, one of two major groupings among Pashtuns.

The Durranis form the second largest Pashtun clan. It was founded by Ahmed Shah Durrani, a Persian soldier who conquered Kandahar in 1747 and became the first king of Afghanistan.

Ghizlai, the largest Pashtun clan, formed the backbone of the Taliban.

Besides the royal tag, Karzais are well known as a Mujahideen family. Hamid Karzai's father fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan along with several Taliban leaders.

His grandfather Abdul Ahad Karzai served as president of the national council under King Zahir Shah before the monarch was deposed in 1973.

Hamid Karzai studied in the US and he speaks English fluently. He served as a deputy foreign minister in Afghanistan's first Mujahiddeen government in 1992 led by Burhanuddin Rabbani which came to power after the Soviet withdrawal in 1987.

Karzai represented his tribe in the government until the Taliban seized power in 1996.

The Taliban is reported to have cultivated him before they took power and offered him the post of ambassador to the United Nations. He was originally sympathetic towards the regime but changed his position in 1994.

Karzai came to the limelight recently when in October this year, he slipped across the border into Afghanistan to campaign for the ouster of the Taliban.

He survived a Taliban attempt to capture him. More recently, his forces have been engaging the Taliban near their last remaining stronghold Kandahar.

PTI

America's War on Terror: The Complete Coverage
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