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 as one of the greatest rulers of Persian 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 weak-willed 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. But Abbas was no puppet and 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; the latter two were territories which had been lost as a result of the 1555 Peace of Amasya. 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 کرزی; born 24 December 1957) is an Afghan politician who was the president of Afghanistan from 22 December 2001 to 29 September 2014. He is also the leader of the Popalzai Durrani tribe of Pashtuns. Born in Kandahar, Karzai graduated from Kabul's Habibia High School and later received a master's degree in India in the 1980s. He moved to Pakistan where he was an active as a fundraiser for the mujahideen 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 tribes around Kandahar 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 the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He won a second five-year term in the 2009 presidential election; this term ended in September 2014, succeeded by Ashraf Ghani. During his time, 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.
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, Akbar.
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: محمد ظاهرشاه, Persian: 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. He expanded Afghanistan's diplomatic relations with many countries, including with both Cold War sides. In the 1950s, Zahir Shah began modernizing the country, culminating in the creation of a new constitution and a constitutional monarchy system. His long reign was marked by peace in the country that was lost afterwards.While on vacation in Italy, Zahir Shah's regime was overthrown in a "white coup" in 1973 by his cousin and former prime minister, Mohammed Daoud Khan, who established a republic. 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; born 1 August 1929 – 27 December 1979) was an Afghan communist politician during the Cold War. Amin was born in Paghman and educated at Kabul University, after which he started his career as a teacher. After a few years in that occupation, he went to the United States to study. He would visit the United States a second time before moving permanently to Afghanistan, and starting his career in radical politics. He ran as a candidate in the 1965 parliamentary election but failed to secure a seat. Amin was the only Khalqist elected to parliament in the 1969 parliamentary election, thus increasing his standing within the party. He was one of the leading organizers of the Saur Revolution which overthrew the government of Mohammad Daoud Khan. In 1979 he named himself as president, prime minister, and chairman of the Khalq wing. He has been described as "ruthless" and a "radical Marxist".Amin's short-lived presidency was marked by controversies from beginning to end. He came to power by disposing of his predecessor Nur Muhammad Taraki and later ordering his death. Amin made attempts to win support from those who revolted against the communist regime which had begun under Taraki, but his government was unable to solve this problem. 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, which was dissatisfied with Amin, intervened in Afghanistan while invoking the Twenty-Year Treaty of Friendship between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Amin was assassinated by the Soviets on 27 December 1979 as part of Operation Storm-333, having 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; 2 November 971 – 30 April 1030) was the first independent ruler of the Turkic dynasty of Ghaznavids, ruling from 999 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 Caliphate. During his rule, he invaded and plundered the richest cities and temple towns 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 Persian/Pashto: احمد شاه مسعود; 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 and, after the Taliban takeover, 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, and 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 mujahideen insurgent leader 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, and 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, and 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 at the instigation of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in a suicide bombing on September 9, 2001. 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 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". Massoud has been described as one of the greatest guerrilla leaders of the 20th century. He has been compared to Josip Broz Tito, Ho Chi Minh, and Che Guevara, particularly because he successfully managed to repeatedly defend his local Panjshir Valley from capture by the Soviets and later the Taliban.
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: برهان الدین رباني; 20 September 1940 – 20 September 2011) was an Afghan politician who served as President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 (de jure until 2001). After the Taliban government was toppled during Operation Enduring Freedom, Rabbani returned to Kabul and served as President from November to 20 December 2001, when Hamid Karzai was chosen at the Bonn International Conference on Afghanistan.After graduating from Kabul University and working as a professor of Islamic theology there, Rabbani 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 Mujahideen leaders 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 government was later forced into exile by the Taliban, and he then served as the political head of the Northern Alliance (or United Front), an alliance of various political groups who fought against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In later years he became head of Afghanistan National Front (known in the media as United National Front), the largest political opposition to Hamid 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.
Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan, also romanized as Daud Khan or Dawood Khan (18 July 1909 – 28 April 1978) was an Afghan statesman who served as the 5th Prime Minister of Afghanistan from 1953 to 1963 and as President of Afghanistan from 1973 to 1978. Born into the Musahiban royal family, Khan started as a provincial governor in the 1930s and later a commander before he was chosen as prime minister in the monarchy of his first cousin, Mohammed Zahir Shah. Ten years after his resignation as prime minister, Khan overthrew the monarchy with the backing of Afghan Army officers and declared himself as the first President of the Afghan republic in 1973, renouncing his royal title. Khan was known for his autocratic rule, educational and progressive social reforms, pro-Soviet policy and Pashtun irredentism; his social and economic reforms during his time as prime minister & president were thought to be relatively successful, but his foreign policy led to tense relations with Pakistan and later the Soviet Union as well, and was ultimately his fate when he was assassinated in 1978 during the Saur Revolution led by the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The 1978 coup and assassination plunged Afghanistan into a civil war that lasts until this day.
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, Russian: Бабра́к Карма́ль, born Sultan Hussein; 6 January 1929 – 1 or 3 December 1996) was an Afghan politician who was installed as President of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union when they intervened in 1979. Karmal was born in Kamari and educated at Kabul University. When the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was formed, Karmal became one of its leading members, having been introduced to Marxism by Mir Akbar Khyber during his imprisonment for activities deemed too radical by the government. He eventually became the leader of the Parcham faction when the PDPA split in 1967, with their ideological nemesis being the Khalq faction. 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 major role in the 1978 Saur Revolution when the PDPA took power, though in later years he denounced it. 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. Karmal was promoted to Chairman of the Revolutionary Council and Chairman of the Council of Ministers on 27 December 1979. He remained in 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 mujahideen rebels. Karmal had always been highly critical of his Khalqist predecessors Nur Muhammad Taraki and Amin's ultra-left radicalism. 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.