The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Afghan Politicians of all time. This list of famous Afghan Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Afghan Politicians.
With an HPI of 80.59, Abbas the Great is the most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 68 different languages on wikipedia.
Abbas the Great or Abbas I of Persia (Persian: شاه عباس بزرگ; 27 January 1571 – 19 January 1629) was the 5th Safavid Shah (king) of Iran, and is generally considered one of the greatest rulers of Iranian history and the Safavid dynasty. He was the third son of Shah Mohammad Khodabanda.Although Abbas would preside over the apex of Iran's military, political and economic power, he came to the throne during a troubled time for the Safavid Empire. Under his inefficient father, the country was riven with discord between the different factions of the Qizilbash army, who killed Abbas' mother and elder brother. Meanwhile, Iran's enemies, the Ottoman Empire (its archrival) and the Uzbeks, exploited this political chaos to seize territory for themselves. In 1588, one of the Qizilbash leaders, Murshid Qoli Khan, overthrew Shah Mohammed in a coup and placed the 16-year-old Abbas on the throne. However, Abbas soon seized power for himself. Under his leadership, Iran developed the ghilman system where thousands of Circassian, Georgian, and Armenian slave-soldiers joined the civil administration and the military. With the help of these newly created layers in Iranian society (initiated by his predecessors but significantly expanded during his rule), Abbas managed to eclipse the power of the Qizilbash in the civil administration, the royal house, and the military. These actions, as well as his reforms of the Iranian army, enabled him to fight the Ottomans and Uzbeks and reconquer Iran's lost provinces, including Kakheti whose people he subjected to widescale massacres and deportations. By the end of the 1603–1618 Ottoman War, Abbas had regained possession over Transcaucasia and Dagestan, as well as swaths of Eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia. He also took back land from the Portuguese and the Mughals and expanded Iranian rule and influence in the North Caucasus, beyond the traditional territories of Dagestan. Abbas was a great builder and moved his kingdom's capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, making the city the pinnacle of Safavid architecture. In his later years, following a court intrigue involving several leading Circassians, Abbas became suspicious of his own sons and had them killed or blinded.
With an HPI of 76.33, Hamid Karzai is the 2nd most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 83 different languages.
Hamid Karzai (; Pashto/Dari: حامد کرزئی, Pashto pronunciation: [ˈhɑmɪd karˈzai], Dari pronunciation: [ˈhɒːmad kaɾzeˈiː]; born 24 December 1957) is an Afghan politician who served as President of Afghanistan from 22 December 2001 to 29 September 2014. He is also the khan (head) of the Popalzai Durrani Pashtun tribe of Kandahar Province. Born in Kandahar, Karzai graduated from Habibia High School in Kabul and later received a master's degree in India in the 1980s. He moved to Pakistan where he was active as a fundraiser for the Afghan rebels during the Soviet–Afghan War (1979–1989) and its aftermath. He briefly served as Deputy Foreign Minister in the Islamic State of Afghanistan government. In July 1999, Karzai's father was assassinated and Karzai succeeded him as head of the Popalzai tribe. In October 2001 the United States invasion of Afghanistan began and Karzai led the Pashtun tribes in and around Kandahar in an uprising against the Taliban; he became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001. During the December 2001 International Conference on Afghanistan in Germany, Karzai was selected by prominent Afghan political figures to serve a six-month term as chairman of the Interim Administration.He was then chosen for a two-year term as interim president during the 2002 loya jirga (grand assembly) that was held in Kabul, Afghanistan. After the 2004 presidential election, Karzai was declared the winner and became President of Afghanistan. He won a second five-year term in the 2009 presidential election; this term ended in September 2014, and he was succeeded by Ashraf Ghani. During his presidency, Karzai was known in the international community for his charisma, his tribal robe and lambskin hat, and for being an alliance builder between Afghanistan's communities. In later years, his relationship with NATO and the United States became increasingly strained, and he has been accused several times of corruption.Following the fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Taliban on 17 August 2021, the leader of the Taliban-affiliated Hezb-e-Islami party Gulbuddin Hekmatyar met with Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and former Chief Executive, in Doha, seeking to form an interim government with the Taliban.
With an HPI of 75.51, Humayun is the 3rd most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Nasir-ud-Din Muḥammad (Persian: نصیرالدین محمد, romanized: Nasīr-ad-Dīn Muhammad; 6 March 1508 – 27 January 1556), better known by his regnal name, Humayun (Persian: همایون, romanized: Humāyūn), was the second emperor of the Mughal Empire, who ruled over territory in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India, and Bangladesh from 1530 to 1540 and again from 1555 to 1556. Like his father, Babur, he lost his kingdom early but regained it with the aid of the Safavid dynasty of Persia, with additional territory. At the time of his death in 1556, the Mughal Empire spanned almost one million square kilometres. In December 1530, Humayun succeeded his father to the throne of Delhi as ruler of the Mughal territories in the Indian subcontinent. Humayun was an inexperienced ruler when he came to power, at the age of 22. His half-brother Kamran Mirza inherited Kabul and Kandahar, the northernmost parts of their father's empire. Kamran was to become a bitter rival of Humayun. Humayun lost Mughal territories to Sher Shah Suri, but regained them 15 years later with Safavid aid. Humayun's return from Persia was accompanied by a large retinue of Persian noblemen and signalled an important change in Mughal court culture. The Central Asian origins of the dynasty were largely overshadowed by the influences of Persian art, architecture, language, and literature. There are many stone carvings and thousands of Persian manuscripts in India dating from the time of Humayun. Subsequently, Humayun further expanded the Empire in a very short time, leaving a substantial legacy for his son,ashir humayun and hashir humayun
With an HPI of 74.84, Mohammed Zahir Shah is the 4th most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.
Mohammed Zahir Shah (Pashto/Dari: محمد ظاهر شاه, 15 October 1914 – 23 July 2007) was the last king of Afghanistan, reigning from 8 November 1933 until he was deposed on 17 July 1973. Serving for over 39 years, Zahir was the longest-serving ruler of Afghanistan since the foundation of the Durrani Empire in the 18th century. He expanded Afghanistan's diplomatic relations with many countries, including with both sides of the Cold War. In the 1950s, Zahir Shah began modernizing the country, culminating in the creation of a new constitution and a constitutional monarchy system. Demonstrating nonpartisanship, his long reign was marked by peace in the country that was lost afterwards.In 1973, while Zahir Shah was undergoing medical treatment in Italy, his regime was overthrown in a coup d'etat by his cousin and former prime minister, Mohammed Daoud Khan, who established a single-party republic, ending more than 225 years of continuous monarchical government. He remained in exile near Rome until 2002, returning to Afghanistan after the end of the Taliban government. He was given the title Father of the Nation, which he held until his death in 2007.
With an HPI of 74.38, Hafizullah Amin is the 5th most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 45 different languages.
Hafizullah Amin (Pashto/Dari: حفيظ الله امين; ; 1 August 1929 – 27 December 1979) was an Afghan communist revolutionary, politician and teacher. He organized the Saur Revolution of 1978 and co-founded the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), ruling Afghanistan as General Secretary of the People's Democratic Party from September 1979 until his assassination in December 1979.Born in the town of Paghman in Kabul Province, Amin studied at Kabul University and started his career as a teacher before he twice went to the United States to study. During this time, Amin became attracted to Marxism and became involved in radical student movements at the University of Wisconsin. Upon his return to Afghanistan, he used his teaching position to spread socialist ideologies to students, and he later joined the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a new far-left organization co-founded by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Babrak Karmal. He ran as a candidate in the 1965 parliamentary election but failed to secure a seat, but in 1969 became the only Khalqist elected to parliament, increasing his standing within the party. Amin was the main organizer of the April 1978 Saur Revolution, which overthrew the government of Mohammad Daoud Khan and formed a pro-Soviet state based on socialist ideals. Being second in chief of the Democratic Republic, Amin soon became the regime's strongman, the main architect of the state's programs including mass persecution of those deemed counter-revolutionary. A growing personal struggle with General Secretary Taraki eventually led to Amin wrestling power away then successfully deposing him and later ordering his execution; on September 16, 1979, Amin named himself Chairman of the Council of Ministers (head of government), Chairman of the Revolutionary Council (head of state), and General Secretary of the PDPA Central Committee (supreme leader).Amin's short-lived leadership featured controversies from beginning to end. His government failed to solve the problem of the population revolting against the regime as the situation rapidly worsened and army desertions and defections continued. He tried to change things with friendly overtures to Pakistan and the United States, and considered a trade-off of recognizing the Durand Line border in exchange of Pakistan halting support to anti-regime guerillas. Many Afghans held Amin responsible for the regime's harshest measures, such as ordering thousands of executions. Thousands of people disappeared without trace during his time in office. The Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev was dissatisfied with and mistrusted Amin; they intervened in Afghanistan, invoking the 1978 Twenty-Year Treaty of Friendship between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Soviet operatives assassinated Amin at the Tajbeg Palace on 27 December 1979 as part of Operation Storm-333, kickstarting the 10-year Soviet–Afghan War; he had ruled for slightly longer than three months.
With an HPI of 74.32, Mahmud of Ghazni is the 6th most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.
Mahmud of Ghazni (Persian: محمود غزنوی; 1 November 971 – 30 April 1030) or Mahmud Ghaznavi was the first independent ruler of the Turkic dynasty of Ghaznavids, ruling from 998 to 1030. At the time of his death, his kingdom had been transformed into an extensive military empire, which extended from northwestern Iran proper to the Punjab in the Indian subcontinent, Khwarazm in Transoxiana, and Makran. Highly Persianized, Sultan Mahmud continued the bureaucratic, political, and cultural customs of his predecessors, the Samanids, which established the ground for a Persianate state in northwestern India. His capital of Ghazni evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual centre in the Islamic world, almost rivalling the important city of Baghdad. The capital appealed to many prominent figures, such as al-Biruni and Ferdowsi.Mahmud ascended the throne at the age of 27 upon his father's death, albeit after a brief war of succession with his brother Ismail. He was the first ruler to hold the title Sultan ("authority"), signifying the extent of his power while at the same time preserving an ideological link to the suzerainty of the Abbasid Caliphs. During his rule, he invaded and plundered the richest cities and temple towns, such as Mathura and Somnath, in medieval India seventeen times, and used the booty to build his capital in Ghazni.
With an HPI of 74.15, Ahmad Shah Massoud is the 7th most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.
Ahmad Shah Massoud (Dari/Pashto: احمد شاه مسعود, Persian pronunciation: [ʔæhmæd ʃɒːh mæsʔuːd]; September 2, 1953 – September 9, 2001) was an Afghan politician and military commander. He was a powerful guerrilla commander during the resistance against the Soviet occupation between 1979 and 1989. In the 1990s, he led the government's military wing against rival militias; after the Taliban takeover, he was the leading opposition commander against their regime until his assassination in 2001. Massoud came from an ethnic Tajik, Sunni Muslim background in the Panjshir Valley of Northern Afghanistan. He began studying engineering at Polytechnical University of Kabul in the 1970s, where he became involved with religious anti-communist movements around Burhanuddin Rabbani, a leading Islamist. He participated in a failed uprising against Mohammed Daoud Khan's government. He later joined Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islami party. During the Soviet–Afghan War, his role as a powerful insurgent leader of the Afghan mujahideen earned him the nickname "Lion of Panjshir" (شیر پنجشیر) among his followers, as he successfully resisted the Soviets from taking the Panjshir Valley. In 1992, he signed the Peshawar Accord, a peace and power-sharing agreement, in the post-communist Islamic State of Afghanistan. He was appointed the Minister of Defense as well as the government's main military commander. His militia fought to defend Kabul against militias led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other warlords who were bombing the city, as well as later against the Taliban, who laid siege to the capital in January 1995 after the city had seen fierce fighting with at least 60,000 civilians killed.Following the rise of the Taliban in 1996, Massoud, who rejected the Taliban's fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, returned to armed opposition until he was forced to flee to Kulob, Tajikistan, strategically destroying the Salang Tunnel on his way north. He became the military and political leader of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan or Northern Alliance, which by 2000 controlled only between 5 and 10 percent of the country. In 2001 he visited Europe and urged European Parliament leaders to pressure Pakistan on its support for the Taliban. He also asked for humanitarian aid to combat the Afghan people's gruesome conditions under the Taliban. Massoud was assassinated by two al-Qaeda assassins with a suicide bombing on September 9, 2001, ordered personally by the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden himself. Two days later, the September 11 attacks occurred in the United States, which ultimately led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invading Afghanistan and allying with Massoud's forces. The Northern Alliance eventually won the two-month-long war in December 2001, removing the Taliban from power. Massoud has been described as one of the greatest guerrilla leaders of the 20th century and has been compared to Josip Broz Tito, Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. Massoud was posthumously named "National Hero" by the order of President Hamid Karzai after the Taliban were ousted from power. The date of Massoud's death, September 9, is observed as a national holiday known as "Massoud Day". His followers call him Amer Sāhib-e Shahīd (آمر صاحب شهید), which translates to "(our) martyred commander". He has been posthumously honored by a plaque in France in 2021, and in the same year was awarded with the highest honor of Tajikistan. However, he is also seen as a war criminal by others.
With an HPI of 73.49, Burhanuddin Rabbani is the 8th most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.
Burhānuddīn Rabbānī (Persian: برهانالدین ربانی; 20 September 1940 – 20 September 2011) was an Afghan politician and teacher who served as President of Afghanistan from 1992 to 2001 (in exile from 1996 to 2001). Born in the Badakhshan Province, Rabbani studied at Kabul University and worked there as a professor of Islamic theology. He formed the Jamiat-e Islami (Islamic Society) at the university which attracted then-students Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massoud, both of whom would eventually become the two leading commanders of the Afghan mujahideen in the Soviet–Afghan War from 1979. Rabbani was chosen to be the President of Afghanistan after the end of the former communist regime in 1992. Rabbani and his Islamic State of Afghanistan government was later forced into exile by the Taliban, and he then served as the political head of the Northern Alliance, an alliance of various political groups who fought against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. After the Taliban government was toppled during Operation Enduring Freedom, Rabbani returned to Kabul and served briefly as President from 13 November to 22 December 2001, when Hamid Karzai was chosen as his succeeding interim leader at the Bonn International Conference. In later years he became head of Afghanistan National Front (known in the media as United National Front), the largest political opposition to Karzai's government. On 20 September 2011, Rabbani was assassinated by a suicide bomber entering his home in Kabul. As suggested by the Afghan parliament, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai gave him the title of "Martyr of Peace". His son Salahuddin Rabbani was chosen in April 2012 to lead efforts to forge peace in Afghanistan with the Taliban.
With an HPI of 73.33, Mohammed Daoud Khan is the 9th most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.
Mohammed Daoud Khan (Pashto: محمد داود خان), also romanized as Daud Khan or Dawood Khan (18 July 1909 – 28 April 1978), was an Afghan politician and General who served as Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963 and, as leader of the 1973 Afghan coup d'état which overthrew the monarchy, became the first President of Afghanistan in 1973, establishing an autocratic one-party system. Born into the Afghan royal family, Khan started as a provincial governor and later a military commander before being appointed as Prime Minister by his cousin, King Mohammed Zahir Shah. Having failed to persuade the King to implement a one-party system, Khan overthrew the monarchy with the backing of Afghan Army officers, and proclaimed himself the first President of the Republic of Afghanistan. Khan was known for his autocratic rule, and for his educational and progressive social reforms. Under his regime, he headed a purge of communists in the government, and many of his policies also displeased the religious conservatives, the liberals who were in favor of restituting the multiparty system that existed under the monarchy, and ethnic minorities who resented what they perceived as a favoritism towards Pashtuns. Social and economic reforms implemented under his ruling were thought to be relatively successful, but his foreign policy led to tense relations with neighbouring countries. In 1978, he was deposed and assassinated during the Saur Revolution, led by the Afghan military and the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). His body was discovered 30 years later, identified by a small golden Koran he always carried; he received a state funeral.
With an HPI of 73.00, Babrak Karmal is the 10th most famous Afghan Politician. His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.
Babrak Karmal (Dari/Pashto ببرک کارمل, born Sultan Hussein; 6 January 1929 – 1 or 3 December 1996) was an Afghan revolutionary and politician who was the leader of Afghanistan, serving in the post of General Secretary of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan for seven years. Born in Kabul Province into a Tajikized family of Kashmiri origin, Karmal attended Kabul University and developed openly leftist views there, having been introduced to Marxism by Mir Akbar Khyber during his imprisonment for activities deemed too radical by the government. He became a founding member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and eventually became the leader of the Parcham faction when the PDPA split in 1967, with their ideological nemesis being the Khalq faction. Karmal was elected to the Lower House after the 1965 parliamentary election, serving in parliament until losing his seat in the 1969 parliamentary election. Under Karmal's leadership, the Parchamite PDPA participated in Mohammad Daoud Khan's rise to power in 1973, and his subsequent regime. While relations were good at the beginning, Daoud began a major purge of leftist influence in the mid-1970s. This in turn led to the reformation of the PDPA in 1977, and Karmal played a role in the 1978 Saur Revolution when the PDPA took power. Karmal was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, synonymous with vice head of state, in the communist government. The Parchamite faction found itself under significant pressure by the Khalqists soon after taking power. In June 1978, a PDPA Central Committee meeting voted in favor of giving the Khalqist faction exclusive control over PDPA policy. This decision was followed by a failed Parchamite coup, after which Hafizullah Amin, a Khalqist, initiated a purge against the Parchamites. Karmal survived this purge but was exiled to Prague and eventually dismissed from his post. Instead of returning to Kabul, he feared for his life and lived with his family in the forests protected by the Czechoslovak secret police StB. The Afghan secret police KHAD had allegedly sent members to Czechoslovakia to assassinate Karmal. In late 1979 he was brought to Moscow by the KGB and eventually, in December 1979, the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan (with the consent of Amin's government) to stabilize the country. The Soviet troops staged a coup and assassinated Amin, replacing him with Karmal. Karmal was promoted to Chairman of the Revolutionary Council and Chairman of the Council of Ministers on 27 December 1979. He remained in the latter office until 1981, when he was succeeded by Sultan Ali Keshtmand. Throughout his term, Karmal worked to establish a support base for the PDPA by introducing several reforms. Among these were the "Fundamental Principles of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan", introducing a general amnesty for those people imprisoned during Nur Mohammad Taraki's and Amin's rule. He also replaced the red Khalqist flag with a more traditional one. These policies failed to increase the PDPA's legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people and the Afghan mujahideen rebels - he was widely seen as a Soviet puppet amongst the populace. These policy failures, and the stalemate that ensued after the Soviet intervention, led the Soviet leadership to become highly critical of Karmal's leadership. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union deposed Karmal in 1986 and replaced him with Mohammad Najibullah. Following his loss of power, he was again exiled, this time to Moscow. It was Anahita Ratebzad who persuaded Najibullah to allow Babrak Karmal to return to Afghanistan in 1991, where Karmal became an associate of Abdul Rashid Dostum and possibly helped remove the Najibullah government from power in 1992. He eventually left Afghanistan again for Moscow. Not long after, in 1996, Karmal died from liver cancer.
Pantheon has 69 people classified as politicians born between 327 BC and 1987. Of these 69, 13 (18.84%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Hamid Karzai, Ashraf Ghani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The most famous deceased politicians include Abbas the Great, Humayun, and Mohammed Zahir Shah. As of October 2020, 2 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Mahmud Tarzi and Karim Khalili.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.