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Independent Lawmaker Earns RFE/RL's Afghan 'Person Of The Year' Honors

Marking the Norouz new year celebrations, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan has announced independent lawmaker Ramazan Bashardost as its "Person of the Year."

Bashardost, a lawmaker in the Wolesi Jirga, or lower chamber of the legislature, was chosen on the basis of nominations from Afghan civil society organizations for his service to democracy while campaigning for the Afghan presidency last year.

Supporters of Bashardost, dubbed by some "the Gandhi of Afghanistan," praise his modest lifestyle, his closeness to ordinary Afghans, and his courage to criticize and name officials involved in corruption.

During his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency, Bashardost traveled on ordinary public transport across Afghanistan without escorts or bodyguards.

Even Afghan militant insurgents have acknowledged Bashardost as a "man of the Afghan people."

The 49-year-old Bashardost was born in Qara Bagh, a district in the southern province of Ghazni. An ethnic Hazara, he also lived in Maimani -- a district of Faryab Province in northwestern Afghanistan.

In 1978, two months after the communist coup d'etat in Afghanistan, Bashardost immigrated to Iran, where he completed his high school education. He also lived as a refuge in Pakistan before obtaining political asylum in France in 1981.

He studied political science, diplomacy, and law at universities in France -- becoming a university teacher of those subjects in Paris from 1996 until 2003 when he returned to Afghanistan.

In 2004, Bashardost was named as planning minister in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration. He pushed for anticorruption legislation that would require nongovernmental organizations to provide transparent information about their funding and expenditures, resigning from his post in protest when Karzai's administration refused to take action to close 1,935 nongovernmental organizations that he alleged were corrupt.

Despite his election in 2005 and status as a member of parliament, Bashardost has renounced extravagant living. Instead, as a single man, he lives alone in a modest tent near the parliament.

written by RFE/RL's Central Newsroom based on Radio Free Afghanistan reports