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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
News from week 2 of CLJ (Knight-Ridder, NPR, WP, CSM, AFP)
Knight Ridder Washington December 22, 2003, Monday Afghanistan's first Grand Assembly progressing slowly By Andrea Gerlin KABUL, Afghanistan _ Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, lurched toward progress Sunday as several groups of delegates working on a new national constitution completed deliberations that could give U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai the strong presidency that he wants. Loya Jirga chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi emerged from a big white tent on the western outskirts of this dusty capital to report that four of 10 committees had reached agreement on 160 articles in the country's proposed new constitution. By day's end, four other committees were done, but one, headed by former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was said to be deadlocked. Sunday's developments were the first signs of progress among the 502 delegates, meeting in secret in small groups beyond the scrutiny of United Nations or media representatives. They're midway through deliberations that are slated to conclude this week but may not. "We hope that they will work fast and finish it as fast as possible," Mujaddedi said. If Loya Jirga delegates end up backing a strong presidency, it would be a defeat for powerful regional warlords who want a parliament they might control. National elections are expected in June if delegates ratify the new constitution. At a separate news conference Sunday, five delegates _ four from northern provinces controlled by Gen. Rashid Dostum, a leading warlord _ accused Karzai of seeking to impose a presidential system of governance on the delegates. One of the five said 100 delegates from 17 provinces had complained to Mujaddedi but were ignored. Their grievances are over the participation of 52 unelected delegates appointed by Karzai and by the curtailing of all public deliberations last Wednesday in favor of private caucuses. Protesting delegates said that's allowing leaders to "hide from the people." Karzai, who has strong backing from Western powers including the U.S. but has faced challenges from former president Rabbani, has denied reports that he was pressuring delegates to adopt a presidential system. He said before the Loya Jirga opened that he would only seek office if the constitution provided that system. The 150 to 200 mujahedeen delegates to the Loya Jirga, who collectively form its largest single bloc, oppose a strong presidency and were rumored to be prepared to walk out en masse unless they obtained a parliamentary system. All delegates have put a lot on the line just by gathering to debate the draft constitution. If it succeeds, Afghans may finally be able to live peaceably, unite around a common purpose, and reconstruct their crumbling homeland. If the meeting fails, however, it could plunge the country back into the lawless strife that allowed the oppressive former Taliban ruling militia to seize power in the early 1990s following the expulsion of Soviet troops. The Taliban allowed the country to be further exploited by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorism network, which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Western targets, including the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. One of the five dissenting delegates who spoke Sunday, Anjineer Ahmad, warned civil war could resume if the constitution-writing process is unfair. "We have been fighting for 20 years, if we don't do this (right) maybe that problem will come again," he said. Mujaddedi, the Loya Jirga chairman, and Farooq Wardak, a spokesman for the Loya Jirga, sought to assure reporters that the new constitution would give Afghans the right to speak freely, endow women with equal rights and help to reconcile the country's conflict- filled past. Reporters' concerns were prompted by remarks during the initial open deliberations when delegates, mainly Afghan women oppressed under the Taliban, complained that they had been marginalized. Two protested at the opening session Dec. 13 that men were making long speeches at their expense. Deeper social divisions arose later in the week when a young woman delegate described the anti-Soviet mujahedeen fighters who later turned on Afghans as "war criminals" who had prolonged conflict and suggested they be tried in international courts. Some of the fighters charged the podium and chanted, "Death to the Communists!" Mujaddedi sought unsuccessfully to have that woman delegate ejected and the United Nations representative placed her under protection. Mujaddedi said Sunday the delegate had been wrong to publicly accuse anyone of a crime because such judgments were premature. The draft constitution stated explicitly that "everyone is innocent until proven guilty," he said. "Everybody has had the chance to express him or herself," Mujaddedi told reporters. "Everybody is allowed to have their opinion. With women, it's the same." Council debate on the constitution is expected to begin Monday among heads of the 10 committees. They're under severe time and money pressure, because the presidential decree that created the Loya Jirga said it would conclude within 10 days of its start. U.N. international donors are providing $50,000 a day in support only for 10 days, ending Wednesday.
National Public Radio SHOW: Weekend All Things Considered December 21, 2003 (8:00 PM ET) Barnett Rubin discusses recent debates at the Loya Jirga in Afghanistan JACKI LYDEN, host: For the past week hundreds of delegates from around Afghanistan have been debating a new constitution. Once adopted the document will lay the groundwork for national elections next year. The debate at the Loya Jirga in Kabul has been passionate. Tempers have flared over whether Afghanistan should have a strong presidency or a parliamentary system. The role of women in Afghan society is a topic of fierce dispute. Professor Barnett Rubin is an observer with the United Nations at the Loya Jirga, and he joins us now from Kabul. Welcome, Professor Rubin. Professor BARNETT RUBIN (United Nations Observer): Thank you, Jacki. LYDEN: You've been observing this process. Tell us how the Loya Jirga is divided between this presidential and parliamentary system. Is there any sort of consensus whatsoever? Prof. RUBIN: I think that we have seen a kind of consensus forming around a presidential system with some checks on presidential power. The basic issues at stake are that many people, probably a majority, believe that given the presence of armed groups all over Afghanistan and the fragmentation of power in the country, it's necessary at this point to have a clear focus of power at the center. At the same time since the president would probably come from the largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, delegates coming, in particular, from other ethnic groups are concerned that they will be excluded from power under such a system. LYDEN: What about the role of women? That got a lot of attention here this week when one female delegate spoke to the entire Loya Jirga. Could you recap what happened for us? Prof. RUBIN: Malalai Joya is a 25-year-old social worker who spoke up at one of the first plenary sessions and protested that in the Loya Jirga and particularly among the chairs of the working groups, there are many of the criminals who have destroyed Afghanistan. And this created a strong reaction by some of the leaders of the mujaheddin, confusion in the chair as to how to deal with it. She has continued, however, to participate in the Loya Jirga. I met with her earlier today actually, although she's been under some guard in case there are any threats against her. Now as far as the role of women is concerned, they are 20 percent of the meeting; that is, there are more of them here than there are in the US Congress. They're a very visible presence. And actually just about an hour ago I was at a meeting at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, where there were--I don't know--maybe 200 women or something who were meeting to plan how to introduce amendments in order to further protect the rights of women. LYDEN: So do they feel encouraged by what they're seeing happen in the Loya Jirga as regards the constitution? Prof. RUBIN: They have some misgivings because they feel that the constitution as written does not clearly even state that women are equal citizens of Afghanistan, and they have found a lot of resistance from some of the delegates. For instance, some of them want to state that only a man can be the president of Afghanistan, and they are resisting the idea of equality because they claim that Islamic law requires certain kinds of inequality. And actually in the vehicle on the way to that meeting, there was a very animated discussion among the women in the back seat about the misinterpretation of Islam by men and how conditions had changed since a thousand years ago. So there's a lot of passion among them and desire for change. LYDEN: It sounds as if you've got those who would espouse a kind of modernity and those who favor traditionalism. What role for Islam do you see emerging in this constitution? I mean, certainly there are probably those who would want a full-on theocracy in Afghanistan. Prof. RUBIN: Of course, the constitution as written is an Islamic constitution. It states that no law can be contrary to Islam, it invokes Islam in its opening and it has other provisions about Islam. In one session there was one of leader of an Islamic group--I can't say who it was--who argued that the word 'democracy' should be taken out of an article where it said that one of the duties of the state is to promote democracy. And he argued for this by saying, 'Democracy,' which is what it was in Persian, 'is a foreign word.' But one of the delegates got up and said, 'Well, the word "mutah(ph),"' which means 'automobile,"is also a foreign word, but we don't have any problems with using that,' and the delegates decided to leave it in. At the same time democracy is not just an idea that can be implemented because people have the idea. It requires a lot of investment, learning, and it requires a government that can actually have access to the population so that they can participate. Those are conditions that don't really exist in Afghanistan right now. So even if there are many people who support the idea, it will take a long time to build the institutions that can make it a reality. LYDEN: Barnett Rubin is an observer with the United Nations at the Loya Jirga in Kabul. Thank you very much for speaking with us. Prof. RUBIN: Bye-bye. Wardak, the Loya Jirga spokesman, said that deadline was "not realistic," and that money could be found to fund up to three additional days if the extra time improved the quality of the final constitution.
An Afghan Constitution The Washington Post December 24, 2003 DESPITE CONTINUING violence from a regrouped Taliban, there has been a stream of modest good news from Afghanistan this month. A major reconstruction project, the 300-mile highway from Kabul to Kandahar, was completed as U.S. aid officials prepared to pour an additional $2 billion into development projects next year. The first steps were taken to disarm the private armies of warlords who rule over large parts of the countryside, and U.S. and NATO commanders announced plans to establish small military posts, or "provincial reconstruction teams," in a dozen places. The International Monetary Fund reported that the Afghan economy grew by 30 percent in 2002-03 and is likely to expand by another 20 percent next year. Most strikingly, some 500 delegates to an Afghan political convention, or loya jirga, including more than 100 women, have spent the past 10 days peacefully debating the draft of a new constitution that would make Afghanistan an electoral democracy for the first time in its history. Thanks to some behind-the-scenes brokering, it now seems probable that the assembly will approve, largely unchanged, a draft that will create a strong presidential system of government -- one seemingly designed to perpetuate the influence of the moderate interim president, Hamid Karzai. So far, the objections of dissenters have been overruled: not just women seeking greater recognition of their rights, but ethnic and regional warlords who want a more decentralized system, and Islamic fundamentalists who want to mandate rule by religious law. The end result will almost certainly be unsatisfactory to advocates of liberal democracy and human rights. But it could give Afghans a chance to hold a legitimate democratic election for president sometime next year -- an extraordinary advance for a country that little more than two years ago was subject to the Taliban's primitive despotism. Liberal objections to the constitutional draft begin with its concentration of power in the hands of the president, who will be able to legislate by decree and probably will appoint provincial governors. There will be a two-chamber assembly, with designated places for women, but no prime minister who might emerge as an alternative source of authority. One concern is that this system could give excessive power to one ethnic group, such as Mr. Karzai's Pashtun. But most Afghans seem more worried about the opposing risk that decentralization could revive the factionalism and, eventually, civil war that destroyed the country in the early 1990s. The draft constitution commits Afghanistan to abide by the U.N. Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But women at the conference object to its omission of specific language granting women and men equal rights. Other experts point out that while the constitution's references to Islam are relatively mild -- sharia, or Islamic law, is not mentioned -- clauses prohibiting laws or political parties opposed to Islam could be used by conservative judges to limit democracy or squelch religious reform movements. These are serious issues. That the Bush administration appears not to be greatly troubled by them reflects the fact that its political strategy for Afghanistan is centered not on a document but a man. The reasoning is that as long as the moderate and pro-Western Mr. Karzai controls the central government, and warlords and the Taliban roam the countryside, a powerful executive is in the interest of the United States. It's certainly risky to bet so heavily on one leader: Mr. Karzai must be counted on not only to survive but to use his power in ways that unite rather than split the country. In the longer term Afghanistan will need a political system more responsive to its ethnic diversity and more protective of civil and religious rights. But the country has already been through nine constitutions. If the 10th leads to the legitimate democratic election of a president whose authority is recognized throughout the country, Afghanistan will have taken a historic step forward.
Christian Science Monitor December 22, 2003, Monday Journey from Taliban to democrat By Scott Baldauf Before he leaves his village for Kabul, Abdul Hakeem Muneeb is given strict instructions by his constituents. "The first thing is Islam," they whisper to him. He agrees: "If we follow Islam, all the rest, development and security, will follow naturally." A delegate to the loya jirga, a grand council that will produce Afghanistan's new constitution, Mr. Muneeb makes an unlikely founding father. A former deputy minister in the ousted Taliban government, he still wears the black turban favored by Taliban leaders. Without it, he says, his head feels naked. While some Afghans consider him a representative of the past, the Karzai government sees former Taliban like Muneeb as windows into the volatile countryside, where the vast majority of Afghanistan's 21 million citizens live. Making men like Muneeb feel like citizens, with rights and responsibilities, may be a crucial first step in undercutting Taliban support and giving disaffected Pashtun tribesmen an option other than the gun. "There is a difference between the military commanders who use the name of Taliban, and the educated and religious people, the real Taliban," says Muneeb. "These people are not criminals, but they are concerned that the American forces will mistake them for the criminals who are fighting the government." From Zormat, the road to Kabul is a three-hour, bone-crunching ordeal. Muneeb is crammed in a public minivan, full of shoppers, businessmen, and whole Pashtun families carrying gifts for relatives in the big city. Outside the window, the arid mountains of Paktia Province slowly give way to the fertile farmlands of Logar, recently planted with winter wheat. Ever since he left a caravan of supporters - and armed bodyguards - back in the provincial capital of Gardez, Muneeb has felt nervous. He thinks of his wife, two daughters, and infant son in Zormat, who will need the protection of relatives for the next few weeks of the loya jirga. Just three months ago, Taliban fighters attacked Muneeb's home with Kalashnikovs. It was the second such attack in a year. But there are risks in Kabul too. Militiamen for the Northern Alliance, manning the checkpoints to the city, keep their eyes out for bearded Pashtuns. With the Taliban attacking aid workers, UN officials, and road builders all across the South and Southeast, these northern soldiers don't want to let anyone in who might bring violence to Kabul itself. Cellphones and Chinese food In Kabul, he meets his brother Mohebullah - a delegate from Ghazni Province - at the bullet-pocked campus of Kabul Polytechnic, the site of the loya jirga. Like high-school kids on a field trip, they hire a taxi and see the city of Kabul. Muneeb's first stop is an electronic store; he buys himself a mobile phone. Until recently, he never imagined holding one - even when he was the Taliban's deputy minister for telecommunications six years ago. The phone will be quite useful in the days ahead, to make deals, influence other delegates, play the game. Driving from the Polytechnic campus to the main bazaar at Pul-e Chishti to the government ministries of Shar-e Naw, Muneeb stares wide-eyed at the changes the city has undergone since he left two years ago. Internet cafes in every city block, Chinese, Thai, and Italian restaurants, tens of thousands of cars in a city where bicycles once ruled. To Muneeb, Kabul is paradise. In Zormat, there is no school, no health clinic, no electricity, no source of jobs except agriculture and nearby brick kilns. Few government officials or foreign aid workers dare to come to Zormat, Muneeb says. There is good reason for this. The region was the site of the massive six-week long US offensive called Operation Anaconda conducted in the spring of 2002; Taliban elements remain active in Zormat. Back in October 2001, when American bombs first started taking out Taliban antiaircraft positions - and the occasional Red Cross warehouse - it was to Zormat that Muneeb fled. There he had family, friends, protection. The first thing he did when he arrived in Zormat was to place a call to the BBC in Pakistan and denounce the Taliban regime for harboring Osama bin Laden. A week later, he helped organize and command a tribal militia, called an arbaki, to protect the city of Gardez against looters. But by mid- November, Muneeb gave the order to retreat. From the hills, they watched the US-backed commander, Badshah Khan Zadran, and his men seize the empty governor's mansion and begin looting the city. For the next few months, Muneeb laid low. He started a business selling charcoal to the local brick kilns. He and his wife expanded their family, with the birth to a second daughter. In May 2002, six months after the Taliban fell, he made his first return to politics, representing the people of Zormat at the emergency loya jirga. He enthusiastically supported Mr. Karzai as president, whom he remembers as an early backer of the Taliban back in the mid-1990s. On Sunday morning, Muneeb listens to Karzai's introductory speech with mild amusement, but fervent support. "The terrorists are the enemy of a better life for Afghanistan," Karzai tells the delegates. "But this nation will never give up. This nation will gain the victory against the terrorists, God willing." The crowd applauds, and Muneeb joins them enthusiastically. In the pocket of his sport coat, Muneeb carries a copy of the draft constitution - a 160-article document compiled by a handpicked team of intellectuals, religious scholars, and legal experts. He approves of most of the provisions, but he has qualms about issues of justice. The decision to forgive or punish a murderer, for instance, should belong to the victim's family - as it was during the Prophet's time - and not to the president, he says. But there will be plenty of time for substance. First comes the symbolism. The former King Zahir Shah gives a short speech urging unity. A blind cleric chants verses from the Koran. Then a group of kindergarten students, dressed in various ethnic garbs, sing songs of Afghan unity. "This is our great land, this is our beautiful land, this land is our life, this is our Afghanistan." The nationalist messages are not subtle, and they carry a powerful effect. On a large video screen at the front of the tent, a delegate wipes her eyes with a handkerchief. Muneeb also wipes his eyes. Afghanistan was beautiful once,he recalls, before drought and war and bombs turned the mountains around Kabul to dust. Muneeb thinks of his children back in Zormat. His oldest daughter is 3; his youngest son is 2 months old. Will they have a school in Zormat? Will they grow up thinking of themselves as Afghans or as Pashtuns? Everything starts here. Throughout his time as a Taliban official, Muneeb saw himself as a moderate among hard-liners. While commanders pressed for stricter rules on the lives of Afghanistan's urban population, Muneeb looked for ways to retain the true spirit of Islam. Taliban rules - unlike the Koran - specifically forbade women from attending school, for instance, but Muneeb and his moderate colleagues quietly arranged to keep a medical institute open for young women throughout the five- year Taliban regime. A child's song drowned out But while the loya jirga organizers have worked hard on creating a spirit of unity, it's difficult to undo decades of animosity and suspicion. Within minutes of the children's song, an argument breaks out over procedures. Farsi-speaking candidates from religious parties complain that the system chosen by Karzai is unfair. Muneeb springs to his feet. He is the first speaker to back Karzai's voting system. "At the last loya jirga, Karzai was elected president, so he has the authority to choose the system he wants," Muneeb says in Pashto. "We all have a big responsibility, to adopt a constitution and to act in accordance with Islam. We must not be distracted from our main task." Scattered applause, surprised murmurs. In a few minutes, the debate is closed. Karzai's voting procedures are approved. Muneeb and other Karzai supporters are delighted, but they now know that this will be the tone for the rest of the loya jirga. There will be no easy victories. The next day, Monday, Muneeb rises at 5:15 a.m., to perform his ablutions. He scrubs his hands, forearms, feet, face, teeth, beard, nostrils, ears, to make himself fit for an audience with Allah. Today will be his test. He plans to run for deputy chairman of loya jirga. He predicts that many delegates from Pasthun-dominated provinces will vote with him. Inside the tent, Muneeb's candidacy causes a buzz. His cellphone rings constantly. "Are you really going to run?" people ask. One friend, Mirwaiz Yaseni, a member of Karzai's national security council, asks Muneeb to bow out. The two men met the night before to strike a deal. "I can't tell you not to run, but it would certainly be appreciated if you threw your support behind me," Mr. Yasini said. "It's important for me to at least put my name forward, for my constituents," Muneeb replied, "but I don't want to take votes away from you. After all, you and I are both Pashtuns. We must stay together." A player once more Before the morning's vote, another Afghan child is invited to sing a song in Farsi: "We are doves, waiting for the peace, we are tired of the fighting." The song is well-sung, but the delegates applaud before the song is finished. The child is too polite to continue: "Thank you very much for paying attention to me," she says, and leaves the stage. In the crowd of 20 candidates, Muneeb is preparing his own polite departure. He waits just long enough for his name to be announced, and then submits his resignation for candidacy. Splitting the vote 20 ways would definitely risk everything. Mirwaiz is the stronger candidate, he tells himself, the man who has Karzai's ear. Muneeb returns to his seat and the announcement of his resignation is read out. What he gets in return for this sacrifice is not clear: development funds for Zormat, government jobs for Zormat citizens. But Muneeb knows this is how allegiances are created, the reward will come later. The TV cameras turn to Muneeb, briefly. He is smiling. After two years of seclusion, Muneeb the former Talib is a player once more.
Agence France Presse December 23, 2003 Afghanistan ends year of violence on path to democracy MIKE PATTERSON Afghanistan in 2003 took its first halting steps along the path to democracy but at a price. A planned new constitution, designed to usher in the the war-ravaged country's first free elections, has been joined by a surge in violence blamed on the ousted Taliban. More than two years after the toppling of the harsh regime by US-led forces, militants continue to launch almost daily attacks on US and Afghan troops and have increasingly targeted aid workers. Bloodshed across the south and southeast has claimed more than 400 lives since September, mostly suspected militants. At least 12 aid workers have been killed since March, including a French UN refugee agency worker who was shot dead last month in a daylight attack by suspected Taliban. The violence has hampered urgently-needed aid and reconstruction work as the country slowly emerges from decades of conflict, with relief agencies and the United Nations scaling back or suspending operations across swathes of southern and eastern Afghanistan. Attacks on aid workers soared from about one a month to one every two days in the 12 months to September, according to international aid organisation CARE. Kabul has blamed the attacks on Taliban militants hiding out along the rugged border with Pakistan where they find sympathy among the Pashtun tribes which share their ethnicity. Relations with Islamabad plunged to a low in July when a mob attacked the Pakistani embassy in Kabul after Afghan tribesmen claimed Pakistani troops had set up check-posts deep inside Afghan territory. Both sides have since agreed to step up operations along the border to thwart the infiltration of militants accused of mounting attacks. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned the future of post-war Afghanistan is at risk if the deteriorating security situation is not brought under control. "We need to deal with the security issue and if we do not deal with that, we may lose Afghanistan," Annan said. "Without security, you cannot have effective reconstruction. Without security, you cannot travel around the country registering people for the elections," Annan said. Delegates to a historic convention are due to ratify Afghanistan's new constitution which will pave the way for elections scheduled for June 2004. President Hamid Karzai has also attempted to extend his authority to the provinces, reining in warlords and powerful provincial governors who had withheld customs and other revenue from the cash-strapped central government. Although starting from a low point, Afghanistan's economy grew by 30 percent in the year to March, with the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank expecting growth to continue at 20 percent this year. Income from illicit opium production however threatened to overshadow the legitimate economy, accounting for around 2.3 billion dollars, or equivalent to half the legitimate gross domestic product. Afghanistan retained its dubious position as the world's leading producer of narcotics, with opium production climbing six percent in 2003 to 3,600 tonnes. Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan risks turning into a "narco-mafia" state if it does not receive 30 billion dollars in aid and investment over the next five years. United Nations anti-drugs chief Antonio Maria Costa also warned that the international community needed to step up development efforts and help in the "David versus Goliath" struggle against narcotics. Washington has promised nearly two billion dollars in fresh aid but reconstruction funds are dwarfed by annual military expenditure of around 10 billion dollars on the US-led coalition which continues to hunt militants. Despite attacks on road workers, Karzai last week reopened the key US and Japanese-funded highway between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar which is the biggest reconstruction project undertaken since the fall of the Taliban. Afghanistan has also finally launched an internationally-backed programme to disarm some 100,000 militiamen and is slowly rebuilding its national army, although observers say it will be years before it is in a position to take charge of security. Improving security is seen as vital to reconstruction efforts. In its first operation outside its traditional European theatre, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) took command of the peacekeeping International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). After repeated calls from the Afghan government and United Nations, NATO has also authorised expansion of ISAF beyond Kabul although aid agencies have criticised the move as "too little, too late" with little sign of substantial numbers of fresh troops. UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has repeated his call for better security, warning the international community to "make sure that the conditions for us to be here are there. If not, we will go away."
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.