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Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Ahmed Rashid on the man behind the new constitution
AFGHANISTAN A Strong Constitution; The man behind the draft of Afghanistan's new constitution must wring consensus from many factions to succeed in paving the way for democracy By Ahmed Rashid August 14, 2003 Far Eastern Economic Review AFGHANISTAN IS EMBARKING on what could be its most critical political experiment of the past 40 years: drafting a new constitution that unites its various ethnic and tribal groups and paves the way for elections. Overseeing this contentious process is Vice-President Nematullah Sherani, chairman of the Constitutional Commission. Sherani faces the formidable task of leading the country's fractious clans down the road to democracy. The commission has already prepared a draft of the constitution, which it plans to publish on September 1. "Our constitution will be like a mirror," says Sherani, who was appointed by President Hamid Karzai last June. "One side reflects the wishes of the Afghan people; the other side, the world and the best laws of other countries." The tough part lies ahead: getting the constitution ratified by a loya jirga, or grand council. On July 16, President Karzai called on the 15,000 district representatives who participated in last summer's loya jirga (when Karzai was chosen) to elect 450 members for a new council. In October, it will meet, consider the draft and approve a constitution. But the character of that constitution depends on the loya jirga's make-up; the more fundamentalist its members, the less chance the document that emerges will reflect broad consensus. For Sherani, that would be a big defeat. In a country devastated by 23 years of war and still plagued by Taliban attacks, ethnic tensions and warlords, the new constitution could be a potent symbol of healing, and improve Afghanistan's credibility abroad. With his long black coat, short white turban and trimmed grey beard, Sherani looks like the Islamic scholar he is, an attribute that should help appease the fundamentalist factions. In addition to his Islamic-law studies at Kabul University and Egypt's Al Azhar University, he studied corporate law at George Washington University in Washington. For many elders, he epitomizes what Afghanistan's Islam was like 30 years ago: conservative but not extremist, moderate but not too modern. "No law in any Afghan constitution has ever been repugnant to Islam, except in communist times," Sherani says. Though he can count on the support of the elders, moderate Afghans and returning refugees, he will have to work hard to win over others. Through the end of August, he will be touring the country with his commission to hold town-hall meetings, open to the public. Elections are set for June 2004, but little is certain. The country could end up as a republic, a parliamentary democracy, even a monarchy. Equally unclear is how much autonomy the provinces will have to choose local officials. But of one thing Sherani seems sure. A member of the Uzbek ethnic group from northern Afghanistan, he vows the new government will eschew ethnic discrimination. That won't be easy. "In the north, the Uzbeks want a federation with maximum autonomy, and in the south, the Pashtuns want a strong centre and maybe the return of the monarch," says a senior United Nations official. "There are also language issues, with the north wanting Persian as the only official language and the Pushtuns wanting only Pushtu." Yet on one point, everyone seems to agree. "Above all, people want an accountable government," says Susanne Schmeidl, director of the Swiss-funded Afghan Civil Society Forum, which is also organizing meetings to gauge public sentiment. "Neither the monarchy, nor the communists, nor the mujahideen [the Muslim guerrillas who resisted the Soviet invasion] were accountable. Even tribal elders are asking, 'Who will guarantee to us that the next government will be accountable to the constitution?'" For Western diplomats, the biggest fear is that Taliban remnants and fundamentalist mullahs will try to hijack the consultation process, harassing the people and pressuring the commission to issue a stricter document. But UN officials say the public meetings are going well, with warlords and mullahs in just a few of the country's 32 provinces trying to dominate proceedings. The commission had set aside just three months for the public meetings, fearing that if given more time, warlords would try to disrupt them. Critics charge that three months isn't long enough for the public to weigh in. Also, some say the commission should have published the constitution draft before holding the meetings. Instead, the commission will incorporate results from the meetings in its final draft in September, leaving enough time for another round of public comments before the loya jirga session in October. "We are on schedule for holding the loya jirga," President Karzai says. Nor has the interim government meddled in the commission's work, according to Karzai. Afghanistan last had a constitution backed by broad consensus in 1964, when the country was a monarchy ruled by King Zahir Shah, a Pashtun. Though he is now 86 and ailing, some Pashtuns would like to see him return, mainly for symbolic reasons. WHY WARLORDS WANT A CONSTITUTION Sherani objects to that line of thinking. "Zahir Shah's constitution was made for the monarch--this is for the people and the whole nation," he says. "Even the warlords want a constitution, because they know that all the people support the rule of law. People must be allowed to vote freely in the elections next year, and for that, the constitution is paramount." He says the new government will respect human rights--and women's rights, in particular--as well as freedom of the media. "Seven members of the 35-strong commission are women," he notes, "and they are making sure that there will be no discriminatory laws against women." Perhaps most important, he views himself as a man of the people. "I have travelled to 10 provinces to meet the people and discuss with them what they want in the new constitution," he says. "People give the most importance to discussing how an Islamic system can be democratic." He intends to show them--and the world--that Islam and democracy can coexist in Afghanistan.
Posted By: mariam   August 11th 2003, 2003 4:03 PM
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.