Afghan Biographies

Mehdi, Mawlawi

Name Mehdi, Mawlawi
Ethnic backgr. Hazara
Date of birth 1986
Function/Grade Taliban shadow Governor Balkhab District
History and Biodata

2. Previous Function:
Taliban appointed district governor for Balkhab (20200522)

3. Biodata:
Maulvi Mehdi Mujahid Maulvi Mahdi (son of Morad) Mawlawi Mehdi’s family originated in Hush village in Balkhab. Mehdi was born 1986. There, Mehdi attended a government-run school up to grade eight. Mehdi’s father Morad uses the takhallus (moniker) Mujahed, indicating a role in the anti-Soviet war. He was a low-level local commander for the Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami faction led by Muhammad Akbari in the mid-1990s. The father’s family  now lives in neighbouring Sancharak district, also in Sar-e Pul province, but it is not clear whether in an area of government or Taleban control. 

At some point, according to Arefi, Mehdi’s family had fled their home area because of a dispute over land in the area of Kil Kawa, a part of Hush village, with another local commander named Ali Juma Akbari (not related to Akbari, the party leader mentioned above). This Akbari was the local representative of Mohaqeq’s rival Hezb-e Wahdat faction. This, apparently, led them to Iran, from where Mehdi returned in 2010. After his return, Mehdi and his friends abducted Akbari’s son. Local elders mediated between them, and “the two sides agreed that Mehdi would release Akbari’s son and the opposite side return the land and 4 Kalashnikovs he had obtained by force from Mehdi’s family.” Also, both families were to visit each other for reconciliation meals, but on that day Mehdi found his home surrounded by police and, after an exchange of fire, was arrested along with his five comrades on charges of kidnapping. According to Arefi, Mehdi was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment and sent to neighbouring Jowzjan’s provincial jail in Sheberghan. There he spent time along Taleban members, including Mawlawi Abdul Haq Mansur from Dahmorda village of Sancharak district, and studied religious texts. This, apparently, earned him the title Mawlawi (a title given to scholars of Islam). It is known from other prisons that jailed Taleban often organise religious study groups and thus gain influence over co-prisoners. According to local sources who know Mehdi, this “changed his mind and ideology.” ­But he did not convert to Sunni Islam.

Mehdi did not serve his entire sentence, however. The rest of Mehdi’s prison term was waived according to general rules. Mehdi was released in 2017 already and “received warm receptions and welcoming parties” by various Hazara parties who wanted to pull him into their ranks. Among them were those led by Mohaqeq and Muhammad Akbari. They were concerned about his Taleban links resulting from his time in prison. According to Mohaqeq, Mehdi had established communications with the Taleban and received weapons and other resources from them. A Sar-e Pul MP said that Mohaqeq and Akbari called Mehdi and told him that he was a Hazara and it did not behove him to work with the Taleban.

Mehdi seems to have opted for Mohaqeq, who is more influential in Balkhab. Mohaqeq is reported to have provided him with transportation and an escort from jail back to Balkhab, and even to have hosted him personally in Kabul, offering social and political backing and providing him with a car. But it also seems that Mehdi – as many local commanders do – was using support from all sources to establish himself in Balkhab, using the cleavages between different factions. Sources also said that Mehdi does not have more than 20 Hazara fighters, a relatively small group. 


Mehdi’s activity continued in the run-up to the 2018 parliamentary election when Mehdi “extorted money from some candidates…, but in the end, he did not let any of the candidates run their campaigns in Balkhab. According to Mohaqqeq, he attacked Balkhab’s district centre six days before the election in order to prevent the poll.


There are different versions of how Mehdi was pushed out of Balkhab and ended up with the Taleban. Saber Ibrahimi, research associate at New York University’s Centre on International Co-operation, told The National there was an uprising of the people of Balkhab against him in October 2018. There was  a security forces clearance operation one week before election day against Mehdi’s checkpoints in Dahana-ye Tarkhoj village of Balkhab in which Public Uprising Forces participated. Mohaqeq confirmed this version and said it happened after Mehdi’s attack on Balkhab. According to various media reports, there were between 15 and 34 casualties in the fighting that dragged on for several days, including pro-government forces, civilians and fighters on Mehdi’s side.


Mehdi took refuge in Kata Qala village in Suzma Qala district in the northeast of the province which is Uzbek-dominated and has been under Taleban control for some years. Together with 13 other villages in the area, it fell to them on 28 June 2015 when two local ALP commanders reportedly made a deal with them according to then district governor, Hayatullah Hayat. A provincial council member said the village was of strategic importance in the area as it provided the Taleban with easy access to Suzma Qala’s district centre, parts of Sar-e Pul city, Kohestanat district and parts of Sancharak.

Local sources reported that Mehdi was driven out from there in early 2019, after an armed clash between him and Abdullah Ansari, the Mohaqeq-affiliated district governor for Balkhab. As a result, six people were killed and several others wounded. Mehdi then fled to Taleban-held areas in Sancharak district and officially joined them. Over that year, local Hazara elders made several attempts to mediate between Mehdi and the district governor, but their efforts remained fruitless. The reason why Mehdi refused to meet those elders was his lack of trust in them after his experience in 2010, which ended with him in jail.

In any case, Mehdi first went to the Dahmorda area in Sancharak where the Taleban already had a presence. It was then that he was appointed as district chief of Balkhab. From Dahmorda ten days earlier the Taleban had attacked and temporarily taken over a number of villages in the Abkalan area, a strategic area of Sancharak district, known as Shakh-e Sar-e Pul(the Horn of Sar-e Pul). The Taleban attack on Abkalan had led to the displacement of “more than 1,500 families.” It was  reported that Mawlawi Mehdi had played a role in that operation, and that another Taleban commander involved was Sher Muhammad, alias Ghazanfar, who had already been involved in the August 2017 massacre during an attack on the village of Mirza Olang in Sayad district. 

There were also ANSF operations against Mehdi’s group. On 28 February 2019, the regional army corps also reportedly said that security forces had carried out air and ground operations against Taleban positions in Taghai Khwaja and Gajwa in Sancharak district and that 28 fighters, including Mohebullah, Mehdi’s brother, were killed in the operation. They also reported Mehdi, Timur Shah, a “Taleban key commander for Sancharak” and Mawlawi Nematullah, the Taleban’s judge for Suzma Qala district of Sar-e Pul, as “severely injured.” 

Police chief Brig. Gen. Ghulam Jailani Abu Bakar said Maulvi Mehdi Mujahid surrendered to Sancharak district police with a Kalashnikov and a wakie-talkie.(20190620)

In December 2019 is was reported that a group of nine fighters led by Muhammad Sedaqat, one of Mehdi’s sub-commanders, surrendered to the government in Balkhab and that only Mehdi’s family members were still with him, indicating that his originally small group was further weakened militarily. 

Following this episode, Mehdi seems to have relocated to Taleban-controlled Kohestanat. It is also possible that he shifts between there and Sancharak. Last winter, Mehdi spent some time in Pakistan, and the above-mentioned video was broadcast upon his arrival back in the province, according to Kabul-based security observers. The previously mentioned security observers also said that the Taleban had simultaneously appointed commander Ghazanfar, an Aimaq from Sayad district, as their provincial military commander. According to AAN information, however, this post is held by Mawlawi Abdul Zaher Zahed, an Arab/Tajik from Sar-e Pul, and that there is no separate military commander for Balkhab. This would unite both positions in Mehdi’s hands. But it also reflects the fact that he (and the Taleban) currently do not have any presence in the district.

An Taliban operation is targeting Mehdi Mujahid, formerly the most senior ethnic Hazara security official in the Taliban government. The former head of Taliban intelligence in the central province of Bamiyan, Mujahid was angered by the Taliban leadership after he was dismissed for unspecified reasons in early June 2022.

Mujahid accused Taliban leaders of alienating the predominately Shi’ite Hazara minority by depriving them of government posts and civic rights.

The two sides clashed after the Taliban attacked Mujahid’s stronghold in Balkhab. Locals reported about intense fighting as both sides claimed to have caused casualties, though it is impossible to verify the conflicting claims. Fighting appeared to have calmed down as of June 28. (20220701)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Wednesday August16, 2022 that local commander Maulvi Mehdi has been killed near the Afghan-Iran border.  Mawlawi Mahdi was shot dead by Taliban forces near the border with Iran as he attempted to flee the country, the defence ministry said in a statement. Mahdi's appointment as a commander some years ago was touted as an example of the Taliban's changed on stance on minorities. He was in the spotlight after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the wake of the pullout of western forces last year.

Taliban Wage War Over Coal in Northern Afghanistan. The battle for cash pits the Kabul extremists against Hazara locals. JULY 5, 2022, 4:01 PM



Last Modified 2022-08-17
Established 2020-05-23