By JOHN ROUGHAN and SHENAGH GLEESON

A former Afghanistan Government minister given refugee status in New Zealand a year ago is a guerrilla leader who was involved in a bloody holy war, says National leader Jenny Shipley.

But Dr Najibullah Lafraie, who works part-time for the Immigration Service in Wellington, says he is not and never has been a terrorist.

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, says he has been found by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to be a genuine refugee, and the National Party's blackening of his character is despicable.

Dr Lafraie, aged 53, yesterday became National's prime target in Parliament as it attacked Government plans to admit 150 asylum-seekers from the cargo ship Tampa.

Mrs Shipley demanded that the Government adopt a more effective vetting procedure for the Tampa asylum-seekers than was used for Dr Lafraie, who, she said, "led the most powerful guerrilla faction during the Jihad or holy war in Afghanistan".

She said that while he was a minister "up to 50,000 people in Afghanistan lost their lives through factional fighting", and wanted to know whether having him in New Zealand endangered the country.

Mrs Shipley said Dr Lafraie was refused refugee status in Australia in February 1999.

But he was admitted to New Zealand last September and now lives here on a benefit.

During his time as leader of the Mujahideen and while he was in the Government from 1992 to 1996, several serious incidents occurred, including the fatal bombing of an embassy, she said.

Helen Clark told Parliament that Dr Lafraie was a highly qualified person, "as are many of the Afghan refugee community who have made their home in New Zealand".

She found it "deplorable that in this Parliament a man judged to be a genuine refugee by the UNHCR was damned by the leader of the Opposition and that party".

From what she had seen, Dr Lafraie and his family were people who were looking for a fresh start in New Zealand and were well qualified to help build the country.

Dr Lafraie, who has a PhD in political science from the University of Hawaii, said in Christchurch last night that he was amazed by Mrs Shipley's allegations.

"I feel very hurt. I cannot understand how you could do such things for political gain."

He said he was the head of the political office of Jamiat Islami, the Pakistan-based political office of the liberation movement which fought against the Soviet Union invasion.

"I am proud of that. I think we achieved a great feat that changed the geography of that part of the world," he said.

"Yes, I was Mujahideen, but if you mean by that I was a member of a terrorist group, I was not. I was against any terrorist activity."