Hazrat Ali was at one time considered the strongest power broker in Jalalabad and Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan. Backed by the United States against the Taliban, Hazrat Ali was the only power that really mattered in Jalalabad. Supported by American military might and money, Ali represented a potent new force in post-Taliban Afghanistan, challenging a weak central government that had no choice but to work with him.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Jamiat-e-Islami formed an active resistance force in the region, with the Pashaii Hazrat Ali and the Mohmand Pashtun Shahzada Mazlumyar at the head of the party. During the Taliban period, Hazrat Ali, a Pashaii commander from northern Nangarhar, led the Northern Alliance forces in Nangarhar. After the Taliban's fall, he remained the Alliance's regional head and led the Jamiat-e-Islami in the eastern region.
The Pentagon enlisted Ali's help to lead the ground battle against Osama bin Laden's fighters in nearby Tora Bora in the fall of 2001. Hazrat Ali was accused of allowing Osama Bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan in December 2001 in exchange for money. A year later, his fighters accompanied US Special Forces based in Jalalabad. Ali's rivals say his gunmen routinely threaten anyone who disagrees with them that they will call down B-52 airstrikes from the Americans. Ali commands 18,000 fighters, making his force the largest in eastern Afghanistan. Six thousand of his soldiers are in Jalalabad and surrounding Nangahar province.
Hazrat Ali is a member of the minority-dominated Northern Alliance and a member of the small Pashai tribe. He succeeded in wresting control of Jalalabad from two Pashtun rivals Mohammed Zaman Ghun Shareef and Abdul Qadir in the center of Afghanistan's Pashtun belt. The Pashai Ali is commonly described in Jalalabad by the Pashtun insult Shurrhi, which translates roughly to "ignorant mountain man." He is regarded as someone who has brought the primitive code of the mountains to the more civilized city on the plains, Jalalabad. Ali was favored by the Americans over Jalalabad's two other major figures because he was Northern Alliance and not Pashtun, rendering him a more reliable partner.
Hazrat Ali grew up in the isolated mountain village of Kushmoon. A fighter since he was a teenager, Ali fought against the Soviets, the Taliban and his rival commanders. His father was a farmer and his brother died in the mujahideen war. Ali became a commander of a minor force during the Soviet war, first expelling the Russians from his village and later becoming leader of the fractious Pashai. He speaks his native Pashai, Pushto, Dari and Urdu. He is rapidly learning English from his new American friends. He has three wives, all living in Mashad, Iran, three sons and nine daughters. A 16-year old son is studying in London, while his 22-year old son Samiullah stays with him in Jalalabad. Before moving to Iran, his family lived in exile in Dubai, before that, in Pakistan.
Disarming the men serving under Hazrat Ali and others like Herat Governor Ismail Khan in the west and Mohammad Atta in the North, is widely regarded as the key to Afghanistan's success as a viable unified state. Coalition forces, the United Nations and the Afghan government are forcing warlords like Hazrat Ali to submit to a program called Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR). Such a transition for Hazrat Ali and his men will be difficult, but not impossible. The main challenge will not be to convince Hazrat Ali and his fighters is a step in the right direction, but rather that the young men under his command find enough work to keep them in civilian clothes.
Another challenge the central government faces vis a vis Hazrat Ali was the control of the opium trade. Karzai's regime introduced a ban on poppy production in January 2002, but the central government has been able to enforce the ban only selectively, forced to accept the influence of drug-tainted warlords like Ali. In 2003 Human Rights Watch accused Ali of sexually assaulting women, detaining critics, looting, and participating in the opium trade.
Leading up to the 2004 presidential election, Hazrat Ali threw his support to Qanooni's new Naween Party. By 2007 at Member of Parliament, Hazrat Ali reportedly had strong ties with Iran, with property and family members there. In early 2007, Hazrat Ali was among the jihadi commanders, concerned about the worsening security situation across the country, formed a political group, the National Front (NF), with two mandates: (1) changing the system of government to a parliamentary model and (2) electing governors (vice Presidential appointment system).
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