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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
Reactions to draft constitution (IRIN, Economist, RFE/RL, Nat'l Review, Arab News, ABP)
AFGHANISTAN: Debate on draft constitution kicks off November 6, 2003 IRINnews.org KABUL - Following Monday's unveiling of Afghanistan's draft constitution; Afghan observers said the historic document had positive and negative sides. "It [the new constitution] has some very good and promising aspects while there are some negative aspects as well," Professor Abdul Kabir Ranjbar the president of lawyers union of Afghanistan told IRIN on Tuesday. The draft constitution envisages a strong presidency, elected directly by the people through fair and transparent means and reaffirms the nation's links with the Islamic faith. The draft - 12 chapters and 160 articles long- starts by declaring that "Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic". If the constitution is adopted, the presidential term would be for five years and limited to two terms. The position of prime minister was included in previous versions but was cut from the final draft. "After sharing the draft with people and having meetings and discussions we got a majority opinion that it should be presidential, because a prime minister could emerge as a political and military rival to the president," Musa Maroofi, a co- author of the draft constitution, told IRIN. Some observers argue a strong presidency could foster authoritarianism, as it has done elsewhere in the region. "A presidential system is dangerous after decades of totalitarian regimes, it is more likely that giving so much authority to a president will eventually lead to another dictatorship," Ranjbar underlined, emphasising that only a parliamentary system with a president and prime minister to be elected by parliament would lead Afghans towards democracy, unity and sustainable prosperity. There was been widespread consultation on what Afghanistan's new constitution should look like. A 35-member constitution commission, which started work last year, drafted the new document and sent half a million questionnaires to the public and held countless meetings in villages across the country seeking input. The draft will be debated by a Loya Jirga or grand assembly next month which would pave the way for general elections scheduled for the middle of next year. The draft states that Islam is the official religion of Afghanistan while followers of other faiths are free to perform their religious ceremonies as long as these do not undermine Islam. "In Afghanistan no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this constitution," it states, while not directly referring to Shariah law, a positive sign, say Afghans who do not want another extremist Taliban-like government in Kabul. "I don't think it was necessary to mention 'Islamic' republic of Afghanistan' as it is undeniable that we are Muslims for over a thousand of years and the first article clearly mentions that Afghanistan's religion is Islam and no law can be contrary to Islam," Ranjibar said, warning that such statements enshrined in the constitution could be used to promote extremism in the future. But hardliners have sought assurances that the constitution will not turn Afghanistan into a secular state. This view was underlined by the country's conservative chief justice, who stated prior to Monday's unveiling of the draft that the new law governing this traditional and devout nation had to be in keeping with the Koran. "The title of Islamic Republic meanwhile had been strongly demanded during last year's emergency Loya Jirga," Maroofi said. [P] Here's your new constitution Nov 6th 2003 The Economist The face of the new Afghanistan starts to take shape DRAWING up a modern constitution for post-Taliban Afghanistan was never going to be easy. Nine Afghans out of ten cannot read. The average mullah has little time for western democratic ideals. Women are still, for the most part, less to be seen or heard than to be readily beaten, according to a recent Amnesty International report. Superstition is rife: most Afghans still think that human beings are outnumbered by politically active djinns created from the smokeless fire spoken of in the Koran. All the same, on November 3rd a draft constitution on which a loya jirga, or grand assembly, is to vote in December was handed to the king in Kabul. It makes clear the broad sweep of how the future Afghanistan will look: firmly but not stridently religious; and centralised. The new-forged nation will be called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Haphazard consultations held throughout the country during the summer confirmed what everyone already suspected: that Afghans want a democracy that reinforces Islam and peace. The views of Mohammed Khan, a cleric in the Parandei district of the Panjshir valley, are fairly typical. He has contempt for those inciting young Muslims to violence. He says that the new constitution should be based squarely on the Koran, with education for girls and work opportunities for women, provided they cover themselves. He would like to see the adoption of sharia—Islamic law—but with professional investigation of cases. He won't get that. The draft constitution calls merely for civil law in keeping with Islamic principles. He will also have to put up with women having the vote. Still, the final result—no stonings or amputation of hands but no booze either—should be just about acceptable to the religious proletariat of village clerics like him who dictate and reflect the views of most Afghans. It would be tempting for foreign donor governments to push Afghans further towards modernity than they are ready to go. In the past, however, bold reformists have fared badly in Afghanistan. The progressive constitution of 1923, which abolished slavery and attempted to replace tribalism with nationalism, was undone by irate clerics from the majority Pushtun group. The 1964 constitution went further but it opened up a political space for Marxists and set the country on the path to 23 years of war. Even the Soviet Union took the hint: by 1987 the KGB was instructing its proxies to declare Islam the sacred religion of red Afghanistan. The constitution will also lay out the framework for next year's elections (likely to be pushed back now, from summer to autumn). The monarchy is out for good, though the present king will keep his title of "Father of the Country". In the monarch's place will be a directly elected president and a bicameral legislature. The constitution differs from its American model in being avowedly centralised. Afghanistan is too weak, the drafters think, to tolerate federalism just yet. How might all this play out? The finer points of the draft will probably be the subject of wearisome debate by December, as different groups ready themselves for the elections. Politicking has already begun, which is perhaps good news in a country where disputes have for so long been solved by violence. The ex-communists will rebrand themselves on the left. A monarchist party will appear on the right. In the centre will be a loose movement of self- styled "national unity" headed by Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president. The only credible threat to this centrist block might come from the possible creation of a jihadi party made up of former anti-Soviet guerrillas with conservative social views, bankrolled by Tajiks and headed by a sellable Pushtun. The post of president has been tailored for, and by, Mr Karzai. The UN and others overseeing the constitution think his survival essential if the country is to progress. He has declared his intention to run for election. But in order to win he will have to convince fellow Pushtuns that he is not a puppet of America and has enough authority to defend their interests. A new law banning militia commanders from holding political office will help, as will a measure giving the Pushtu language the same status as Dari, the local variant of the Persian used in Kabul and the north. Both these measures will, by the same token, damage Mr Karzai's relations with the Northern Alliance's warlords, who are mainly Tajiks and Uzbeks. Some Tajiks would like to see their own man, Mohammed Fahim, make a bid for power. He still runs the defence ministry in addition to his private army, and was among a motley bunch that floated the idea of forming a jihadi political party while Mr Karzai was recently out of the country. However, the hope of rallying unhappy jihadis to a platform of conservative Islam and past glories proved short-lived when Mr Fahim lost his nerve after a quiet chat with America's Central Intelligence Agency. The more liberal the new constitution, the harder it will be to enforce, especially as the judicial system is in a shambles. But war fatigue, an inclination for moderation after the excesses of the Taliban, and an understanding that no one group can govern the country alone could very well combine to make the constitution popular. An important hurdle has been passed. [P] ..AS HRW WARNS OF THREATS TO AFGHANISTAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS... Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Karzai to condemn violence and minimize "the number of warlords and their proxies" at the Constitutional Loya Jirga scheduled for December, according to an open letter dated 29 October and summarized on the group's website (http://www.hrw.org). HRW said it has conducted dozens of interviews since the beginning of October "documenting regional military commanders and troops threatening Loya Jirga candidates and regional representatives, issuing death threats, and nominating themselves for the Loya Jirga, in violation of a July 2003 decree from President Karzai forbidding military commanders and local government officials from attending the Loya Jirga" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 17 July 2003). (Amin Tarzi) ..AND URGES KARZAI TO ENSHRINE RIGHTS PROTECTIONS IN DRAFT CONSTITUTION. In a private letter sent on 22 October to Hamid Karzai, Human Watch Rights asks the chairman of Afghanistan's Transitional Administration to work with his cabinet and the country's Constitutional Commission to ensure that key human rights provisions are incorporated into the country's draft constitution. HRW also calls on Karzai to include language giving the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) a meaningful mandate. The long-delayed draft constitution, which is expected to be made public in the coming days, is due to be debated and voted on by a Constitutional Loya Jirga, or Grand Council, in December. John Sifton is a U.S.-based researcher on Afghanistan at Human Rights Watch (HRW). Sifton told RFE/RL that, according to several preliminary drafts of the constitution that have been circulating, several key provisions suggested by the AIHRC have been left out. Sifton said HRW wants Karzai to make sure these suggestions are included in the final draft constitution. "There are several [provisions] that the Afghan Human Rights Commission has suggested, several provisions protecting specific human rights, including due process rights, the right to challenge your detention [in a court of law, that is] 'habeas corpus,' rights about discrimination against women and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities, and more specific protections for asylum seekers. Things like that," he said. "And these suggestions have not been incorporated. Without them, I don't think we're going to have a constitution that adequately protects human rights for the future." But Sifton stressed that the most important thing Karzai himself can do at this point is to make sure the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission is given an "adequate" role, as required by the Bonn agreement, which set up the current Afghan government. "The draft constitution does maintain the [Afghan Independent Human Rights] Commission, but it's not given adequate powers to do its job. We believe a human rights commission should have the power to investigate all human rights abuses, and specifically issue subpoenas to bring witnesses before it, and to initiate court cases in any Afghan courts to remedy [human rights] abuses," he said. "Right now, the constitution doesn't give the commission that power." Sifton said this is what he calls the "last moment" for this issue to be meaningfully debated and for human right provisions to be included. "When this draft goes before the public, we believe the debates are going to be about more symbolic and more large-scale issues, like how big the parliament is, how many powers it has, [or] the official language of Afghanistan," he said. "Those are going to be debated in the convention that takes place -- the Loya Jirga. We don't think that [the human rights] issue will be dealt with then. So it has to be dealt with now." Sifton deplored that Loya Jirga candidates who are interested in debating these issues are being threatened. The current climate of intimidation and fear around the country, he insisted, may have indirectly affected the overall drafting process. "That does not allow an open debate. That just allows one side -- the side with the guns, the side with the power -- to write the constitution, literally." The Constitutional Commission, Sifton noted, is very reluctant to support provisions that are opposed in Kabul by powerful leaders, such as radical Islamist leader Abdur-Rabb al-Rasul al-Sayyaf, or groups like the Shura-ye Nezar. The former Northern Alliance faction is the military wing of Jamiat-e Islami -- a political party that includes Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, and Education Minister Yunos Qanuni. (Antoine Blua) [P] National Review Online November 07, 2003, 9:06 a.m. "Taliban Lite"; Afghanistan fast forwards By Paul Marshall Earlier this week, the Afghan government made public its long delayed draft constitution. It is a murky blueprint for a repressive state, what the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom calls "Taliban-lite." You would never guess this from reading the American press. The Washington Post headlined its story "Proposed Afghan Constitution Fits U.S. Model." Well, yes, if you mean that Afghanistan will have a president, a bicameral legislature, and no prime minister. But you don't need to be expert in the Federalist Papers to realize that there is rather more to our Constitution than this. It's not quite the U.S. model to declare, "no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam" (Article 3). The New York Times, echoed by Reuters and Associated Press, wrongly says that the draft has "no mention of Shariah, a legal code based on the Koran...." In fact Article 130 says that, in the absence of an explicit statute or constitutional limit, the Supreme Court should decide "in accord with Hanafi jurisprudence," one of the four main Sunni schools of sharia. (Some forms of Hanafi law give a women's court testimony only half the weight of a man's.) Supreme Court justices are required to have higher education "in law or Islamic jurisprudence" and, like the president and Cabinet members, must take an oath to "support justice and righteousness in accord with the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam." The draft provides no guarantees of religious freedom and says only "other religions are free to perform their religious ceremonies within the limits of the provision of law" (2). This is a right merely to ceremonies, and there is no religion whose practice is limited merely to ceremonies. Threats to religious freedom concern Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and lie at the heart of democracy. Already, as in Iran, the draft outlaws any political party "contrary to the principles of the sacred religion of Islam..." (35). If the state declares that its laws and decisions are identical with Islam, then any opposition can be punished as violating Islam. In Afghanistan, this is not a theoretical question. When the cabinet was announced last year, Fazul Shinwari, the chief justice, denounced Sima Samar, the newly appointed women's affairs minister, for speaking "against the Islamic nation of Afghanistan" and she was charged with "blasphemy," which could carry the death penalty. This June the Afghan courts shut down the publication Aftaab and charged its editor, Sayeed Mahdawi, with blasphemy for criticizing the government's view of the role of Islam. Shinwari has threatened to kill those who criticize his version of sharia and refuse to "obey the laws of Islam." While the draft outlaws discrimination on the basis of religion and sex, and professes adherence to international human rights standards, these provisions are subject to the stipulation that they cannot be contrary to an undefined "sacred religion of Islam...." The constitution does not say what the principles of Islam are. They will be defined at some later point by Islamic judges. But, whatever they are, they will be the law of the land and "ignorance about the provisions of laws" (56) will be no defense against them. Most other rights can be exercised only "within the limits of the provisions of law." This could mean that the right will be limited when it is thought to violate sharia, or that it can be limited by statute. Both are dangerous. Serious constitutions hold that when laws violate rights, it is the law that is voided, not the rights. This is not foreign to Muslim countries: It is the constitutional language of Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Pakistan. In his November 6 speechon promoting democracy in the Middle East, President Bush said that the constitutional draft recognizes Afghanistan's "Muslim identity, while protecting the rights of all citizens." In its present form it does no such thing. The administration needs to work with Afghani moderates to amend the draft when it goes to the Loya Jirga on December 10. After that it may be too late. Article 149 provides that the "provisions of adherence to the fundamentals of the sacred religion of Islam...cannot be amended." — Paul Marshall is senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. He is reachable through www.benadorassociates.com. [P] Arab News Friday, 7, November, 2003 (12, Ramadhan, 1424) A New Afghanistan Taking Shape Amir Taheri Less than two years after its liberation from the Taleban, Afghanistan is debating a new constitution. The draft, prepared by an all-party committee, is expected to come into force next year after being amended and approved through a process of popular consultations. Those who opposed the liberation of Afghanistan, largely because the US played the central role in achieving it, have already dismissed the draft constitution as either irrelevant or as bad as what the Taleban had on offer. For their part, those who wished to see the back of the Taleban, virtually at any cost, have rushed to fudge the weaknesses of the draft. A closer examination, however, would show that the proposed draft, while welcome in its broad outline, suffers from a certain timidity on the part of those who wrote it. This was an opportunity to make a clean sweep of all the despotic and medieval measures imposed on Afghanistan since 1977 under the Communists and the Taleban. The draft, however, partly misses that opportunity because those who composed it apparently underestimated the capacity of the Afghans to adopt modern ideas of political organization. The draft is partly designed to please the Americans. It borrows heavily from the Constitution of the United States. It also envisages a presidential system and a two-chamber legislative, with one modeled on the US House of Representatives and the other on the US Senate. This causes at least two problems. The first is that the Afghan draft ignores the federal structure of the United States government. Far from organizing Afghanistan as a federal republic it emphasizes the powers of the central government in Kabul. The second problem is that the Afghan people are not ready for the extreme partisanship of American politics. Unknown to European democracies, that level of partisanship leads to personal attacks, negative campaigns, commissions of enquiry, and even law suits in the US. In Afghanistan it could lead to assassinations, gun-battles and even civil war. The American model, while a source of inspiration, is unsuitable for Afghanistan where one either bows to the ruler or murders him. What Afghanistan needs is a system in which there is no need either to kiss the ruler's boots or to have his throat slit. And this is precisely what Afghanistan's two pre-Communist and pre-Taliban constitutions, in 1923 and 1964, tried to achieve. Both tried to divide the mystic of power from its actual exercise. The mystic was represented by the king, who, provided he maintained his moral authority, could exercise immense power on behalf of the nation as a whole. The actual exercise of power was bestowed on a prime minister who, though named by the king, could do nothing without the advice and consent of the elected Parliament. This writer still believes that the Americans were wrong in vetoing the restoration of constitutional monarchy in Afghanistan. And a part of the proposed draft's weakness stems from the fact that it does not foresee a national institution that could stand above political, religious and ethnic factions to assure the continuity of the Afghan state. Is it too late to amend the draft? If not, one could devolve more powers to the regions, and extend the authority of the directly elected chamber of the Parliament. One could also imagine a bigger change which would provide for a ceremonial head of state to stand above partisan politics and ethnic considerations and act as an arbiter among rival parties and groups. But even if none of that is done, the draft constitution must be welcome. It refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the cornerstone of the new state. It also cancels the gender apartheid under which Afghan women were shut out of most walks of life. It envisages regular elections and makes government accountable to the people, not to any metaphysical principle. Two years ago we had a bunch murderous fanatics who claimed that Afghanistan needed no constitution beyond the whims of the "emir al- momeneen" (Commander of the Faithful) Mullah Muhammad Omar who represented divine power on earth. The new draft, however, acknowledges that all power belongs to the people. And that, you may be sure, is a leap across centuries. [P] November 7, 2003 Afghanistan Constitution May Not Protect Religious Freedom ( ABP) -- Some observers are worried that a new constitution for Afghanistan may do little more to protect religious freedom than did the oppressive Taliban government. After months of negotiations among members of a constitutional commission, a draft of the proposed document was released Nov. 3. While setting up a government that mirrors the United States' system in structure -- with three branches, an elected president and a bicameral legislature -- it also declares Afghanistan an "Islamic Republic." The constitution names "the sacred religion of Islam" as the official religion of the country, according to a translation of the original Pashtu text. While it follows that clause by saying, "Followers of other religions are free to perform their religious ceremonies within the limits of the provisions of law," the proposal doesn't contain any provision separating mosque from state or explicitly ensuring neutrality between religious groups, as does the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The proposal also insists that no law in Afghanistan "can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this constitution." It allows political parties to form and operate only if the "program and charter of the party are not contrary to the principles of [the] sacred religion of Islam." However, it also bans parties based on religion. The document refrains from explicitly enforcing any particular school of sharia, or Islamic law, either, except when both parties involved in a court dispute are members of the same Muslim sect. However, it does require that members of the country's highest court uphold an oath "in the name of God Almighty to support justice and righteousness in accord with the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam and the provisions of this constitution and other laws of Afghanistan." It also requires that appointees to the court be educated either in principles of secular law or "Islamic jurisprudence." Religious freedom was virtually nonexistent under the rule of the Taliban, a group of Islamic fundamentalists who held control over most of the country prior to the U.S. war against them in 2001. Although there are many in the ethnically diverse nation who subscribe to more tolerant strains of Islam, much of the country remains partial to the Taliban's conservative views. And reports from the nation emphasize that many elements of the Taliban may be attempting to return to power. A member of a U.S. panel charged with monitoring global religious liberty said the document does not ease her concerns. "There's the potential risk of a judicial theocracy" developing under the current proposal's wording, said Preeta Bansal, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In a telephone interview, Bansal also noted that the constitution does not protect basic human rights as sacrosanct in the same way as the U.S. Constitution or international human-rights declarations. "You have a situation where individual human-rights guarantees can be trumped by ordinary legislation, and that legislation is invalid unless it accords with specific teachings of Islam." Bansal is a visiting scholar at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She recently returned from a commission trip to Afghanistan where, among other things, she and other commission representatives met with the nation's chief judge. The justice told the commissioners that Islam is compatible with most human rights -- except for three critical ones. "All except freedom of expression, freedom of religion and equal rights for women," Bansal reported the judge as saying. "At one point when we asked him specifically about the constitution, he kind of made a general comment about how great the constitution was, but then he pointed to the Koran that was in the corner and said, 'This is our law,'" she added. "That would be one thing coming from a lower judge, but this was the chief justice," Bansal said. Afghans from tribal and regional groups across the country will assemble in December in a traditional Afghan tribal council -- called a loya jirga -- to consider the constitution. Media reports said the proposal is unlikely to undergo significant alterations from the floor of the convention. © 2003 Associated Baptist Press © 2003 Maranatha Christian News Service
Posted By: mariam   November 10th 2003, 2003 12:04 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.