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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
CLJ: path to presidential system (Scotland Sunday, CSM, Reuters, AP)
Scotland on Sunday Sun 28 Dec 2003 Karzai earmarks key roles for Afghan hardliners DAN MORRISON AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai has secured backing for his plans to concentrate power on himself from the grand assembly of tribal leaders. A majority of the 502 delegates of the loya jirga, the country's constitutional convention, are now in favour of a strong presidential system. However, analysts and Western diplomats expressed concern about some of Karzai's new allies, who include religious hardliners such as warlord Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, and warned that Afghanistan now appeared to be heading towards a dictatorship. The current draft of the constitution would give the president the power to rule by administrative decree and to appoint judges and governors, with little legislative oversight. Karzai plans to stand for president next year, but only if the office is not weakened in the final version of the constitution. His direct appointment of 52 delegates to the loya jirga helped foil an attempt to rewrite the document to distribute power under a parliamentary system. When a group of delegates, most from the Jamiat Islami party, protested, Sayyaf defended Karzai as the country's "emir" while convention chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi warned delegates that as emir, Karzai had a right to appoint his own delegates. In Arabic, emir means prince, or commander. A Western diplomat in Kabul said: "Sayyaf is a fundamentalist. He supports a caliphate, he wants an emir, and this system resembles that in a sense. It is inevitable: sooner or later it is going to lead to a dictatorship." This view was echoed by Husain Ramoz, an analyst at the US-funded National Democratic Institute. "It is a mistake to begin a democracy using the language of an emirate, an Islamic dictatorship. It's a losing game," he said. Many who fear the power of a strong presidency were won over after an incident earlier this month when a 26-year-old social worker, Malalai Joya, rose from her seat in the separate women's section of the loya jirga to denounce the country's mujahideen leaders as "criminals". Joya was referring to the infighting - including the shelling of Kabul - between anti-Soviet rebel leaders following the withdrawal of the Red Army in 1989. Sayyaf and others replied she had sinned against Islam. There were calls from the convention floor for Joya to "repent" and she subsequently had to be placed under UN protection. "I was in favour of a mixed system, with a strong parliament," said delegate Soraya Parlika. "But after the Malalai Joya incident I am supporting the presidential system. I don't want a mujahideen parliament running the country." Many who opposed Karzai's draft constitution, particularly the leaders of the Northern Alliance forces which ousted the Taliban with US help, were won over during political horse-trading in the early days of the latest loya jirga meeting, which began on December 15. Defence minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim, the leader of the ethnic Tajik mujahideen who dominate the government, had been considering a challenge against Karzai but has now thrown his weight behind him. "In Afghanistan it is mostly a matter of what people sense you are promising or sense you are threatening," a Western diplomat said. "Fahim sensed he would be given the post of vice-president after next year's elections." Another factor in Karzai's success has been his ability to unite the Pashtuns, who make up 47% of the delegates, into a single block while the Tajiks have splintered into several groups. The emerging consensus is a major success for Karzai and for the United States, which installed the ethnic Pashtun clan leader in the presidential palace after the fall of the Taliban two years ago.
December 26, 2003 Karzai weathers power struggle, but at a price; Strong presidency will be part of new Afghan government, but Islamists gain bargaining power. By Dan Morrison The Christian Science Monitor KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Hamid Karzai is on a roll. A majority of the 502 delegates to Afghanistan's constitutional convention now favors the strong presidential system that Mr. Karzai is pushing. The emerging consensus is a big win for Karzai and for the United States, which installed the ethnic Pashtun clan leader in the presidential palace after the fall of the Taliban two years ago. Potential hurdles in drafting a blueprint for the future of Afghanistan remain: the roles of Islam and human rights - particularly women's rights. The constitutional loya jirga, or grand assembly, has turned out better than anticipated for Karzai, who withstood a challenge from warlords and royalists looking to dilute the president's power. But some observers warn that Karzai has opened the constitution to greater Islamic influence by making deals with hard-liners like Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, a warlord whose views mirror those of the Taliban. The current draft of the constitution, which could be approved as soon as Friday, would give the president the power to rule by administrative decree and to appoint judges and governors, with little legislative oversight. Karzai plans to run for president next year - but only if the office is not weakened in the final version. Karzai's direct appointment of 52 delegates to the loya jirga helped foil an attempt at the outset to rewrite the draft to distribute power under a parliamentary system. Early last week, when a group of delegates, most from the Jamiat Islami party, protested the appointments, Mr. Sayyaf defended Karzai, in starkly Islamic terms, as the country's "emir." Convention chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi seconded the theme, telling the rebelling delegates that as "ululamr,'' or emir, Karzai had a right to appoint his own delegates. Emir means prince, or commander, in Arabic. Afghanistan's ousted Taliban government called itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. "Certainly, it is not a large group [of delegates] that is seeking an emirate system,'' US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said last week. "I think there are very few. It is surprising that there is this type of support.'' While Karzai's draft constitution does not create the position of emir, it does grant the president wide powers with few checks and balances. Critics say this concentration of power could lead in the future to a repressive state or a theocracy. "It is a mistake to begin a democracy using the language of an emirate, an Islamic dictatorship,'' says Husain Ramoz, an analyst at the US-funded National Democratic Institute. "It's a losing game.'' "Sayyaf is a fundamentalist,'' says a Western diplomat in Kabul. "He supports a caliphate, he wants an emir, and this system resembles that in a sense. It is inevitable - sooner or later it is going to lead to a dictatorship.'' Many who fear the power of a strong presidency were pushed to support it by an incident Dec. 17, when a 26-year-old female social worker, Malalai Joya, rose from her seat in the separate women's section of the loya jirga to denounce the country's mujahideen leaders as "criminals.'' Ms. Joya was referring to the deadly infighting - including the shelling of Kabul - between anti-Soviet rebel leaders following the withdrawal of the Red Army in 1989. Sayyaf and others replied she had sinned against Islam. There were calls from the convention floor for Joya to "repent,'' and she was placed under United Nations protection. "I was in favor of a mixed system, with a strong parliament,'' says delegate Soraya Parlika. "After the Malalai Joya incident I am supporting the presidential system. I don't want a mujahideen parliament running the country.'' Many who opposed Karzai's draft constitution, particularly Northern Alliance leaders in the government, were won over by debate, lobbying, and political horse-trading in the early days of the loya jirga, which began Dec. 15. For example, Defense Minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim, the leader of the ethnic Tajik mujahideen who dominate the government, was considering whether to challenge Karzai. Now, "he agrees with Karzai and he supports a presidential system,'' says Brigadier Mar Jan, a spokesman for Mr. Fahim. "In Afghanistan it is mostly a matter of what people sense you are promising or sense you are threatening," explained a Western diplomat who asked not to be named. "Fahim sensed he would be given the post of vice president" after elections next year. Karzai's triumph was far from assured. In the days before the assembly opened, it appeared that fundamentalists, with a majority of the delegates, would mount a significant challenge. There were irregularities on both sides, Western and Afghan observers say. All parties have denied trading cash for votes. "It is absolutely not true that there was general or widespread rigging," said UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi. Then there were the 52 delegates Karzai directly appointed to the loya jirga. The appointments were meant to add constitutional lawyers and other specialists to the undereducated field of delegates. Karzai's list, however, is dominated by powerbrokers and symbolic figures like Wali Masood, brother of slain Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Masood. "Two or three of those people are experts and the rest are just his supporters,'' says Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, the Jamiat Islami standard bearer. Another factor in Karzai's success was his ability to unite the Pashtuns, who make up 47 percent of the delegates, into a single block, even as the Tajiks fragmented. Some delegates have complained "that the Pashtuns are throwing their weight around,'' one observer said. "To my Tajik brothers I say, 'you will get the rights you are due and not more,'" said Abdul Hakeem Muneeb, a delegate whose views were typical of many Pashtuns. But such ethnic unity could be strained if fundamentalists use the loya jirga's final plenary sessions as a vehicle for strengthening the role of Islamic law in the constitution, daring delegates to appear un- Islamic by publicly opposing them. Many delegates have said that sections of the draft constitution that support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will have to be modified, on the grounds that portions of the declaration are contrary to local customs and Islamic interpretation. "Yes, of course I favor the rights of women, we support that, but only under Islam," says delegate Nader Khan Katawazi.
Afghan royalists back Karzai and strong president Reuters 12/25/2003 By Sayed Salahuddin KABUL - Afghan monarchists have thrown their support behind President Hamid Karzai and his vision of a strong presidential system in a constitution being debated in Kabul, a member of the royalist camp said on Thursday. The pro-monarchy faction claims the support of nearly 80 delegates out of 502 at the Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly), which since December 14 has been debating a draft constitution that outlines sweeping powers for the president. "Our executive council held a meeting with our delegates," said Hakim Noorzai, a staunch supporter of Afghanistan's former king Mohammad Zahir Shah, who was given the symbolic title of "father of the nation" in the draft document. "We discussed both proposed systems and we reached a conclusion to go for the presidential system, as this is what Afghanistan needs," he told Reuters. A strong parliamentary system would be harmful for Afghanistan, as "warlords" still controlled large swathes of the country and would influence it, Noorzai said, when asked why the group had decided to back Karzai. Royalists draw most of their support from the largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, to which Karzai belongs and which traditionally rules Afghanistan. Karzai insists that, as Afghanistan emerges from 23 years of invasion and civil war, the country needs centralised power for the sake of unity amongst its various ethnic clans. The 46-year-old Karzai, installed to power with the help of the United States after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, needs a simple majority at the Loya Jirga to win his way. MAJAHIDEEN OPPOSED His opponents, mainly from the Northern Alliance of former anti- Soviet mujahideen (holy warriors), argue that sweeping powers would create a despotic regime that could damage national unity. They are led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek strongman who also serves as Karzai's adviser on military and security issues. They want the constitution to include the position of prime minister, which Karzai fears could compromise his control. The dissenters say Karzai has used ministers to secure delegates' votes in return for promises of cabinet posts in the future government. Several opponents of Karzai have threatened not to sign the final draft of the document, saying a boycott would challenge its legitimacy. It is unlikely, however, that there will be enough dissenters to force major changes to the draft constitution. The assembly is expected to begin voting on the constitution later this week. On Thursday, Sheikh Asif Mohseni, a prominent religious figure and leader of a mujahideen group, urged delegates to ask for war damages from the former Soviet Union, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979 only to retreat in defeat a decade later. The role of Islam, women's rights and a share of power among the ethnic groups are among the most sensitive issues alongside which type of political system to adopt.
Karzai, Afghan Warlords Clash Over Powers
By AMIR SHAH
Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)--Afghan President Hamid Karzai faced an open rebellion
Wednesday among powerful faction leaders opposing his drive for a strongly
centralized presidency during a historic constitutional council taking place in
Some 500 delegates to the grand council, or loya jirga, have spent 11 days
debating a draft put forward by Karzai's government. It foresees a tolerant
Islamic state under a strong presidency, and is supposed to pave the way for
landmark elections next summer.
``The presidential form of government is known all over the world. The powers
are known, the limitations are known,'' Karzai told reporters on the steps of
his Kabul palace. ``We should be making a constitution that reflects that
system, not a confusion of it.''
But Burhanuddin Rabbani, a leader of the Northern Alliance faction who was
president during Afghanistan's ruinous 1992-1996 civil war, said some delegates
feared the charter would produce a dictatorship.
``In Third World countries, presidents have passed power to their son and the
result has been bloodshed and coups,'' he said in the huge tent where the
meeting is being held. ``If the presidential system is accepted, the delegates
will ask for a strong parliament.''
Afghan and U.S. officials say they are confident a majority of the council wants
a presidential system, which Karzai argues is critical to law and order in a
country where the ousted Taliban regime once provided haven to Osama bin Laden's
Karzai appears to have rallied fellow Pashtuns--the country's largest ethnic
group and from which the Taliban drew their main support--but delegates from
smaller groups are calling openly for power to be spread more widely.
Another top Northern Alliance figure, Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum, came
out Monday in favor of a parliamentary system while pleading for minority
languages to be given official status.
On Wednesday, council chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi said the body soon would
present the results of days of secretive haggling over amendments, but gave no
indication of what they might be.
Human rights groups worry that Karzai may sacrifice protections for women and
minorities to powerbrokers like Rabbani and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, another deeply
conservative Islamist at the council, to shore up support for the presidency.
Afghan officials have pledged to seek consensus, but Karzai insists that a
simple majority would suffice to pass controversial articles as well as ratify a
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.