|Kabul: 23:56 PM      |
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
Constitutional Loya Jirga begins with ceremony & controversy (IWPR, NYT, Gazette, AFP)
Ex-King Opens Historic Assembly By Rahimullah Samander in Kabul (ARR No. 86, 16-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting After twice being delayed, the Constitutional Loya Jirga finally began on Sunday with an emotional ceremony. The former king, Zahir Shah, now known as the Father of the Nation, opened proceedings, wearing as he usually does a suit and necktie. He called the delegates' attentions to their responsibilities in finalising a new constitution for Afghanistan. Pir Sayed Ahmad Galani, leader of the Mahaz-i-Milli (National Front), was named as the temporary head of the Loya Jirga. At the very front of the gathering sat the country's most powerful jehadi leaders and military commanders including Burhanudin Rabbani, Sabghatullah Mujdidi, Karim Khalili, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Abdulrub Rasool Saayaf. There is an official ban on people with military forces, ministers, governors and high officials on being delegates at the assembly although there is provision for observer status. At the last Loya Jirga in June 2002, the playing of the national anthem from the time of Rabanni's presidency - a Dari one - had proved a matter of great controversy but this time provoked little comment. Choirs of children then sang in Dari and Pashtu, prompting some women to weep with emotion. In a long speech, the head of the interim administration, Hamed Karzai, drew attention to the achievements of his administration. "Two and a half million refugees have returned including national personalities and jehadi leaders. Our embassies are now re-established abroad and the international community has established missions in Kabul," he said. "Afghanistan has got a stable national currency. At the time of the last Loya Jirga we didn't have any stable currency, 900 afghanis was equal to one Pakistani rupee and this year 100 afghanis equal 120 Pakistani rupees." Karzai also emphasised the benefits of the presidential system - which is set to be a major point of debate at the gathering - saying that it promoted stability. "We don't have strong national political parties which will get a big enough vote [for stability]. The small parties will have to make coalitions and that will not last long," he said. As he spoke, the 500 delegates along with official observers and foreign dignitaries enthusiastically applauded several times. There are representatives from around Afghanistan at the gathering – 450 elected and 50 chosen by Karzai himself – ranging in dress from Western jeans to jehadi pakools and traditional turbans. The Constitutional Loya Jirga, stipulated by the Bonn Agreement, had earlier been scheduled for October but was then delayed until December 10 before being put off again at the last minute. Authorities blamed the latest delays on technical problems and the late arrival of some delegates although there has been talk of behind-the-scene wheeler-dealing. Rahimullah Samander is a local editor and a member of the IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.
Election Result for Chair of Constitutional Loya Jirga Sighbatullah Mojadidi - 252 votes Hafiz Mansoor - 154 votes Azizullah Wasifi - 43 votes Kabir Ranjbar - 29 votes Abstained from voting - 13 votes ------------------------------- It was initially decided there would be two posts of deputy chairperson, but it was decided to appoint four deputies instead. This was because four of the 15 candidates had performed so well: Mohammad Azam Dadfar Qayamuddin Kashaf Mirwais Yaseeni Safia Siddiqi (compiled from reports of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.)
The New York Times December 16, 2003 Meeting on New Constitution, Afghan Women Find Old Attitudes By AMY WALDMAN After hours of tedium on Monday in the selection of deputy chairmen for Afghanistan's constitutional convention, or loya jirga, there came a moment of illusion-shattering truth. The chairman, Sebaghatullah Mojadeddi, had announced that there would be three deputies, not two, as planned, and, based on the votes, all of them would be men. Thirteen men and three women had run for the posts. From the front rows of this assembly, meant to give Afghanistan a constitution that would move it further away from war, a chorus of protest rose. The 100 or so female delegates, of a total of 502, wanted one of their rank as a deputy. They may have been only one- fifth of the delegates, they had argued earlier in the day, but they represented 50 percent of the population. Mr. Mojadeddi, a former president and religious scholar routinely depicted as a moderate, was having none of it. "We all have to respect the vote," he said. "Women are free to vote for men. Men are free to vote for women. We cannot make this separation." Then he spoke words that still stung hours later. Don't try to put yourself on a level with men, he told the women. Even God has not given you equal rights, he added, because under his decision two women are counted as equal to one man. He was referring to a provision of Islamic law, itself displeasing to many women, that says that the testimony of two women is equivalent to that of one man in some cases. He did not bother to couch the sentiment in a legal context, presenting it instead as a general principle. In a moment, Mr. Mojadeddi managed to expose the tensions that underlay not just this assembly but also this nation, over the role of women and the role of Islam, the fealty to tradition and the push for modernity. The women had come "with such hope and inspiration, even leaving our small children behind," said Saira Sarif, a delegate from Khost. "Hearing this comment on the first day, we lost all hope for women." Some women urged a walkout. An older Pashtun woman, Alima Khazan, approached Mr. Mojadeddi, also a Pashtun, and quietly spoke to him about the Pashtun custom that calls for respecting a woman's request in a council, according to other delegates. The foreign minister, Abdullah, whispered something in his ear. Mr. Mojadeddi then changed his mind, saying that a fourth deputy would be added, and that it would be a woman. Safiqa Sadiqi of Jalalabad was selected. But there were no victory celebrations. Four hours later at Kabul University, where the assembly is being held, the women were still talking about Mr. Mojadeddi's words, which had led some into a four- hour discussion about the plight of women in Afghanistan. "We all are kind of not only in shock, but also surprised that he said it," said Rangina Hamidi, 26, who works for Afghans for Civil Society in Kandahar. She spoke by cellphone, and the women in the background still sounded agitated. "For him to sit in a gathering of this importance, knowing the past history of women, the suffering," she said. "It was uncalled for." Ms. Hamidi did say the women should have united and put forth only one candidate. But that did not erase the words, or the battle lines that had been drawn for the days of debate ahead. "How can we freely express ourselves," asked Khobra Aman, a school principal from Jalalabad, "knowing our leaders think we are only half of men?"
The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec) December 16, 2003 Afghan women denounce delegates' shutout tactics: After opening celebrations, constitutional council runs in to its first controversy PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer The opening celebrations over, Afghanistan's constitutional council hit its first controversy yesterday, with female delegates denouncing their colleagues for trying to shut them out of leadership positions. After much wrangling, one woman was granted a deputy chairperson's position but some still expressed anger over second-class treatment. "From the very beginning, the process was flawed because we are totally outnumbered here by the men," said Palwasha Hassan, a delegate from Kabul. "It was symbolically important for a woman to be in a high position, but the bigger battle will be over the constitution." Women's rights are a hot issue for the council that began Sunday in a huge tent on the grounds of a university in Kabul. About 500 delegates are meeting to hammer out a new charter for this war- ravaged land, a major milestone ahead of elections scheduled for next June. The council is taking place under intense security, with hundreds of soldiers lining the roads and helicopters hovering. At least two loud explosions echoed across Kabul early today and a spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said an investigation was under way. There had been threats Taliban insurgents might target the council but its first two days had passed without problems. The exact location of the blasts, which rang out about 12:50 a.m., was unclear. There were no immediate reports of casualties and no ISAF installations were damaged. About 2,000 Canadian soldiers are part of the 5,500-strong force. After a day of procedural back-and-forth, delegates selected three men - Mirwais Yasini, Mohammed Ahzam Dadfar, and Mawlawi Qiamddim Kashaf - to fill deputy chairperson positions. Another man, moderate former president Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, was selected chairperson on the council's opening day Sunday. The voting produced outrage from many of the female delegates, who had been warning all day they must not be shut out. "It is a betrayal of women," Jameela Mujahed, a delegate from Kabul and the first female radio news anchor to go back on the air after the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime, said after the vote. Mujaddedi later broke with protocol and selected a woman - Safia Sediqi, a lawyer from eastern Nangarhar province - to a created fourth deputy position. Two other women were named by Mujaddedi as deputy's assistants.
Agence France Presse
December 16, 2003 Tuesday
Differences emerge as Afghan delegates debate new constitution
By WAHEEDULLAH MASSOUD
Afghanistan risks being plunged back into civil war again unless the
country adopts a new draft constitution favouring a strong president,
delegates to a landmark grand assembly have warned.
Debate on the war-shattered country's new constitution was due to get
underway officially here Tuesday, amid sharp differences over the
most suitable system of future government for Afghanistan.
Delegates interviewed by AFP during Monday's session of the loya
jirga were divided between supporters of the current draft and those
who would rather see a parliamentary system to counterbalance the
"We want a strong presidential government which suits the present
situation of Afghanistan," said Haji Ghulam Khan, a delegate from
eastern Laghman province.
"A strong parliamentary system can only be successful if the country
has strong political parties which we lack," he said.
"Those who claim they are political parties in Afghanistan are all
armed militia factions who lack political skills and would lead the
country towards crisis again," he said.
Khan was referring to the 1992-96 civil war between former anti-
Soviet factions which led to the Taliban being initially welcomed as
bringing a semblance of law and order.
Haji Abdul Satar, a delegate from northeast Kunar, agreed that
Afghanistan's post-conflict situation demanded a strong president.
"Now that Afghanistan has come out of three decades of war and
conflict and everyone is armed, the only way to govern this country
and put things on the right path is to have a strong presidential
system which takes its legitimacy from the nation," said Satar.
The 502 delegates to the loya jirga which opened Sunday are to debate
and, if all goes according to plan, ratify the constitution which
will pave the way for the country's first democratic elections,
scheduled for June 2004.
President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly said he will only stand in the
presidential polls if the loya jirga approves the presidential system
laid down in the draft document.
But some delegates said Afghanistan needed a strong parliamentary
system with a prime minister to meet the criteria for democracy.
"We want a democracy-based government which guarantees transparency,
accountability and ensures the people's rule," said Mustafa Atamadi,
a delegate from central Uruzgan province.
"That means a government with a strong parliament which keeps watch
on the president and cabinet," he said.
"A government with a strong parliament is what the people that I
represent want," said Abdullah Shinwari from northern Baghlan
Another delegate from eastern Afghanistan said Karzai should reach a
"President Hamid Karzai should compromise with those who support the
prime ministerial system and agree on the establishment of a
temporary parliament composed of loya jirga delegates so that they
would support his presidential government," said Nangarhar delegate
Abdullah, who like many Afghans has just one name.
Several delegates said they had the impression that talks had been
taking place behind the scenes to bring the two sides closer to
Another representative from Nangarhar who wished to remain anonymous
claimed there had been negotiations between Karzai and members of
former anti-Taliban Northern Alliance factions to win their support
for his presidential system in return for the immediate setting up of
a parliament comprising loya jirga delegates.
Some delegates also alleged there had been interference by ministers
to impose their own views.
"My perception is that unfortunately a series of organised efforts
are going on. They want to dictate to the delegates," said former
president Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of the main Jamiat faction of
the Northern Alliance.
Rabbani, who was president during the civil war and supports a prime
ministerial system, did not offer any evidence to back his claims.
On Saturday Karzai expressed confidence the constitution would be
ratified by delegates, shrugging off the threat of disputes between
disparate factions among them.
"I don't see any possibility of deadlock," he said.
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.