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Karim Khalili

Karim Khalili, the current [2009-2014] second vice president to Interim President Hamid Karzai, is a Hazara from the Behsud district in the central province of Maidan and Wardak. He was the leader of pro-Iranian Hizb-e-Wahdat Islami Afghanistan (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan) In the early 1990s, HWIA, under the leadership of Abdul Ali Mazari, had considerable support among the Hazars. Mazari was assassinated by the Taliban when they captured Kabul in 1996. Since Khalili took over, the party, which represents the Shia Hazara minority, has been on the decline. Khalili's military strength has been estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 men.

Wahdat was the second most powerful military party in opposition to the Taliban. It was backed by Iran, who founded the party in the 1980s. Former leader Ali Mazari mysteriously died in Taliban custody after Wahdat turned to them for help against the mujahideen government. The group maintained pockets of resistence in central Afghanistan after being driven out by the Taliban in 1998. In November 2001, Khalili's troops led the capture of the central town of Bamiyan, the site where the famous Buddhas that had been blown up by the Taliban.

Khalili was careful to distance himself from Iran following US accusations that Tehran was helping Taliban and al Qaeda members flee Afghanistan in 2002. Although Hazaras are predominantly Shi'a Muslims, a minority in Afghanistan but a majority in Iran, Khalili emphasized that he did not have a special relationship with Tehran. Hizb-i-Wahdat was supported by Iran throughout decades of war in Afghanstan. Until 1998, the Iranians gave economic and military support to Bamiyan and built part of a hospital there. Khalili termed such claims of aid from Iran as "propaganda" and denied receiving financial assistance.

Since becoming vice president in 2001, Karim Khalili had been isolated from his people, who backed candidate Mohammad Muhaqiq, another Hazara who is revered as a hero and has the support of most Hazaras, roughly 19% of the Afghan population. Khalili returned to his home province of Bamyan in early August 2002 for the first time since leaving for Kabul. Once a warlord and now a deputy president of Afghanistan, Khalili is the only major provincial leader to accept the offer of a post in the transitional administration who is still living. Residents of the province, one of the most deprived regions of the country, were hopeful that Khalili's decisions would lead to an improvement by channeling more money and resources into the area. Upon his return home, 2,000 of his people welcomed him at his headquarters in Hazarajat, a central district of Bamyan. He told local people not to expect too much of him, saying the rehabilitation of Afghanistan would be an uphill struggle as many regions of the country were as badly off as Bamyan. Military officials in the region, meanwhile, are confident that Khalili's presence in the government would help end factional fighting in the Kuhmard region of the province, where Hizb-i-Wahdat militia clash sporadically with Jamiat-i-Islami fighters. In the past the military and logistic needs of Bamyan were fulfilled by Hizb-i-Wahdat fighters. Now the national defence ministry ensures that Kabul has a greater say in the province's security.

Two branches of Hezb-e Wahdat Islami have the most influence among Hazaras. The first branch, Hezb-e-Wahdat Islami is led by Second Vice-President [2004-2009] Mohammad Karim Khalili, who inherited leadership from Hazara leader and unifier Abdul Ali Mazari. Under Khalili's leadership the party still commands reach and resources. However, the stature of Khalili and his party was diminishing as the perception that Khalili has failed to support the Hazara people during his vice-presidential tenure increases. Hazaras seized on Khalili's long absence from the province and hands-off reputation to perpetuate this impression. Despite its decline, the party's staunch supporters hold key leadership positions, including Deputy Governor Fahimi, current head of the Provincial Council Poya, and the Deputy Chief of Police. Their base of power lies in Bamyan and Yakawlang Districts.

Born in 1950 in Qol-e-Khesh Behsud, a province of Maidan, Karim Khalili had been the Economic Minister of Afghanistan from 1993-1995 before becoming the leader of Hizb-i-Wahadat and Vice President of Afghanistan.

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Page last modified: 21-08-2012 12:37:44 ZULU