Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan. Her father, Qutubuddin Aziz, was a journalist, author, and a diplomat, while her mother was a teacher and a philanthropist. Both her parents, born in India, were leaders in the Movement for Pakistan. Her maternal great grandfather was the Prime Minister of Kashmir.

Anila was educated in the 1980’s in London, United Kingdom while her father was serving as a diplomat at the Pakistan High Commission, London. Ali became involved in various community service projects while studying in the UK, and became an active youth leader for the All Pakistan Women's Association. While in London, Ali was often featured in the media, in London based magazines and Pakistani newspapers for South Asians. At the age of 16 she gave at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. Ali's most memorable experiences include the Queen's Ball at Buckingham Palace for diplomats and meeting Princess Diana. Ali went to Bousfield Elementary School, Holland Park School, and Hammersmith and West London College for her 'O' and 'A' Levels. She was a trainee banker at the Bank of Credit and Commerce, BCCI, Trafalgar Square, London. After returning to Karachi, she went on to complete her Bachelors at St. Joseph’s Convent and Masters at University of Karachi in English Literature. After settling in Irvine, California, she completed her M.Ed. from Concordia University, Irvine.