Afghanistan's Ghani drops Pashtun name from official documents

Afghanistan's Ghani drops Pashtun name from official documents
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul October 3, 2014.

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has removed his tribal Pashtun surname "Ahmadzai" from all official documents, a spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

"The chairman of the Office of Administrative Affairs Abdul Salam Rahimi has sent a formal letter to all the ministries and state institutions to call the President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani," said deputy presidential spokesman Fayeq Wahidi.

Ghani had used his tribal name while campaigning during the election this year in a bid to appeal to Pashtun voters in southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan.

He ran against Abdullah Abdullah, now chief executive in a "national unity government", who drew most of his support from Tajiks in the north of the ethnically-divided country.

Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said the decision to drop the name was a "good step" as the president works on making the new national unity government a success.

He added that it was reminiscent of an initiative to remove tribal names undertaken by former president Mohammed Daoud Khan, as a top-down effort in the 1970s.

Both Ghani and his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed to have won the election, plunging Afghanistan into months of crisis that fuelled the insurgency and worsened the country's dire economic outlook.

But under pressure from the US and UN, the two candidates eventually put aside their bitter differences and agreed to form the new government.

Ghani was inaugurated on 29 September, succeeding Hamid Karzai, who was constitutionally barred from running for a third term in office.

Ghani, a one-time US-based academic, is currently on a four-day visit to China.

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