M. Jamil Hanifi



Western titles like “doctor” and “professor” in the craft (e. g. humanities and social sciences), and industrial (e. g. Medicine, engineering) traditions have long served as powerful tools of political and social power. In a variety of forms and styles these titles, together with the accomplishments and achievements they entail and represent, have been transferred to or institutionally produced in the non-Western “Third World” countries. Their practical use and symbolic socio-political effect varies from country to country depending on the country’s degree of modernization and industrialization. Generally, the less industrial and less modern a country, the more powerful will be the political and social effect of these titles. Thus, in pre-industrial, pre-modern, and non-literate crypto-colonial Afghanistan a title like “doctor” produces profoundly more powerful political effects than, let us say, in Turkey or Canada.  The vast majority of “doctorate” degrees claimed by Afghans are (albeit in some cases with moderated standards) legitimately earned. Usually the institutional records for the validity of these degrees are open to public view. In few cases (that I know of) such titles are falsely constructed but not widely and deliberately exposed to the public lens and are not used for explicit political advantage. But very rarely are such titles falsely claimed, brazenly exposed to public view, and audaciously converted to political capital. However, virtually all claims—legitimate or false—for the status of “doctor” are taken for granted by the public. False claims to the status of “doctor” for political advantage have a successful life span because of the innocence, disinterest, and indifference of the audience. This essay departs from these dispositions by speaking to a false claim to doctor-hood currently being marketed in Afghanistan garnering large amounts of political and personal capital for its claimant. Flickers about this case first came to my attention during the 1970s. In this essay I excavate the academic genealogy of these flickers and interrogate their legitimacy.

During the 1960s and 1970s many young Afghans were sent to the USA, USSR, and Europe (at the expense of the host countries) mostly for vocational education, biological sciences, and engineering. A limited number of these students received doctoral degrees in humanities and social and biological sciences (see for example entries for Afghanistan in Frank Schulman’s multi-volume “Doctoral Dissertations on Asia”, 1975-1993). In the mid 1970s I was informed about the appearance in Kabul of a highly vocal “doctor” Abdul Qayum Kochai (AQK). I learned that Abdul Qayum Kochai (badar [from the Farsi  bahadur [valiant, warlike, hero] as his household laqab [honorific title]) was proudly claiming the title “doctor” based on his experience as a clerk in the embassy of Afghanistan in Moscow, USSR during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In those days, names of recipients of degrees from the USSR and the titles of their theses were regularly published in various newsletters about Afghanistan and other publications such as Schulman’s “Doctoral Dissertations on Asia”. In these sources I did not find information about a thesis authored by Abdul Qayum Kochai; nor did I find information about a doctorate degree conferred on Abdul Qayum Kochai by the USSR Academy of Sciences.  

During 2004 in the context of email exchanges on the Yahoo listserver “Afghaniyat” I informed AKQ about the probable falsity of his academic credentials. In response he sent me copies of a vague English language “diplom” from an unspecified institution in the USSR, a cover page of an alleged thesis, and photocopies of three photographs of a group of men including AQK. I will discuss the photocopies of the diplom and the cover page below.  During 2006 I received documents from a person who had communicated about this matter with AQK during the early 1990s. This material partially dealt with AQK claim to academic credentials from the USSR.  Relevant portions of this material will be discussed below as well. During early 2004 I shared the photocopy of AQK’s diplom with Professor Dr. Yuri Bregel, a prominent Soviet era scholar now residing in the United States (see below) but decided not to publically address AQK’s false claim to academic credentials unless he brought it to public view himself and used it for political purposes.

During the 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan AQK openly and vigorously campaigned for his nephew, Ashraf Ghani. During his numerous appearances at political rallies and in public media in Kabul (and elsewhere in Afghanistan) AQK was invariably introduced and referred to as “doctor Kochai” or “doctor Kochai saheb” and as a specialist in the history and politics of Afghanistan. During his public appearances AQK frequently invoked his studies in politics and history of the country. Some local commentators and critics in Afghanistan compared AQK’s public presence in support of his nephew with that of “Marshall Shah Wali Khan, ‘Fateh-e Kabul’” (Farsi, “Marshall Shah Wali Khan, the ‘Victor of Kabul’”). Shah Wali was a patrilateral uncle of King Zaher. By invoking his capture of Kabul with the help of the Wazir tribes east of the Durand Line during 1929, Shah Wali regularly vended himself as “Marshall” and “Fateh-e Kabul”—pedantic and pseudo-modern adaptations of European military lore. The recent use and manipulation of the title “doctor” for explicit political advantage by AQK has caused me to reconsider my earlier decision about this matter and to look for a context in which to expose the truth about AQK’s false claim for the possession of this powerful academic credential.

In a recent report (based on an interview) titled “Learning from History with Dr. Qayyum Kochai” (by Niala Mohammad) posted on “Across the Durand Line” (an official Voice of America blog) it is claimed that Abdul Qayum Kochai, uncle of Ashraf Ghani, the American selected co-president of Afghanistan, holds “a Ph. D. in Political Science from the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow” and on the authority of this claim, AQK “possesses a wealth of knowledge on South and Central Asian history”. “(A)wed” by this and perhaps by the respective “grayish green” and “turquoise green” eyes of AQK and his spouse, the interviewer receives from AQK “one of the greatest history lessons” of her life. The interviewer/blogger states that AQK has published a Pashtu and Dari language book titled (in Pashtu) “Si Asi  Stoonzay Aw Zma Daredza” (“political problems and my standpoint”) which is available in the Library of Congress. On December 28, 2014 I submitted the following comment on this post:

“There is no official record in the Soviet Academy of Sciences or the Russian Academy of Science about a ‘Ph. D. in political Science’ awarded to Abdul Qayum Kochai. This bogus claim by Abdul Qayum Kochai has a stark ideological wrinkle as well: How can a Kabuli clerk at the Afghan embassy in Moscow who hates communism, Stalin, and all that the Soviet system stood for be awarded an academic degree by the Soviet Academy of Sciences? That academy was steeped from top to bottom in communist ideology. Also ask this comprador fabricator about his work as a translator (“terp”) for the American occupation forces in Afghanistan and his work for a local government (Oakland) in California. Also inquire about the source(s) of a large amount of capital in California which he currently owns”.

Following is the response by “Dr. Qayyum Kochai” to my comment posted January 1, 2015 on the above blog:

“What Jamil wrote about me is a lie and slander. I worked as an Afghan diplomat at Afghan embassy in Moscow since 1967 to the end of 1970. Prior to my assignment at the Embassy I received a scholarship and was sent by the Afghan government to Moscow University in Moscow where I learned the Russian language. I also received my MA from the same University in 19th Century Russian Literature”.

“When I was working for the Afghan Embassy in Moscow, I took evening classes to write my thesis of Ph.D in Academia of Science in Moscow under the guidance of Professor Agromovich who founded the Institute of Spectroscopy of the Russian Academy of Science and was head of the Theoretical Department. I succeeded in defending my thesis; a copy of my book still exists in the archives of the academia. The original of my book is still with me. It is in Russian”.

“In fact, about ten years ago Jamil called me and was interested in my book. I sent him the first page of the book and a bunch of photos of myself with Professor Agromovich and other Russian professors during my defense in the building of the Academia of Science of USSR. Jamil is right about one thing, I was against communist ideology and Stalin and other Soviet dictators. I knew that Russia had an evil plan for Afghanistan. This was the main reason why the Afghan communist regime put me and the other nationalist Afghans in prison and tortured us”.

“I wish I had an opportunity to study in US and defend my Ph.D thesis in America. I have a lot of proof that I honestly studied and defended my thesis in Moscow. At that time I kept my hatred for communism to myself and never spoke or wrote anything about it”.

“I have never worked as interpreter for US or ISAF forces. I still love Afghanistan and US. However, I am still against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Furthermore, I did not support America’s interference in Afghan elections. I believe it was a mistake and I have a lot of reasons for this, but that is a completely separate discussion”.

“About my properties in California, I received inheritance from late my father and used it to purchase property that I own today”.

Mr. Jamil Hanif seems to be projecting his insecurities on me, as it is well known that Mr. Hanif plagiarized substantial portions of his PhD dissertation at Southern Illinois University.

“Dr. Qayyum Kochai”

What follows is an elaborated, slightly reorganized, clarified, and specified version of my initial response to “Dr. Qayyum Kochai” and the “awed” blogger’s insistent and erroneous claim about AQK’s book in the Library of Congress. The response was posted on January 6, 2015 on Across the Durand Line blog. 

In social space open to public view, especially in academic discourse, one must pay careful and critical attention to the accuracy, validity, truth, and truth value of cultural and social facts.

There is no entry for the title "political problems and my standpoint" by “Qayyum Kochai” in OCLC—the Online Catalogue of the Library of Congress or WorldCat. And there is no entry for "Qayyum Kochai" or Abdul Qayum Kochai, as an author, co-author or editor in OCLC (and other North American, European, or Russian library catalogues). All Library of Congress holdings are assigned an LC call number (e. g. DS371.3 A22) and an OCLC number (e. g. 42246634). You will see this if you do an OCLC search. If you have an LC call number and an OCLC number for the entry you attribute to Mr. Kochai or if you have any other verifiable evidence about this title (or any other title authored by Mr. Kochai) in the Library of Congress or any other library, please copy and paste it on this blog. (So far, there has been no response to this request on this blog).

Also, please note, all photographs (except the one titled "kochai-kaka") embedded in your essay are taken at AQK’s residence in “Little Kabul” in northern California not in the real "Little Kabul" (Farsi, Khord Kabul—a village southeast of the city of Kabul). The pictures (included in the interview) that are framed and posted on the wall of Mr. Kochai’s residence are available in a promotional “selfi” video in which they are paraded with Frank Sinatra’s famous “I did it my way” song. The video is available in the following link:


Frankly, if Mr. Kochai had not used fictitious and false history about his academic credentials for constructing substantial political capital in support of his comprador nephew (Ashraf Ghani), the American elected so called “president” of Afghanistan, I would have not initiated and participated in this discourse. I had adhered to this decision even though, over the past twelve years, I have been regularly informed about AQK’s (and his immediate family’s) vulgar and slanderous public comments about me and my family. AQK repeats one of his slanders about me in his response reprinted above. AQK should know that there are no secrets about my academic credentials; everything is available for public view. About fifty years ago I had overlooked to properly cite a source I had used in my doctoral dissertation. Decades ago I have publicly admitted and formally corrected this oversight. The academic authorities at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale are officially informed about this. But this oversight has not affected the integrity and authority of my academic credentials. These credentials, including my Ph. D. degree in anthropology from SIU-C, are intact and in full force. During the 1960s the anthropology program at SIU-C did not require a dissertation defense. The major component and the core requirement for the Ph. D. program in anthropology at SIU-C was the written and oral “Special Examination”. I passed this examination with distinction during spring 1968. The external member of my special examination committee was Louis Dupree, dean of the American anthropology of Afghanistan. My doctoral dissertation is listed on OCLC and ProQuest and is available to public view at the library of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

But since Mr. Kochai continues to keep open the can of worms about his delusional academic credentials, I must speak, with the force of evidence, to his vending of false academic credentials.  I will repeat and elaborate on what I had shared with AQK more than ten years ago (in my emails dated January 5, 2004 and January 6, 2004) and the additional evidence that has come to my attention since we last communicated.

As mentioned above, during January 2004 Abdul Qayum Kochai did send me a copy of a document he refers to as his “Ph. D. diplom”, a photocopy of the carbon copy (not “original”) of the Russian language cover page of his alleged dissertation (which he calls “book”), and photocopies of three photographs of a group of men including AQK.  

My response to Mr. Kochai will be informed by what I have written to him during January 2004, by Professor Dr. Yuri Bregel’s comment on the copy of AQK’s “diplom”, and by some of AQK’s written communication during the 1990s with an individual who was interested in the history of Central and South Asia. During 2006 I received copies of the following documents from this individual: this person’s typed letters to AQK and AQK’s typed and handwritten responses (in English); a one page typed resume’ of “Qayum Abdul Kochai” (in English) ; and copies of carbon copies of the following texts in typed Russian script claimed by AQK to be part of his “Ph. D. thesis”: the cover page of AQK’s dissertation (which I had seen earlier), a page  titled “contents”, a 22 page “preface” (marked 1-22),  and a 19 page “bibliography” (marked 262-280). On the title page of this “thesis” the last name of the author in Russian reads “Kuchi” not “Kochai”.

The Russian title on the cover page provided by AQK I translate as “the history of relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, 1946-1969”. In his response to my comment (on VOA blog [cited above]) Mr. Kochai claims to have studied in Moscow “under the guidance of Professor Agromovich who founded the Institute of Spectroscopy of the Russian Academy of Science and was head of the Theoretical Department”. Spectroscopy is a branch of physics; it is the study of optical processes, e. g. how sunrays fragment into the colors of a rainbow! A Google search for the academic and scientific concepts and labels cited by AQK produces the following results:

“Vladimir Agranovich graduated the Physics Department of Kiev State University (1951). He received PhD in Kiev (1955), degree of Doctor of Science in 1961 from Institute of Chemical Physics( Moscow) and in 1963 he received the Professor Diploma from Commission of Government. Between 1956 and 1969 he was Head of Theoretical Laboratory of Physical-Energetical Institute in Obninsk and in 1969 he joined the newly founded Institute of Spectroscopy of the Russian Academy of Science as Head of the Theoretical Department. He published about 400 papers, three books and many invited chapters in contributed volumes (over 11000 citations”.

“RICHARDSON, Texas - The NanoTech Institute of The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) has announced the appointment of the world-renowned theoretical physicist Vladimir Agranovich to its team. Professor Agranovich, who is currently the head of the theoretical department at the Institute of Spectroscopy at the Russian Academy of Science, as well as a professor of physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in Moscow, has become the first "Pioneer of Nano-Science". The purpose of this newly created position is to bring science and technology pioneers from around the world to UTD for extended sabbaticals”.

I wonder whether Professor Vladimir Agranovich (AQK’s “Agromovich”) remembers his former Kabuli student. Perhaps spectroscopy is what AQK has studied in the USSR not political science or the history of Afghan-Soviet relations! 

But on the cover page of the AQK’s alleged “thesis” R. T. Akhramovich is listed as the “scientific guide” of the thesis. R. T. Akhramovich was a prominent Soviet academician specializing in the political history of Afghanistan. He had nothing to do with physics or the “Institute of Spectroscopy at the Russian Academy of Science”. AQK’s claim about taking “evening classes” to write his “thesis of Ph. D.” in the USSR is a fabrication. An academic program for “evening classes” did not exist in the USSR Academy of Sciences.  AQK may be confusing the USSR Academy of Sciences with Ohlone Community College in California where he took business classes (see below). What does one make out of these bizarre tactics by AQK in order to bestow on himself something that exists only in his mind but nowhere else? These cannot be mere technical errors. I am not a psychologist. But a tactic called “smoke and mirrors” (the equivalent of madari [Farsi, contortionist]) and the verb dissimulation keep popping up in my head. As we will see below my suspicions and skepticism about the “thesis” and “Ph. D.” of AQK become increasingly reinforced and justified.

I have read four books by R. T. Akhramovich: “Afghanistan after the second World War”, 1961 (in Russian); “Afghanistan in 1961-1966: Historical context of political reform”, 1967 (in Russian); “Outline history of Afghanistan after the Second World War”, 1966 (in Russian and English); and “The State System of Afghanistan”, 1958 (in Russian and English).

My competence in Russian language is elementary. But from what I can discern, there is a stark resemblance between AQK’s alleged thesis title, contents, preface, and bibliography and the titles, table of content, texts, and bibliographies of R. T. Akhramovich’s books and other Russian and English language books and articles dealing with the political history of Afghan-Soviet relations (e. g.  A. Kh. Babakhodzhaev, “Outline of the history of Soviet-Afghan relations” [1979]) published in the USSR. But the closest, most striking, and almost identical parallel, in form and content, can be found between the texts provided by AQK and the following Russian language books by the Soviet scholar L. B. Teplinski: “Soviet-Afghan Relations, 1919-1960” (1961) and “50 years of Soviet-Afghan Relations, 1919-1969” (1971). Two other titles by L. B. Teplinski re-print and add to the contents of these two books: “USSR and Afghanistan, 1919-1981” (1982) and “Soviet-Afghan Relations, 1919-1987 (1988). Teplinski’s 1971 tom essentially reproduces his 1961 book and adds a chapter for the 1960s decade. Likewise, Teplinski’s 1982 volume reproduces his 1971 book and adds a chapter for the succeeding decade; and Teplinski’s 1988 title essentially reproduces his 1982 edition and adds a chapter for the following decade. All four titles by L. B. Teplinski were published by the USSR Academy of Sciences. L. B. Teplinski’s 1982 doctoral dissertation “USSR and Afghanistan, 1919-1981” (Russian, “SSSR i Afganistan, 1919-1981”) is  listed in Frank Joseph Schulman, Doctoral Dissertations on Asia, 1984, volume 7, p. 113.

In his handwritten correspondence AQK writes the title of his thesis as “History of Afghan and Soviet Relations since 1918 until 1970” virtually simulating the date (1919-1969) in the title of Teplinski’s 1971 book.  “1918 until 1970” is a match for Teplinski’s historical period “1919-1969”.  This cannot be a Freudian slip. AQK’s “1946-1969” period for Afghan-Soviet relations is covered in chapters 5 and 6 of Teplinski’s 1961 and 1971 books respectively, in chapter 7 of his 1988 book, and in his 1982 doctoral dissertation.

I am quite familiar with the style and syntactic mode of AQK’s handwritings in English, Farsi and Pashtu. The preface and bibliography provided by AQK for his alleged thesis include several long and short instances of handwritten cursive Farsi and Pashtu script (4 instances in the preface, 3 instances in the bibliography) and one instance of handwritten English script in the preface. These handwritten scripts glaringly differ in style, syntax, and diction from the extensive cursive handwritten writings of AQK to which I have direct access.  The handwritten Farsi, Pashtu, and English cursive writings in the preface and bibliography of the alleged “thesis” of AQK are the product of a mind and a hand other than those attached to AQK’s body. 

AQK is cleverly using "book" and "thesis" interchangeably as though he has a book and a thesis on a shelf somewhere in the USSR or Russia. In either form, there is nothing under the name “Abdul Qayum Kochai” in the libraries or the archives of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences (USSR-AS) or the Russian Academy of Sciences (R-AS).

I visited the USSR during 1977 and 1978 as a participant in the exchange program between the USA National Academy of Science and the USSR-Academy of Sciences. No one in the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow (and at the Tajik-SSR and Uzbek-SSR Academies of Science) had heard of or remembered anyone by the name Abdul Qayum Kochai from Afghanistan studying in the USSR. During 1981 when I was preparing my Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) bibliography of Afghanistan, I wrote the USSR-AS and Moscow State University about AQK’s studies, theses, and diplomas so that I could include them in the bibliography. I received no response. Thus, there is no entry in my 1982 HRAF “Annotated Bibliography of Afghanistan” under the name of Abdul Qayum Kochai. Nor is there any reference to Abdul Qayum Kochai as an author (co-author or editor) in several other widely circulated bibliographic sources of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. These sources include the comprehensive 1983 “Bibliography of Afghanistan” by K. McLachlan & W. Wittaker, and (starting in 1973), the bibliographic entries in the quarterly Afghanistan Forum, Newsletter of the Afghanistan Council, Asia Society. The current comprehensive online “WorldCat” list of dissertations about Afghanistan produced by The Afghan Analyst (headquartered in Kabul) does not have an entry for Abdul Qayum Kochai.  Nor is there any reference to Abdul Qayum Kochai (as author), or the title he alleges for a thesis authored by him, in the 1973-1993 multi-volume series of Doctoral Dissertations on Asia by Frank Joseph Schulman published by the Association of Asian Studies. This title includes all dissertations about Afghanistan written in the USSR during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. 

During 1982 and 1988 I revisited the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow in the context of the USA-USSR inter-academy exchange program. Again, the name “Abdul Qayum Kochai” did not ring a bell at the USSR Academy of Sciences; no one at the USSR AS or Moscow State University recognized Abdul Qayum Kochai or any writings authored by him. The records in the bureaucracies of Soviet and Russian academies of science and the Moscow State University have no record regarding a thesis or diploma associated with Abdul Qayum Kochai. For AQK to anchor the veracity of his claim for holding a Ph. D. from the USSR Academy of Sciences in “photos of myself….in the building of the Academia of science of USSR” is puzzling, mysterious and sad. The photos AQK is referring to are included in the album posted on the wall of his house and in the selfi video mentioned above. This is what AQK is claiming: I have a diploma because I was there standing at a podium next to these men!! This is a bizarre invention and a blatant defiance and side-stepping of historical facts in order to satisfy a complex of cravings for an achievement that does not exist. A modicum of firmly installed cultural software for the understanding of a Weberian theory and practice of “bureaucracy” might help AQK.

As mentioned above, Abdul Qayum Kochai has provided me with a photocopy of a certificate which he claims to be his “Doctor of Philosophy” diploma. The certificate is in the English language allegedly from an institution where the formal language of instruction and learning is Russian! The official language of the USSR Academy of Sciences was Russian! The constructs “Ph. D.” and “Doctor of Philosophy” were and are out of place in the official academic lexicon of the USSR-AS and the R-AS.

During 2004 I shared a copy of the photocopy of AQK’s alleged “diplom” with Professor Dr. Yuri Bregel, the renowned and widely published scholar of Central Asia who holds a doctorate from the Institute of Oriental Studies, USSR-Academy of Sciences. Professor Bregel currently lives in the United States as a distinguished emeritus professor at a prestigious university. In answer to my questions about AQK’s so called “Ph. D. diplom”, here is Professor Yuri Bregel’s reply: “The attached copy of a diploma looks extremely strange. I received my degree of the ‘Candidate of Historical Sciences’ from the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow in 1961…..I have never heard of and seen a diploma written not in Russian. I have a copy of my diploma with me, and it has nothing in common with the document a copy of which you have sent, it simply looks fishy….you can certainly rely on my information. The language of the diploma was in Russian, irrespective of the language of the dissertation….I can read the first two words on the seal, but this is not the seal of the institute (which should be on the diploma). A ‘candidat’ could take his thesis out of the USSR not officially—only by smuggling it. Duplicating theses was not usually practiced” (personal communication, January 21, 2004).

About the protocol for producing a doctoral dissertation at the USSR Academy of Sciences Professor Bregel writes: “There was no requirement for a candidate dissertation to be published before or after the defence. But there was a requirement that a summary of the dissertation (“avtorferat”) of sufficient size (I do not remember whether there was an exact minimum; probably, 25-30 pages) be published in 150 copies, which were not sold, but distributed to the members of the academic council, to several major libraries which were state depositories (like the Lenin Library), and partly given to the candidate himself who would give them to his friends and colleagues. This “avtorferat” had to be published in advance, before the public defence. There was a requirement that at least two articles on the subject (or subjects) of the dissertation had to be published in scholarly journals or collective volumes before the publication of the “avtorferat”. (personal communication, February 1, 2004). No documents with AQK name on them (including the “avtorferat” and two required published articles in scholarly journals) mentioned here are available in the libraries and archives of the USSR Academy of Sciences or anywhere else.  

There is no record of a dissertation or a doctorate diploma conferred on Abdul Qayum Kochai by the USSR Academy of Sciences. Over the past 45 years AQK has converted fictitious and false academic credentials into large chunks of personal and political capital. Obviously AQK is free to imagine and delude himself about being a “doctor” with a “Ph. D”.  But he cannot create facts and empirical grounds for this non-existent achieved status. It is about time for Abdul Qayum Kochai to step up to the mirror of truth and accept the realities of history and social life. You can never permanently hide from the rays of truth. Sooner or later, here or there, these rays will shine on you. Thus, based on the evidence before us, the answer to the question in title of this essay is a firm NO!

In the documents that were sent to me by AQK’s correspondent, AQK claims to have been born in “Kabul”. In the entry for Abdul Qayyum Kochai in Ludwig Adamec’s 1987 “A biographical dictionary of contemporary Afghanistan” AQK’s birth place is given as “Surkhab, Logar”. In his handwritten letter AQK states that his MA field of study (at Moscow University) was “Russian Modern Language and literature of the 19th century”. In his resume’ AQK writes: “M. A. degree: Russian Language and Literature of the 19th century-(Moscow University, USSR)”. There was no “Moscow University” in the USSR. However, there was Moskovskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet (Moscow State University). This university did not award “M. A” diplomas. In one of his letters to this correspondent AQK states “unfortunately my M. A. and B. A. thesis were confiscated by the communist government in Afghanistan in 1978 when I was arrested and sent to the infamous prison of Poli-Charkho in Kabul”. Why would the communist government in Afghanistan want to confiscate AQK’s academic thesis, especially if the thesis was written for and certified by the communist Moscow State University? And since AQK kept his “hatred for communism to himself”, how would the Afghanistan government know that he is an ardent anti-communist with “strong contempt for the Soviet communist ideology”? How about the absence of a thesis by AQK at Moscow State University?  I have been unable to find anything under the name Abdul Qayum Kochai in the library of Moscow State University. 

On some related matters with ethical and moral implication dealing with AQK’s fictitious academic history:

AQK graduated in 1955 from the Habibiya High School in Kabul. From fourth grade on American English was taught in this High School. Several subjects were also taught in English. Teachers of English and several other subjects were Americans. I have clear memory of AQK speaking fluent American English during 1955 when he was in the 12th grade at Habibiya High School. Now, how does a young Kabuli who is fluent in American English and is full of hatred for communism and communist Russia, switch to learning Russian—not ordinary colloquial Russian, but “19th century” literary Russian—and keeps his “hatred for communism to himself” and never speaks or writes “anything about it”?

Only AQK can shed light on how and why he got interested in 19th century Russian literature and only he can tell us about the personal, academic, political and ideological forces that drove him to the study of “Literature of the 19th Century Russian”.  AQK could also inform us about how his academic specialty in 19th century Russian literature (constructed at Moscow State University in godless communist USSR) was bridged with writing a doctoral “thesis” about the “History of Afghan-Soviet Relations, 1946-1969” (or is it 1918-1969)? What incentivized AQK to move from the study of literature—19th century Russian literature—to the study of modern history—the 20th century political history of Afghan-Soviet relations? When and why did AQK move from admiration for 19th century Russian literature and convivial relations (at least in public) with communist academic and political officials in Moscow to the hatred of communism, the USSR and what the latter stood for? Could these contradictory dispositions and movements be related to AQK’s failure and/or inability to earn legitimate Soviet “Ph. D” and “M. A.” credentials—powerful tools (“doctor saheb”, “doctor Kochai”) for political use in Afghanistan and elsewhere?

AQK claims that he went to the USSR under an Afghan government scholarship. Studying in USSR by Afghan students (and other nationalities) was sponsored and subsidized by the government of the USSR not by the Kabul government. If AQK did not wish to go to godless communist Soviet Union, no agency, including the Kabul government, could force him to do so.

In his resume written during the early 1990s, AQK does not list his “Doctor of Philosophy” from the USSR. He writes to his correspondent: “I don’t mention about my Ph. D. because they would say that I am overqualified”. In this resume AQK claims an “A. A. degree” in “Supervision and Business Management” from Ohlone College, Fremont, CA. AQK probably took “evening classes” at Ohlone College. He also claims experience as an interpreter for Farsi, Pashtu and Russian and service as an instructor at the United States Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.  In one of his letters AQK writes “my MA and BA thesis were confiscated by the communist government in Afghanistan…I was lucky that I had given all my diplomas and ph. D. thesis to a relative to keep them for me. Still I have all of them with me”. About his aspirations for a career, AQK writes “if I could find a job to work with some companies or agencies who have business with Russian or with the new independent states in Central Asia I would be glad to cooperate with them”. Again, “madari” comes to mind.

Academic mysteries and imaginings are not uncommon in AQK’s patrilineage. One of his nephews, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (aka “Ashraf Ghani”, “Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai”), the current American “elected” president of Afghanistan, also has inherited a problematic academic history. During the early 1990s Ghani had declared in one of his published articles that his 1984 doctoral thesis was being published as a book by Columbia University Press. A few years later Ghani told me (in a telephone conversation) that Rula, his (AUB educated) Lebanese wife had decided to withdraw the thesis of her husband from publication. To this day, Ashraf Ghani’s thesis remains mysteriously unpublished.  A close reading of this thesis and its comparison with Ghani’s 1977 MA thesis at the American University of Beirut provides clues for the basis of Mrs. Ghani’s decision.  Also, the late Ahmad Shah Ghani, the older brother of Ashraf Ghani, claimed doctoral credentials from France. There is no record in French institutions of higher education and libraries for this claim.

I am happy to learn about the material comfort AQK is enjoying through the ownership of property in the USA. I am however puzzled by the source of the wealth which has mediated such level of material comfort. His father, Abdul Ghani Khan (called khan-kaka by his children), died during the 1960s. He left behind a modest house in Kabul and about one hundred acres of land in Logar province to be divided between his two widows and eight children. This is not the inheritance of a wealthy Kabuli by American standards.  How and when was Abdul Ghani’s property divided among his eight children and two widows? What was AQK’s share? From what I can recall, other than AQK’s oldest full brother, Shah Pesand (shayr-ogha), who used to own a fleet of trucks, his other male older brothers, Mohammad Akmal Ghani (shirin-ogha) and the late Abdul Hadi (jon-ogha) lived austere lives in Virginia and France (or Italy) respectively. I have no information about his sister Zubaida (nafas) and two younger brothers Abdul Qadeer [zmarai] and Mir Wais . (The latter two died in an automobile accident in Kabul during the early 1970s). AQK’s half-sibling Mohammad Nabi (khan kaka’s oldest son) and his children lived in dire poverty in Kabul.

AQK was a (communist government appointed) secretary at the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in Bulgaria during 1980-1981. Sometime during his tenure there AQK vacated this post and migrated to Tulsa, Oklahoma. How and when did he bring his share of inheritance to the United States? Was this share large enough to enable AQK “to purchase property that (he) owns today” in the United States? How and when did AQK accumulate the wealth that enabled him to acquire several expensive mansions in California currently occupied by members of his family? I wonder if AQK has informed the American authorities about the amount of capital he brought with him as a “refugee” when he arrived in the USA during 1982 or when and how this chunk of capital was transferred to him from Afghanistan or another country. Are there advantages in being a politically supportive uncle of a person who has been on intimate terms with the highest location of power in the military command structure of the American occupation machinery in Afghanistan over the past fourteen years and who is currently serving the American imperial stretch as the “president” of Afghanistan? 

If AQK does “not support America’s interference in Afghan elections”, then why on earth was he campaigning vigorously for his comprador nephew whose every piece of political identity is constructed, controlled and underwritten by imperial America? Who subsidized AQK’s extensive presence and travels in Afghanistan campaigning for this mercurial comprador during 2014?

I hope a way can be found for AQK to lessen the burden of having shouldered a “doctor of philosophy” that does not exist. I cordially invite AQK to come out of the closet and accept the realities of his past. One way of accomplishing this is to produce an honest autobiography or biography. Doing so would give him an opportunity to terminate gagging himself by airing out the truth about his fake academic credentials and his “hatred for communism” which he has been keeping to himself. He can open up and relieve himself by getting this heavy load of academic untruths and hatred for communism off his chest. The years he spent in the USSR must have been tortuous times for AQK. Willingly and voluntarily living in the land of the enemy must have been painful unless AQK was there voluntarily as a “socialist” and aspiring communist or as a spy. The spy option is possible but highly implausible and unlikely—the government of pre-modern and “third world” Afghanistan spying on its patron USSR?! But spying for a “Cold War” enemy of the USSR is a plausible possibility. In this biographical exercise AQK could also inform his audience about his feelings and thoughts as a “nationalist Afghan”. I would be happy to lend technical assistance to the production of such a confessional project.

But if AQK continues to insist that the documents he has circulated are indeed part of his doctoral credentials he should first make a sworn commitment to truth and full disclosure. Based on this he should send a copy of the complete original “thesis” (cover page, table of contents and all 280 pages of text) to the Library of Congress and a major research library near where he lives (e. g. University of California-Berkeley) to be catalogued and made available to public view. This may create the prospects of an academic bridge for AQK to have his dream come true for “study(ing) in the US and (to) defend (his) Ph. D. thesis in America”! Perhaps he could enroll in a graduate program in Russian literature at a university in his beloved America where he could write a thesis about Leo Tolstoy! By studying at Ohlone College in California AQK has had his dream come true for “an opportunity to study in US”. Also, AQK should submit to public view a certified copy of the original version of what he calls “a lot of proof that I honestly studied and defended my thesis in Moscow”. There are many, including this writer, who would welcome seeing these obscure, mysterious, and contentious documents and what AQK calls “a lot of proof”. 

Finally, many of us are bored with hearing the voices in the Afghan diaspora in the West vending false and delusional claims about having been jailed and tortured by what they call the evil infidel communists of Afghanistan causing them to become “refugees” so they can cuddle up up to mommy USA and other Western charities. How can a “nationalist” Afghan like AQK who has “strong contempt for the Soviet communist ideology” be imprisoned and tortured by the “communist” government of Kabul and then “released without consequence” and appointed to sensitive positions in the foreign ministry of Afghanistan? Such fictitious claims have enabled many, including AQK, to stuff themselves with what America is essentially all about—plentiful cheap meat, cheap gas, cushy couches, and big flat-screen tvs. However, they forget that those who rule America will never fully trust them no matter how low they bow. My 2000 chapter titled “Anthropology and the representations of recent migrations from Afghanistan” in Rethinking Refuge and Displacement, edited by E. M. Godziak and D. J. Shandy (Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association, pp. 291-321) partially addresses the post-1978 migrations from Afghanistan. Currently there are several doctoral research projects under way at prominent North American universities to systematically and critically engage the historical and political context of recent migrations from Afghanistan and “refugee” narratives circulating in the Afghan diaspora in Euro-America.

Your comments on this

Abdul Majid Eskandary10.04.2015 - 13:08

 Dear Dr Hanifi, There are, if not thousands of them at least hundreds of such a people in Afghanistan with fake documents or no documents but bearing honorary and Academic tittle of Dr or Professor. some of them even didnt completed their secondary educations. Under the leadership of this corrupt government every thing gone with the wind including morality and social ethics.

Unknown22.03.2015 - 04:17

 DR. Hanifi, I appreciate your effort in bringing to light such false claims. It is essential that the most qualified lead and take position of authority especially in a place like Afghanistan. As you are well aware, in Afghanistan everything is a family affair; corruption is a product of this culture. Unfortunately those who are qualified do take a back seat. In other words if those with real PHDs do not participate as they responsibly should then individuals with fake degrees will fill the void.

Hamed Madani18.02.2015 - 02:38

 Dear Dr. Sahib Hanifi, I had the privilege of meeting you at the University of Nebraska at Omaha at a seminar. I have enjoyed reading your books and articles, including the latest one on Kochi. I think there is another Afghan that is using the title "Dr" for personal gains. He is Farid Yonous. I have done some preliminary search about his educational background and he does not hold a PhD. He has done graduate word not in any academic field, but in education and obtained an EdD. Best regards, Hamed



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