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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.

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

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Round-up of opinion on CLJ - part two
Includes commentary from Ahmed Rashid, Lakhdar Brahimi and Human Rights Watch.

The Loya Jirga has resulted in significant shifts in the ethnic and political make up of the government and other Afghan forces, which sharply contradict many of the assumptions of Pakistan's policy makers. Islamabad needs to reassess its assumptions with less prejudice and greater objectivity with the rapidly changing political process that are taking place in Afghanistan. It can only be hoped that the fresh thinking that has taken place within the military, the intelligence agencies and the foreign office on relations with India will now be duplicated on the Afghan front. Pakistan official policy of support for the Karzai administration and the post September 11 set up in Kabul, has essentially been undermined by several underlying criticisms which have guided Pakistan's real policy as opposed to its stated policy on Afghanistan. Pakistan has privately maintained that the US-Afghan government policies have undermined, alienated and humiliated the majority Pashtun population; that the former Northern Alliance forces led by the Tajik Panjsheri troika in Kabul has exercised real power for the past two years and that the Americans have continued to support them; that the ethnic minorities in northern Afghanistan have been irrelevant to the power equation in Kabul; that India has `'taken over'' Afghanistan and has overwhelming influence over Karzai and dominates the political scene through the Panjsheris and that the Taliban remain an important political force which cannot be ignored by Pakistan. Many of these assumptions are based on inflexible analysis that dates back to the late 1980s, as to who is a so called friend of Pakistan and who is an enemy of Pakistani interests. As a consequence of these assumptions, Pakistan's feels its loss of influence in Afghanistan can only be adjusted by turning a blind eye to the support that the Taliban receives from the MMA government in Peshawar and Quetta. That has proved to be extremely negative both in Pakistan's relations with the Afghan government and the international community. However the political process and the ethnic make up in Afghanistan is undergoing rapid change. The Pashtuns are back. The Pashtuns have indeed felt increasingly alienated with indiscriminate US military operations in the Pashtun belt, the lack of reconstruction and the resurgence of the Taliban which has increased the lack of security and stunted the role of aid agencies. When the Loya Jirga began on December 14, the majority of Pashtun delegates supported Karzai and the idea of a strong Presidential system. However there were at least three opposition groups within the elected Pashtun delegates the monarchists from southern Afghanistan who wanted Zahir Shah to play a much larger political role, educated Pashtun democrats who wanted a parliamentary system and greater control over the President in line with non-Pashtun delegates and neo-Taliban Pashtun or jehadis led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf who wanted major concessions on turning the moderate constitution into a more Islamic document with a major role for sharia law. However following a great deal of pressure and cajoling from both the Karzai camp and important international players within the first few days, the Pashtuns all united under the idea of a strong center particularly as many non-Pashtun delegates continued to oppose a presidential system. Even though the Pashtuns remain fragmented, semi-leaderless in the post Taliban era and are still deeply divided on many issues particularly the role of Islam, they all united behind a strong presidential system. They united behind Karzai because they clearly they saw a strong center as being in their ethnic self-interest, which would in time permit a Pashtun political resurgence. The language issue became a reflection of this Pashtun resurgence. The opposition of many Pashtuns to giving minority languages a local national status and their insistence on the national role of Pashtu was an important fault line in the intense and often bitter debates towards the end of the LJ. Karzai now has to ensure that the Pashtuns do not go to the other extreme and recognize that the new Afghanistan becomes a truly multi-ethnic state. Pashtun rule and selected oppression of the ethnic minorities in the pas cannot be repeated now and would be strongly resisted. However Pakistan can no longer claim that the Pashtuns are under-represented. Pashtuns have a national leadership in the shape of the cabinet ministers who continue to control the most important financial ministries in Kabul and local leaders who have asserted themselves in the LJ. The changed situation has also weakened the Taliban. The Taliban have not received popular backing in the south since their resurgence began and now they will become even more deeply unpopular because they are seen as a force that is blocking Pashtun access to reconstruction. All this ensures that Pakistan has to adopt a more flexible, accommodating policy towards Afghan Pashtuns and in particular convince the MMA, the intelligence agencies and others that the Taliban are no longer an option for the Pashtuns. The Pashtuns are creating their own leadership, which is becoming increasingly anti-Pakistan as long as Islamabad is seen to be soft on the Taliban. The Panjsheri troika is weaker. One of the most significant developments in the early days of the LJ was the lack of support that the Panjsheri troike (Defense Minister Marshall Mohammed Fahim, Education Minister Younis Qanooni and Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah) had inside the LJ tent. First they were divided amongst themselves and unable to present a common front. They also faced a true dilemma. If they opposed Karzai they would be castigated by Karzai, the Americans and the UN, if they supported Karzai they would loose the support of their rank and file. Ultimately they took the second route but the loss of prestige amongst their potential supporters was marked. Moreover the Tajiks as the second largest ethnic group were divided and unwilling to listen to the divided troika. While the majority of Tajiks supported the northern block, who criticized the presidential system, others backed Burhanuddin Rabbani who was trying to straddle two stools the fundamentalist camp and the camp of the northern block. Rabbani was able to do neither very effectively and lost out badly. Also Marshall Fahim had earlier demanded from Karzai that as the draft Constitution stated there would be one Vice President and he would be that figure in other words that the present configuration of a Pashtun President and a Tajik (Panjsheri) Vice President would be the ticket for the future election. Karzai rejected this and forcefully told delegates in his speech at the end of the LJ that such ethnic cleavages were unacceptable. The final Constitution now calls for two Vice Presidents another major blow to Fahim. Thirdly there is now concerted pressure from the Americans and the NATO led interntional peace keeping force for Fahim to withdraw his forces from Kabul, as was stipulated in the Bonn agreement and to carry out major reforms in the Defense Ministry making it more ethnicly diverse therby allowing the new Afghan national army to be led by a truly national officer corps rather than a predominantly Pansjheri one. The Tajiks as the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan have been ignored by Pakistan and billed as anti-Pakistan for many years on account of the perception that all Tajiks are led by the troika. This is now even more of a short sighted policy than before, as the Panjsheri troika is much weaker, the Tajiks represent many different points of view, with some of them supporting Karzai, while others oppose him. The northern ethnic minorities have become increasingly important. Pakistan's pro-Pashtun policy in Afghanistan for the past 25 years has resulted in enormous anti-Pakistan resentment amongst the northern ethnic groups Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turcomans and the Shia Hazaras in central Afghanistan especially when one considers the massacres carried out by the Taliban and Al'Qaeda in the north with thousands of Pakistani militants taking part in those ethnic and sectarian killings. The north has been treated by the Taliban and Pakistan as a hostile battle ground rather than a political arena. Ultimately the north provided the strongest opposition to Karzai and the presidential system. The emergence of a strong northern block of delegates who demanded greater autonomy, checks and balances on the president's powers and the use of their own languages was the single most important development in the LJ and the most surprising. The changes that were made to the draft Constitution were almost entirely determined by the northern block. This has important ramifications for Kabul, for the future of inter-ethnic relations between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns and for the electoral process in Afghanistan when the northern block may well put up a presidential candidate against Karzai or back an opposition candidate from the Pashtun belt. Most significantly for Pakistan, the northern block has become an important national political player, while Pakistan's pro-Pashtun policy and its support for the former Taliban regime has seriously undermined the ability of Islamabad to strike a more friendly position with the north. India's political influence has been weakened but its reconstruction program is a model of good neighborliness. The loss of influence of the Panjsheri troika will clearly weaken India's political influence in Kabul in the months ahead, especially in the lead up for the elections. But India has adopted a much more strategic multi-ethnic policy towards all Afghan groups, as compared to Pakistan. It has reached out to all ethnic groups, warlords, regional and tribal power brokers, even delving into such areas as Herat where it has established a good working relationship with Ismael Khan and Kandahar. India was on the winning side of the war that defeated the Taliban (it backed the former Northern Alliance), while Pakistan's U turn was done too late to matter to the Afghan victors. However Pakistan has allowed sustenance to the Taliban resurgence while India has opposed it, thus further strengthening India's position in Afghanistan vis a vis the international community and in particular the Americans. Thus India is no longer entirely dependent on the Panjsheri troika for its influence, it has trying to create new friends. India's past dependence on the Panjsheri troika mirrors in a sense Pakistan's dependence on the Pashtuns. While India has realized the limitations of such a policy, Pakistan still has to come to its own realization. Most significantly India's reconstruction strategy has been aimed at winning hearts and minds of all sectors of Afghan society. Thus while India provides buses for the poor of Kabul to travel on, it also supplies aircraft for Afghan national airlines, Ariana. There are significant Indian projects in all ethnic areas of the country. Most recently it has pledged to build a power plant in Bamiyan to provide power for the Hazaras, the first time that the impoverished and largely ignored Shia Hazaras have received such recognition by a major donor country. In contrast Pakistan has failed to have any reconstruction strategy or create Pakistani landmarks as a sign of goodwill in the education, health or infrastructure field for the Afghans. Even the promised new road from Torkham to Jalalabad has yet to be started two years late. If Islamabad had taken the initiative to build a power plant in the Shia region, (where Pakistani Sunni extremist militants slaughtered thousands of Hazaras over the years), the impact would have been enormously significant in the north as well as being a kind of apology for allowing such victimization of the Hazaras by the Taliban and Pakistanis. Nevertheless the Islamabad assumption that India has `'taken over'' Kabul is both crude, highly exagurrated and patently false. India is competing for influence in Kabul with dozens of other donor countries not to speak of powerful neighbors such as Iran, Russia and China. India is seen by Afghans as one more country competing for influence and it has no less an importance than say China, which has also been giving enormous support to Karzai. Nevertheless the military's assessment of India's role allows Islamabad policy makers to whip up a frenzy of even more neo-Talibanism from the MMA and others and perversely allows Islamabad to adopt no reconstruction or political strategy that is meaningful. So the military complains to the Americans about India's role, but is unwilling to spend money in Afghanistan and counter Indian influence in the field. In short all the assumption of Islamabad's policy makers have to be reconsidered in the light of the Loya Jirga. Good neighborliness for Pakistan must not mean excessive interference in Afghanistan's affairs, but neither can Islamabad afford to ignore the political processes now underway in that country. So far its pro-Pashtun policy has failed to yield dividends even amongst the Pashtuns leave alone other ethnic groups.

Brahimi Says New Constitution Only A First Step For Afghanistan By Jim Wurst, U.N. Wire January 15, 2004 UNITED NATIONS ? Lakhdar Brahimi, in his last briefing to the Security Council as the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, said this morning that the country's new constitution "is a great accomplishment" but warned that "the new constitutional order will only have meaning for the average Afghan if security improves and the rule of law is strengthened." "Thus, if expectations have been raised, they are likely to focus on the needs that have been there since the start of the peace process and remain unmet," said Brahimi. He said those needs are the disarmament of factional forces, reconstruction, reform of national institutions and creating a government to "ensure all Afghans feel that it better represents them." The constitutional loya jirga, or grand council, approved a new constitution Jan. 4. Brahimi announced his resignation the same day. "There are many indications," Brahimi said, that "not enough progress is being made and some gaps may even have widened over the past year." In particular, on the security front, "the threat factional forces pose to the peace process has been increasingly compounded by the terrorist tactics of extremists aimed at causing the peace process to fail altogether." This insecurity, in turn, is hampering the next steps in the electoral process, he said, including the registration of voters for district elections. On the other hand, "the creation of a capable, unified and loyal national army and police has certainly shown progress," Brahimi added. In opening the meeting, Secretary General Kofi Annan said the constitution "defines a political order" including a strong president, a bicameral legislature, a judiciary "in compliance with Islam," and protection for human rights. The constitution "will not, by itself, guarantee peace and stability," he said, but it is a step needed to address other "impediments to the peace process. That means tackling the deeply troubling security situation, ensuring an inclusive, broadly representative government and quickening the pace of reconstruction."

Monday, 5 January, 2004, 12:29 GMT Afghan press fete loya jirga result BBC NEWS After weeks of debate, Afghanistan's loya jirga, or grand council, approved a new constitution for the country on Sunday. The aim of the document is to unify the diverse Afghan nation and to prepare the ground for elections later this year. The constitution also provides for women having guaranteed representation in the new parliament, as well as a powerful presidency. On the whole, Afghanistan's fledgling press welcomes the developments. The success of the constitutional loya jirga is a preamble for other major victories in Afghanistan Anis The government-funded daily Anis highlights the ferocity of the exchanges in the debate as the delegates argued over the terms of the document. But, its editorial says, in the end "understanding surmounted any disagreement". "Fortunately, the nation's representatives... paid heed to the national interest and gave up those demands which caused tension and procrastination." Future optimism The paper feels it can look to the future with optimism: "The success of the constitutional loya jirga is a preamble for other major victories in Afghanistan." A signed commentary in the same paper goes deeper into the factional disagreements and wrangling, which characterised the loya jirga's work, and attributes the eventual success of the gathering to a "decrease in personal and tribal preferences". Force, pressure, aggression and the threats of the warlords against the women delegates and some other people's representatives... cannot be overlooked Farda "Although the work of the loya jirga came a long way and included diverse debates and arguments, and experienced numerous tensions, it was always believed that this loya jirga would reach a conclusion," it says. Any failure would have been "the failure of the whole nation". The independent weekly Farda sees the debates and "tensions" in the assembly as part of political horse-trading, rather than any concerted attempt to sabotage the process. But nevertheless, the paper is concerned: "Force, pressure, aggression and the threats of the warlords against the women delegates and some other people's representatives... cannot be overlooked." Stronger president The strengthened role of the Afghan presidency is commented on in Mojahed , which is affiliated to the Jamiat-e Eslami-e party. The paper believes the current president, Hamid Karzai, made his support "for an absolute presidential system" abundantly clear to the delegates. "Independent analysts describe these declarations as tantamount to the fact that Mr Karzai wanted to warn the representatives to 'cut your coat according to your cloth', because he is not in agreement with anything but an absolute presidential system", the paper says. Unveiling some faces, who were unrealistically chanting the slogans of democracy, was another achievement of the loya jirga Mojahed Nevertheless, Mojahed is sure the loya jirga showed "the government officials of Afghanistan" that they "cannot play with the aspirations of people". "The Afghan people have now fully recognised those people who are heading towards democracy, and those who just chant slogans." It believes that this is also a mark of the gathering's success. "Unveiling some faces, who were unrealistically chanting the slogans of democracy, was another achievement of the loya jirga."

Women's rights on paper only Afghanistan's sham of a constitution By Nicole Colson | January 9, 2004 | S.W. Online | Page 7 AS AFGHAN leaders approved a new constitution last week, the U.S. mainstream media hailed a "new era of democracy" in Afghanistan. But there's very little democratic about life in the "new" Afghanistan--and the new constitution is being held together by threads. At several points, in fact, the loya jirga--the tribal council called to decide the constitution--nearly broke down altogether, with delegates threatening to walk out over questions of the strength of the presidency and the country's official languages. Insiders say that the constitution was eventually approved only because of intense pressure from the U.S. and United Nations (UN). Under the new constitution, there is to be a directly elected president and a two-chamber national assembly, with the first elections being held in June. The country will now be known as the "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan." There is to be a system of civil law, but no law will be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam, a provision that many believe opens the door to the introduction of Sharia law--the strict Islamist code that punishes crimes with executions and amputations. The Bush administration will no doubt trumpet the fact that the new constitution gives women recognition as equal citizens and sets aside 25 percent of the seats of the lower house of parliament for women. But it isn't likely to comment on the fact that most of these seats will remain unoccupied--since Afghan women remain under constant threat from warlords and even Taliban leaders who today are in power through much of the country. During the loya jirga, for example, Malalai Joya, a female delegate from the western province of Farah, where women face some of the worst abuses, was temporarily thrown out when she complained that the same thugs and warlords from the old days are in charge in the "new" Afghanistan. "They were the ones who destroyed our country," Joya shouted from the floor as she was heckled. "They should be tried in international and national courts. If our poor people forgive these criminals, history will never forgive them, their criminal activities have all been recorded in history." Joya's microphone was cut off as dozens of male delegates rushed toward assembly chair Sighbatullah Mojadeddi's platform, some shouting "Down to Communism!" and "Kick the Communists out of the tent." Mojadeddi had Joya removed, later telling reporters that it was for her own safety--because she had been "impolite" during the debate. In other words, women in the "new" Afghanistan have rights on paper--and nowhere else. That was confirmed by an October report from Amnesty International, which states that Karzai's U.S.-installed government has "proved unable to protect women." "The risk of rape and sexual violence by members of armed factions and former combatants is still high," the report says. "Forced marriage, particularly of girl children, and violence against women in the family are widespread in many areas of the country. These crimes of violence continue with the active support or passive complicity of state agents, armed groups, families and communities... "The criminal justice system is too weak to offer effective protection of women's right to life and physical security, and itself subjects them to discrimination and abuse. Prosecution for violence against women, and protection for women at acute risk of violence is virtually absent." In September, Karzai's government even upheld a law passed in the mid-1970s that prohibits married women from attending high school classes. As a result, as many as 2,000 to 3,000 women have been expelled from school. Beyond the issue of women's rights is the power vacuum in the country that threatens to topple Karzai. Heavy fighting between rival militias rages on in the north of Afghanistan, despite UN and U.S. attempts to disarm the factions. In the south, the brutality of U.S. forces hunting for al-Qaeda militants is causing more and more resentful locals to turn against Karzai's government--as when U.S. forces twice mistakenly bombed Afghan children playing in fields in December, killing 15. As for the U.S.-backed Karzai, his presidency is largely impotent outside of the capital of Kabul. In fact, the country's security situation is so unstable that following approval of the constitution, Karzai arrived to congratulate the assembly by helicopter--opting to fly the one mile from his office rather than drive because of fears of an assassination attempt. For Karzai, the question is how long he can hold on to power--and what will the Bush administration do to help keep him in place.

POLITICS: Experts Warn of Muscle-Flexing Behind Afghan Constitution by Jim Lobe IPS-Inter Press Service WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (IPS) - Political power plays at the just-concluded assembly to write a new constitution for Afghanistan raise serious question about whether the country can hold free and fair elections as scheduled later this year, say rights groups and other experts. While praising the inclusion of women's rights in the new charter, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said political intimidation, vote-buying and a lack of transparency characterised key parts of the three-week loya jirga, or grand assembly, which put the finishing touches on and approved the country's charter. Also, a number of provisions in the document were sufficiently vague to raise concerns about how they would be enforced in practice, the group added. "Human rights protections were put on paper," said John Sifton, HRW's researcher on Afghanistan. "But there were a lot of missed opportunities and complaints and corruption during the convention," he added in a statement. Some of the same critiques were levelled by Anatol Lieven, a Central Asian specialist with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In an article published by the 'Financial Times' earlier this week, Lieven stressed that the final document was "not so much a constitution as an aspiration". While the assembly was "fairly representative" of Afghanistan's diverse peoples and interests, he noted, it was "by no means fully democratic, in either its selection or its procedures." Lieven described the meeting as a "'top-down' process", and stressed that the constitution would not have been ratified in the end "without arm-twisting by the U.S., the United Nations and the international community". All of this bodes worrisome, both for the implementation of the constitution and of national elections that are scheduled for June, but which analysts are already suggesting might have to be put off until September, if not longer. HRW noted that the just-concluded meeting made "significant achievements", particularly the guarantee inscribed in the constitution that women will hold a substantial number of seats in the country's bicameral National Assembly. Approximately 25 percent of the seats in the lower house are reserved for women, while the charter requires the president to appoint additional women to the upper body, called the House of Elders. In addition, one provision provides that men and women should be treated equally under the law, including the specifically enumerated political, civil, economic and social rights that are recognised by the constitution. But according to HRW, the document lacks strong language ensuring that institutions created to uphold those rights are empowered to do so, while its failure to address the role of Islamic law and its relationship to human rights protections could be used by a conservative judiciary to implement interpretations of Islam that might run contrary to global human rights standards. The constitution provided that no laws should contravene basic Islamic principles. HRW said it was also concerned that the constitution fails to address accountability for serious human rights abuses that have taken place in the past. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which was created by the December 2001 Bonn Agreement after the U.S.-led military campaign ousted the Taliban regime, might be able to delve into the question, but the new constitution gives it no mandate to do so. HRW said it was especially concerned about the machinations by various factions before and during the meeting to influence the outcome, and added that the use of intimidation and bribery underlined fears that warlords and local factions continue to dominate Afghanistan's political evolution. "A constitution cannot itself reduce the power of the warlords," said Sifton. "But an open political process in drafting it could have weakened their influence. Instead, the warlords flexed their muscles and proved they still hold a lot of power." London-based Amnesty International (AI), which also observed the process, released a statement two days before the Jan. 4 ratification that echoed HRW's concerns. "Dominance by strong political and armed factional leaders and the absence of the rule of law in many parts of the country contributes to an atmosphere of insecurity for delegates who wish to act independently of powerful political groups," it said. "Some delegates fear for the safety of their families and for their own lives, especially after they return home at the end of the (loya jirga)." Both HRW and Amnesty had documented numerous cases of death threats and corruption in the process that selected the delegates to the loya jirga, and U.N. officials told HRW that many of the delegates were proxies of local factional leaders. The rights group said much of the substantive discussion took place between allies and ministers of President Hamid Karzai and various factional representatives behind closed doors. As a result, key provisions in the constitution were never the subject of serious debate. Karzai emerged from the meeting having achieved his major goal -- securing a strong presidential system. But what promises the government was forced to make to prevail is not yet clear. The central government has relied virtually entirely on security and military support from the United States, its allies in Afghanistan and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Except in a few locations around the country where U.S. forces have deployed to provide security and some reconstruction assistance, Karzai's authority has not extended far beyond Kabul's municipal boundaries. As a result, much of the country is in the hands of warlords and factional leaders, most of who identify with specific clans or ethnic minorities. A new constitution that provides for a strong presidency is therefore "almost surreal in its distance from the real distribution of power in Afghanistan", according to Carnegie's Lieven. HRW called on the international community to provide better security for the country. It said expanding and extending ISAF into the countryside, as long called for by both the United Nations and relief groups, would signify the international community's commitment to the constitution. Sifton said that would be critical in coming months if elections are to be held successfully. Taliban and allied forces have renewed their presence in the Pashtun-dominated eastern and southern parts of the country in a direct challenge to the central government's control. Last week, the United Nation's former top Afghanistan expert and current European Union representative in Kabul, Francesc Vendrell, warned that a free and fair election could not be carried out if the current security situation persists. (END/2004)

Posted By: mariam   September 30th 2004, 2004 3:14 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.