Kabul: 10:33 AM      
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.

Participants
Mariam Ghani
Tarek Ghani
Zohra Saed
Massoud Hosseini
Nassima Mustafa
Bibigol Ghani
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Soraia Ghani

Site Comments

CLJ: Last-ditch deal approves draft without vote (AP, WP, IWPR, Mother Jones, RFE/RL)
The Associated Press January 4, 2004 7:55 AM Eastern Time Afghans agree on new constitution, council chairman says By STEPHEN GRAHAM
Afghanistan's constitutional convention agreed on a historic new charter on Sunday, overcoming weeks of division and mistrust to hammer out a compromise meant to bind together the war-ravaged nation's mosaic of ethnic groups. Just a day after warning that the meeting, or loya jirga, was heading toward a humiliating failure, chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi told the 502 delegates gathered under a giant tent in the Afghan capital that last-ditch diplomacy had secured a deal. "We are very happy that all the members of the loya jirga have reached a very successful agreement," Mujaddedi said. A new draft circulated among the members showed that northern minority languages had been granted official status in their strongholds, an issue which had brought the meeting close to collapse. U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad hailed the accord. "It's a huge success for the people of Afghanistan," Brahimi said, although he added that there was work to do to repair the "bruises" from the ethnic debate. "It's a good framework," Khalilzad said. President Hamid Karzai and ex-king Mohammed Zaher Shah were to join the gathering later Sunday to oversee the official ratification of the charter - apparently without a final vote. Mujaddedi ruled out further floor debate. "The changes have been discussed already. If you find any mistake in writing or dictation of the articles you can discuss and correct it" with council officials, he said. "Then you can return to your provinces and homes." Sidiq Chakari, a Tajik delegate and spokesman for faction leader and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had taken part in a boycott Thursday, said the deal was a milestone on the way to peace. "It's a very big achievement. I do hope it will bring friendship between our ethnic groups," he said. "Everybody wants to switch to disarmament and reconstruction." But some Pashtuns, the country's largest ethnic group, were still fuming that the charter didn't order a reversal of what they say is the domination of Dari names for public institutions such as universities and courts. "There's still one problem," said Khalid Pashtun, although he also stressed the need to pass the accord. "It will help demilitarize the capital and inject new freedom into education, the media, normal life," he said. The accord will give the U.S.-backed Karzai the strong presidential system he had insisted on. Karzai has argued strongly for a dominant chief executive to hold the country together as it rebuilds and reconciles after more than two decades of war, and said he wouldn't run again if he didn't get his way. It was also a triumph for the United States and United Nations, whose officials worked tirelessly to broker a backroom agreement to bolster a peace process begun after the ouster of the Taliban two years ago. In three weeks of often rancorous debate, religious conservatives forced through amendments to make the constitution more Islamic - possibly with a ban on alcohol. On the other hand, wording was changed to spell out that men and women should be treated equally - a key demand of human rights groups. In the most bruising tussle, minorities such as the Uzbeks and Turkmen from the north won official status for their languages in the areas where they are strongest, with grudging acceptance from the more numerous Pashtuns. Rivals of Karzai, mainly from the Northern Alliance faction which helped U.S. forces drive out the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden, strengthened parliament with amendments giving it veto power over more key appointments. A new commission is to be set up to monitor implementation of the constitution - another potential power base for a rival. But with no provision for a prime minister or strong regional councils, the wide-ranging powers sought by Karzai in a draft released in November appeared to have survived mainly intact. The charter makes the president commander in chief of the armed forces, charges him with determining the nation's fundamental policies and gives him sweeping power to push through legislation. "The strong presidency was quickly settled," Khalilzad said, although he acknowledged parliament had been bolstered. "It's more balanced in that way." Observers said it was vital for the constitution to command broad support, and analysts have voiced concern that Karzai's reliance on the support of his fellow Pashtuns could make him a partisan figure in the eyes of the country's myriad minorities. That could make it more difficult to push ahead with other aspects of the U.N.-sponsored peace drive, especially the disarmament of the unruly regional factions that control much of the country. The world body has warned that taming the factions, and persuading some of the estimated 100,000 militia fighters still roaming the country, is essential to prevent intimidation from spoiling the presidential elections scheduled for June. It has also warned that the poll could be delayed until September to give Afghan and U.S. troops more time to improve security in the south and east, where Taliban insurgents and their allies regularly attack troops, government staff and aid workers. "The challenge locally is to build on what was positive and attend to what was negative," Brahimi said, including poor security across the country for ordinary Afghans which the constitution is supposed to help solve. "They live in fear all the time. The fact is there is no rule of law," he said. Delegates at the loya jirga said parliamentary elections would likely follow within six months.

Afghan Delegates Approve Charter; Following Bitter Debate, Assembly Clears Path To Democratic Elections By Pamela Constable The Washington Post January 5, 2004
After three weeks of raw emotional debate and intense private negotiations, members of a constitutional assembly in Afghanistan agreed yesterday on a new charter for the volatile postwar nation, clearing the way for its first democratic elections in 25 years. The 502 delegates accepted a political system with a strong president and a weaker parliament, similar to the version sought by President Hamid Karzai and backed by the Bush administration, despite vehement objections from ethnic minority leaders and Islamic fundamentalists at the historic meeting. "There is no winner or loser. . . . This is the success of the whole Afghan nation," Karzai told members of the assembly, or loya jirga, shortly after they stood en masse to endorse the new constitution in a huge white tent on a university campus in Kabul, the capital. President Bush praised the outcome in a statement from Washington, saying the new constitution "lays the foundation for democratic institutions" in Afghanistan and will thus "help ensure that terror finds no further refuge in that proud land." The adoption of the charter comes two years after U.S. and Afghan forces routed the extremist Islamic Taliban movement. It clears a major hurdle in the political transition that was mandated by the United Nations in late 2001. The government now hopes to hold presidential elections this summer, and Karzai is widely viewed as the favorite. But the loya jirga, composed of delegates from across the ethnic and political spectrum, came close to collapsing several times after it opened Dec. 14. Repeated bitter confrontations among delegates laid open deep fissures in Afghan society on such issues as religion, women's rights and regional dialects. Several contentious issues were left unresolved in order to salvage the assembly. In comments yesterday, the U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, was critical of the obstructionist role regional Islamic militia leaders had played during the assembly, and he said there would be little point in holding elections this summer if adequate security measures were not instituted throughout the country. As a result of compromises between Islamic hard-liners and moderate government reformists, the final charter did not include a reference to sharia, or Islamic law, saying only that no Afghan law "can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions" of Islam. But some observers said the strength of religious law would depend partly on who controls the Supreme Court. The 162-article constitution grants men and women equal rights, a dramatic advance in a conservative rural society in which women have traditionally been subjugated to decisions by their male relatives, with little access to legal protections. "There are still some problems with the constitution, but the process was very positive, because people came together despite their differences and came to an agreement without violence," Nader Naderi, a spokesman for the Independent Afghan Human Rights Commission, said in a telephone interview from Kabul yesterday. "This is a major change in the traditional way of doing politics in Afghanistan." The loya jirga, which lasted 22 days, erupted in ugly confrontations several times and nearly collapsed toward the end. Delegates from ethnic Tajik political groups, including former Islamic militia leaders, repeatedly denounced the process and charged that Karzai was manipulating the constitution to establish a dictatorship. Women at the meeting complained that they were given no leadership role, and chaos erupted during the Dec. 17 session when one female delegate angrily protested that "criminals" from Islamic militias should not be allowed to participate. Militia leaders in turn denounced her as a communist, and several threatened to attack her. Finally the assembly chairman, an elderly former Afghan president, Sebqatallah Mojadedi, lost his temper and tried to throw the female delegate out of the tent, saying her vote was worth only half a man's anyway. In the past week, as major issues were gradually resolved, new stumbling blocks emerged over what status, official or otherwise, should be given to the country's various regional ethnic languages, and whether government officials should have the right to hold dual citizenship. The meeting nearly collapsed again Saturday over the language issue, but after intense private negotiations involving U.N. and U.S. diplomats, a compromise was reached. The government agreed to designate both Dari and Pashto, the major dialects, "national languages," and to refer to the minor dialects of Uzbek and Turkmen as "official" languages in their respective regions. The sensitive issue of dual nationalities for officials, which was raised by government opponents to undermine several of Karzai's top aides who hold both U.S. and Afghan citizenship, was reportedly postponed for future parliamentary debate. "I'm extremely happy," Qayum Karzai, a delegate and the president's brother, said by telephone yesterday from Kabul. "I wish it had not taken so long, and that the last three days had not gone into such emotional issues, but the most important parts of the constitution, the presidential system and the principles that matter, are still intact." President Karzai said repeatedly before and during the assembly that Afghanistan needed a strong presidential system. Otherwise, he argued, it would bog down in the same kinds of bitter ethnic disputes that led to ruinous civil war in the early 1990s. He scaled back some of the executive powers he had initially demanded in order to win support from opponents at the meeting. But some observers said that the vehement public confrontations at the assembly could cast a pall over plans for national elections, and that delegates from both major ethnic groups -- Pashtuns and Tajiks -- feared that they had made too many concessions. Perhaps the best illustration of the depth of ethnic divisions was the fight over the national anthem, which Pashtuns and Tajiks adamantly argued should be in their respective dialects. Under a compromise agreement, the anthem will be sung in Pashto, but will refer to other ethnic groups and include the phrase, "Allah is great." There was no formal final vote on the charter, which the exhausted delegates approved yesterday merely by rising to their feet in silence for 30 seconds.

Shia Make Constitutional Gains By Hasina Sulaiman, Shahabuddin Tarakhel and Hafizullah Gardesh in Kabul (ARR No. 100, 06-Jan-04) Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Shia Muslims, a significant minority in Afghanistan, made important gains in the new constitution passed Sunday at the end of the Loya Jirga. Unlike the previous constitution of 1964, when the king who then ruled Afghanistan had to be a follower of the Hanafi Sunni school of Islam, a Shia Muslim can now become leader of the country. The qualifications for the president under the new constitution only require a candidate to be a Muslim. It recognises in Article 131 that Shia – who represent perhaps 15 per cent of the population – can use their own school of law in court cases involving personal matters. Sulaiman Muradi, a Shia from Bamian province, said, “This new constitution is very different compared with the last one. We Shias are very happy. In the last constitution we couldn’t become leader of Afghanistan, and in school we had to study the Sunni school of Islam. Now I truly consider myself a real Afghan.” Most Afghans are Sunni, and use the Hanafi branch of Islamic jurisprudence. The Shia have their own school of law, Jafari. Differences between the two often amount to minor variations relating to the conduct of prayers and funeral and marriage rituals. While the Shia welcome the constitutional changes, some have pointed out that the community has always followed their own rituals irrespective of the country’s laws. “Nobody has prevented the performance of our religious rituals… even during the communist period,” said Shia scholar Ali Ahmad Fakoor. A member of the constitution commission, Fatema Gailani, said article 131 was passed without debate. “There is no emphasis on the Hanafi school in the new Afghan constitution. So the followers of the Jafari school do not need to raise the issue and threaten national unity,” she said. Gailani highlighted the political rift between Shia and Sunni factions which came to a head during the war against communist rule, increasing distrust between the two groups. “During the jihad period… whereas Saudi Arabia and United States tended to assist Sunni jihadi parties… the Shia parties sought help from Iran,” she said. The Afghan deputy minister of Hajj, Sayed Mohammad Mubarez, who is a Shia, denied suggestions that his community is a source of tension. “We have taken part in jihad and in the reconstruction of the country. Those who say that Jafaris are stirred up by Iran are wrong. We are Jafaris, not Iranians,” he said. Hasina Sulaiman and Shahabuddin Tarakhel are independent journalists in Kabul participating in IWPR’s Loya Jirga reporting project. Hafizullah Gardesh is an IWPR editor/reporter in Kabul.

MotherJones.com January 6, 2004 Good Government?
After a protracted and painful labor, Afghanistan's loya jirga gave birth on Sunday to a democratic constitution, the country's first. Given Afghanistan's history of violent civil strife, the mere fact that the 502-member council of elders and local dignitaries managed to agree on a final draft is extraordinary, and was hailed as such by many Afghan and international leaders, who welcomed the news as clear progress towards a democratic government in Afghanistan. The big question now is whether the constitution, so impressive on paper, can be implemented in practice. The constitution sets the framework for the first democratic government in the history of the country, now to be named "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan." The key points of the document provide for a strong president, two vice-presidents, a cabinet, and a parliament, with presidential elections to be held in June. The country will have an official civil law system, with the caveat that no civil law may contradict the laws of Islam. Women, strictly repressed under Taliban rule, are officially recognized as equal to men and allocated 25 percent of seats in the lower house of the parliament. The controversy over the nation's official language, which almost derailed the entire process, was resolved with Pashto and Dari, the languages spoken by the biggest ethnic groups, as the primary languages, with minority languages to be recognized in specific regions. The constitution was met with approval by everyone from human rights leaders and U.S. president George Bush and to the secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. In Washington Bush issued a statement congratulating the loya jirga for creating a country that will, "help ensure that terror finds no further refuge." Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, who lobbied for increased presidential powers, welcomed of the document, which greatly increased the power of any future president, as "a success for us all, for all the people of Afghanistan." The government funded paper, Anis also welcomed the document, praising the delegates for having put their differences aside for the sake of the national interest. However good the constitution looks in theory, it's far from clear that the new government will have to power actually to implement its provisions, as Mohammed Alam, a delegate to the loya jirga from the Farah Province, told Agence France Presse: "This constitution reflects the views of all Afghans including minorities. It is a well-balanced constitution, but it is only on paper.... There is no guarantee of its implementation. There are weapons everywhere in the country. The government has to disarm militias and gather the weapons, then it will be possible to think about implementation of the constitution and other laws in Afghanistan." As London's Independent reports Afghanistan's warlords hold the real power on the ground, and are unlikely to cede it willingly to a central government. "Afghanistan, which is the world's largest opium producer and has a plethora of warlords and militias, have anything approaching a national judicial or law enforcement system capable of enforcing the terms of a new constitution. Corruption abounds, large areas of the country, which is awash with arms, are lawless." Groups representing ethnic minorities and women fear that without provisions to de-militarize warlords, women and minorities, traditionally hard done by in Afghanistan, will continue to suffer. Women's rights in particular has been controversial throughout the constitutional process. Frustration with the proceedings led Malalai Joya, 26-year old Afghan social worker, to interrupt the constitutional proceedings to condemn what she saw as a convention full of criminals. Her testimony, brought attention to the country's mujahideen leaders who had taken part in the country's civil war of the 1990s, in which they killed and raped civilians. Joya's outburst was heralded by feminists -- and landed her under the protection of the United Nations. Meena Nanji, a filmmaker who has been working on a film about Afghan women, writes in the San Jose Mercury News that mujahideen leaders won't support women's rights. "The mujahedeen do not approve of women leading any part of their lives in public, and harshly intimidate those who think differently...The litany of laws passed this year to govern women's conduct reads like a page out of the Taliban handbook. They include the banning of coeducational classes; restrictions on a woman's ability to travel by limiting the time she can be without a 'mahram,' a male relative or husband; and forbidding women to sing in public. The biggest blow to women's rights was dealt in November when a 1970s law prohibiting married women from attending high school classes was upheld." The new constitution officially recognizes men and women as equal before the law, but many fear that intimidation and harassment of women will continue. The independent Afghan weekly, Farda expressed concern over threats against female delegates to the convention. Some women who are running for office under the new constitution have reported having been threatened by armed men. Still, the constitution is a huge step for Afghanistan and represents a break with the past, explains Nader Naderi, a spokesperson for the Independent Afghan Human Rights Commission. "There are still some problems with the constitution, but the process was very positive, because people came together despite their differences and came to an agreement without violence…. This is a major change in the traditional way of doing politics in Afghanistan."

Afghanistan: Loya Jirga Approves Constitution, But Hard Part May Have Only Just Begun By Golnaz Esfandiari 01/05/2004 RFE/RL
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has praised Afghanistan's new constitution as a historic achievement. U.S. President George W. Bush says the document lays the foundation for democratic institutions and elections before the end of the year. But observers question whether a country emerging from more than two decades of fighting can be so quickly transformed. They say the ethnic divisions that still exist in the country will make implementation extremely difficult. Prague, 5 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- After three weeks of often contentious debate, Afghanistan's new constitution -- the country's sixth written constitution -- was approved by consensus rather than through a vote. Yesterday, a majority of the 502 delegates signaled their endorsement of the constitution by silently standing in a huge tent on the outskirts of Kabul. The agreement was a relief for the Afghan government and its allies. Acrimonious debate, ethnic divisions, and, particularly, the boycott of the voting process on 1 January by more than 40 percent of the delegates had sparked fears that agreement would not be reached. On 3 January, the UN's special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, held closed-door negotiations with rival delegates in order to get the assembly back on track. A compromise agreement was reached, and the constitution was approved. Dadfar Sepanta is a professor of political science at Aachen University in Germany and an expert on Afghanistan. He considers the Constitutional Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, a success for the people of Afghanistan because it makes the government accountable and guarantees their rights. "The ratification of the constitution is a huge success for the Afghan people for several reasons," he said. "First of all, the structure of the Afghan government, the governmental institutions, also the performance of the government and the rights of the Afghan citizens will have a legal framework." After more than two decades of war, Sepanta says the fact that delegates representing different ethnic groups and minorities in Afghanistan were able to sit and discuss the constitution should also be considered a victory. "Despite all the difficulties of the past 24 years, where Afghans solved their problems with force and guns, this time -- with the help of the international community -- they could, during 22 days, in a peaceful manner have a dialogue with each other, talk and discuss," he said. Afghan Transitional Authority Chairman Hamid Karzai has said the new constitution reflects the views of all Afghans. He also told the assembly: "There is no winner or loser. Everybody has won." Analysts, however, say Karzai has emerged as the main winner, since the strong presidential system he advocated was finally approved. After much debate, little was changed from the original draft. Rivals of Karzai, led by former mujahedin commanders who wanted to curb the president's powers, did manage to strengthen parliament with amendments granting veto power over key presidential appointments and policies. The president will also have two vice presidents. Vikram Parekh, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group in Kabul, raises doubts over whether the new constitution ultimately will be supported by different factions within Afghanistan. "It was a success for...Karzai, and it's also a success for the United States, which was backing him wholeheartedly in this particular respect," he said. "But in terms of whether it will be a document that will be inclusive and gain the support of the different sections of the population, that I'm much more doubtful of." The main split at the assembly was between two groups -- the Pashtun supporters of Karzai's government and the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other smaller ethnic groups led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Uzbek commander Abdul Rashid Dostum, and Islamic conservative Abdul Sayyaf. The status of languages was one of the main issues that delayed the agreement. Dari and Pashtu will be the two official languages, but northern minority languages have been granted official status in their strongholds. Sepanta says the ethnic divides that emerged at the Loya Jirga could bode ill for the future. "The problem is that politics in Afghanistan -- particularly in the last 24 years and specifically in the last week [during the Loya Jirga] -- had a strong ethnic and tribal color," he said. "It means that those ethnic issues that exist in Afghanistan's structure became a political and ideological tool." Sepanta added: "If these [ethnic issues] are not overcome democratically, then my concern is that the warlords and politicians will take advantage of the ethnic differences, and this is unfortunately the only way you can mobilize people. It's not possible anymore to mobilize people in the name of Islam, communism, or similar ideologies. The only negative and destructive tool that exists in Afghanistan are ethnic issues." Analyst Parekh says the process of adopting the constitution has sharpened existing ethnic divisions in the country. "My concern really has been that the process of creating the constitution, and most particularly the Constitutional Loya Jirga, has been one that instead of bridging divisions between people -- especially the ethnic divisions, which have been the most polarizing in Afghanistan -- in some ways, it has actually exacerbated these divisions by throwing the major debates on the constitution, by casting these almost entirely on ethnic lines," he said. "That process of adopting the constitution, I think, may have in some ways made the process of implementing it considerably harder." He continues, saying, "I think Karzai's standing as somebody who represents all of the different sections of Afghanistan -- all of the different ethnic [groups] and communities and the Sunnis and the Shias -- this has probably been damaged to a certain degree by the real divide between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns that emerged during this Constitutional Loya Jirga." The ratification of Afghanistan's new constitution is a key step in the UN-backed Bonn process and paves the way for the country's first democratic elections, tentatively scheduled for June. Analysts say the actual implementation of the constitution, however, will depend on the security situation in the country. Dadfar Sepanta says, "The acceptance and implementation of the constitution depends to a big extent on whether disarmament [of warlords] will be implemented in Afghanistan, whether there will be an end to the rule of different regional commanders, and whether the authority of the central government will be strengthened." Some analysts say several articles of the constitution are not clearly defined and that others are open to interpretation. Article 3, for example, says that "no law can be contrary to the belief and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam." Some believe this may open the door to a strict implementation of Islamic law. Parekh says clearing up these ambiguities will be very important. "The main challenges, I think, that lie ahead when it comes down to implementing the constitution -- one will be just simply clearing up a lot of the ambiguities in the constitution," he said. "I mean, the draft -- there is a last-minute compromise in it that had a sort of commission for the implementation of the constitution, but it doesn't clarify at all what the powers of that commission are going to be. Conflicts between secular sources of law, like international human rights law and Islamic law, also need to be clarified, as well." Today, a spokesman for Karzai admitted that putting the constitution into practice in a country that has experienced more than 20 years of war will be a major challenge. "Now that Afghanistan is entering a new era, adoption of a new constitution is vital," spokesman Jawed Luddin said. "But more important now is the implementation of this constitution all over the country."
Posted By: mariam   August 12th 2004, 2004 2:16 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.