Afghan Biographies

Shirzai, Gul Agha Sherzai

Name Shirzai, Gul Agha Sherzai
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth 1955
Function/Grade Ex Minister
History and Biodata

2. Previous Functions of Gul Agha Shirzai:
controlled Dand District in Kandahar Province 1992-1994,
Governor of Kandahar province, 1992-1994 and from 2001 until 2003,
"Special Advisor" to Hamid Karzai (2003 - 2005),
Governor Nangahar (20050712 -20131000), stepped down because Candidate in Presidential Eelection 2014
Candidate Presidential Election 2014
Minister of border and tribal affairs (20170725, 20171204 confirmed, 20180621, 20190813, 20200831)

3. Biodata:
shirzai_gul_aghaMuhammad Shafiq Gul Agha Shirzai Sherzai s/o Haji Abdul Latif, was born 1955 in Kandahar Province by the name of Shafiq to a poor restaurant owner. He took the name Gul Agha when he joined his father in the Mujahideen ((National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, or NIFA), who were fighting against the Soviet invasion. His father was murdered and he added Sherzai (Pashto for "son of lion") as his last name. He is an ethnic Pashtun (Barakzai tribe) from the Kandahar area. Besides the Popalzai, the Barakzai are the second biggest tribe in Kandahar province. The most prominent member of the Barakzai is Gul Agha Shirzai. Sherzai started school in the age of eight at Moshraqi High School and after he passed the kankoor exam to Kandahar Teacher Training Academy. He graduated from  Alkhair  university  economic  department

However, in contrast to Ahmad Wali Karzai, Gul Agha Shirzai does not descend from the tribal aristocracy. Yet his father, Haji Latif, was an important Mujahidin commander in the 1980s and his family gained influence due to large property holdings. Killid said Gul Agha Sherzai was a commander of the Mahaz-e-Milli Party's military wing and headed the unit in Kandahar. (20101219)

In 1994, he fled to Pakistan before the Taleban took over the province, and returned to the city in 2001, becoming Kandahar governor, once again, in 2002. He was one of the key allies of the United States especially the Special Forces in the south, and his behaviour towards those associated with the old regime, capturing them for US bounties, using torture and extorting money was one element which sparked the insurgency.

Gul Agha Shirzai served twice as provincial governor and for a short period as minister in Hamid Karzai’s cabinet. He has to be considered as one of the most powerful men in Kandahar, not least since he integrated his 2nd Corps (Nazmi Khas, ‘Special order’) into the Afghan National Police during the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process. His militias also have assisted the Coalition Forces in fighting various insurgency groups.

His rule in the 90 's was reputed to be exceptionally bloody and vicious, even by Afghan warlord standards. His capture of Kandahar city in late 2001, with assistance from American special forces and air strikes, marked the first time territory in southern Afghanistan had been captured from the Taliban. In August 2003, President Hamid Karzai decreed that officials could no longer hold both military and civil posts, and replaced Gul Agha with Yousef Pashtun as Governor of Kandahar. Sherzai was removed as Kandahar Governor after criticisms of his warlord-style leadership, poor human rights record and suspected involvement in opium trafficking in the province. Gul Agha Shirzai, is a semiliterate former warlord, has an autocratic style, a reputation for doling out government contracts to family and friends, and a personal fortune allegedly amassed via corruption and the opium trade. In July 2006, Sherzai narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at a funeral outside Jalalabad. The attempt killed five police officers and wounded several more people, including some children.

The Barakzai managed to control much of the logistics for the internationals as the Kandahar airport was occupied in 2001 by Gul Agha Sherzai's brothers Abdul Raziq and Haji Bacha. Since then Gul Agha Sherzai’s Barakzai militia have been in charge of the security of the airport and dominate the business surrounding the logistical support of the international military forces stationed at Kandahar Airfield (KAF). They also have a quasi monopoly on the gas business. Khalid Pashtun, a Barakzai close to Gul Agha Sherzai and his former spokesman, owns a construction company that implements PRT projects. The Barakzai are also strongly present in the ANP, with former Barakzai militiamen now serving as uniformed police. Sherzai’s “second corps” merged into the ANP after it went through demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR), and is close to Coalition Forces.

Gul Agha Sherzai was eventually appointed governor of Nangarhar Province by President Hamid Karzai, allowing the presidents younger half-brother Ahmad Wali Karzai to eclipse Gul Agha Sherzai as the main powerbroker in Kandahar Province. As governor of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province Shirzai survived an assassination attempt on 26.10.2009 which saw one of his attackers gunned down in a shoot-out. He smokes and tells dirty jokes.

His favorite food is steak, a taste he picked up on visits to America. Canadian military had given 29 contracts worth 1.14 million dollars to a company identified as "Sherzai", suggesting strongly that the former governor of Kandahar, who had become governor of Nangarhar province, was the owner. The Canadian military refused to confirm whether Gul Agha Sherzai is indeed the owner (20091030).

At a press conference on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011 in Nangarhar, the members of Nangarhar Provincial Council and a number of provincial MPs warned that they with the support of residents will remove and send back Governor Gul Agha Sherzai to his birthplace (Kandahar) if President Karzai does not fire Sherzai until the coming Thursday (Feb. 24, 2011). Shirzai had promised to quit on Thursday Feb. 24, 2011 but refused to honor his word.

The Kabul government (and the US, too) may be more concerned about the inability and reluctance of Sherzai to help curb the insurgency by 'winning hearts and minds' in some problematic districts like Khugiani and Sherzad, where his approach led to an almost complete absence of government activities except for security operations and the annual poppy eradication efforts. In recent administrative changes, new district governors were appointed by Kabul for the two districts.

Nangahar in fact does not lack contending strongmen, and not all of them have accepted the idea of an everlasting Sherzai's hegemony in their province. First and foremost among these is the Arsala/Jabbarkhel family of late Haji Qader and Abdul Haq, now mainly represented by their older brother Senator Haji Din Muhammad, Sherzai's predecessor as Nangrahar governor. They won't find peace until they're back on that seat. MP Hazrat Ali,· has now also turned out to be one of the starkest supporter of the need to unseat Shirzai.

Gul Agha Sherzai, governor of Nangarhar Province, has signaled (20100330) his desire to reassert his influence in Kandahar and establish himself as the key powerbroker for southern Afghanistan. He made a public visit in February 2010 offering himself as someone who could broker a peace deal with the Taliban. But he has reportedly said he would not seek to return to Kandahar as long as his political rival Ahmad Wali Karzai presides over the province’s affairs.

The Governor of Nangahar Province Gul Agha Shirzai- a top power broker-  has been freeing suspected insurgents, running an open extortion scheme and traveling with suitcases of undeclared cash earned from criminal activity, according to internal U.S. documents, reported Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Nov 02, 2012. During a trip to Germany in early July 2012, Gov. Shirzai was detained for two hours by the German Customs Police at Frankfurt Airport as he tried to enter carrying three briefcases full of undeclared cash, the WSJ report says. "Because of his diplomatic passport, he was released and allowed to enter the country with his ill-gotten gains," it says.

Shirzai´s  spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had cited no credible source in its report. "Since the announcement of the date for the presidential election, a number of domestic and foreign media outlets have been trying to denigrate political figures and Wall Street Journal is one of them," he added.(20121105)

Hundreds of people took to the streets for a fourth day in Jalalabad and marched on roads while chanting slogans against Sherzai. They renewed their allegations the governor had pocketed funds meant for reconstruction projects and was involved in grabbing government land. The protest is said to be part of a feud between Sherzai and powerful lawmaker Haji Zahir Qadir. Another group supporting Sherzai is led by lawmaker Faridoon Momand.(20130423)

Gul Agha Sherzai (Pashtun) was a presidential candidate in the 2014 election with his First vice president, Sayed Hussain Alimi Balkhi (Hazara)
and his Second vice president, Mohammad Hashim Zarea (Uzbek)

Gul Agha Sherzai was approved for the minister of borders and tribal affairs by receiving 158 confidence votes.(20171204)

Gul Agha Sherzai, the Ghani-appointed Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs, has pledged allegiance to the Taliban emir Haibatullah Akhundzada and joined the Taliban.


Shirzai has three wives and 18 children.

He speaks Pashtu and English

Last Modified 2021-08-27
Established 2009-10-11