Arian Mouj Sharifi
CLJ: Vote boycott halts approval of amended draft (AfghanTV, IWPR, Amnesty, AFP)
Loya Jerga Day 19: Delegates start voting
Afghanistan Television (in Dari)
January 1, 2003 04:45 gmt
Summary of the morning session in the 19th day of the Constitutional
1. 0450 gmt Loya Jerga session opens with recitation of some verses
from the Holy Koran.
2. 0455 gmt Mirwais Yasini, deputy chairman of the Loya Jerga, says
the delegates will first start to vote on Articles 4, 7, 10, 20, 50,
83, 84 and 138 of the constitution this morning.
3. 0515 gmt Dr Abdol Haq Shafaq says amendments to Articles No 1, 2,
5, 16, 60, 157 and 72 will be voted on this afternoon. Dr Shafaq
added that some representatives suggested Ahmad Shah Masud's name to
be added in a separate article in the constitution as the national
hero of Afghanistan.
4. 0550 gmt Loya Jerga Chairman Sebghatollah Mojaddedi says there is
no need to vote for amendment on article of the constitution
proclaiming Afghanistan as an Islamic Republic. He said this would
cast doubt on the Islamic beliefs of the people of Afghanistan. The
representatives applauded and chanted slogans of "God is great".
Mojaddedi added that the people who have asked for amendment to the
article were identified and would be punished.
5. 0555 gmt Mojaddedi announces start of voting on articles.
6. 0610 gmt A number of representatives say voting on articles of the
constitution was not the best way. They complained that the votes of
Afghan minority tribes were not taken into consideration. Mojaddedi
said they have tried to approve the constitution articles through
discussions, but he said that some articles which could not be
approved in that way would be put on to vote. He said it had nothing
to do with minority or majority issue.
7. 0620 gmt Qazi Mohammad Amin Waqad, member of the Constitution
Commission speaks on national unity in Afghanistan. He told the
representatives that minority or majority was not important in the
country and all were brothers and had equal rights whether they were
Tajik, Pashtun or any other nationality. He urged the representatives
to vote for the draft constitution to make the process short.
8. 0634 Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, an elected representative, says the
delegates should not mainly focus on languages of Afghanistan. He
added that Afghanistan needed to be united and it would be united.
9. 0644 gmt Mojaddedi says a number of representatives have suggested
that the constitution as drafted by the Constitution Commission is
accepted by all. He asked representatives who did not agree with the
suggestion to raise their hands. A majority of representatives raised
their hands. Mojaddedi said the representatives would continue voting
on the articles of the constitution which have been amended.
10. 0655 gmt Mojaddedi says a number of representatives have said
they will not be voting. Mojaddedi said voting will continue
regardless of whether some representatives agree or not.
11. 0648 gmt Dr Faruq Wardag, head of the constitution secretariat,
is now giving the representatives technical information on how to
vote. Mr Wardag said there were three categories of articles. The
first category includes articles which have been approved, second
category includes articles which are ready for voting now and the
third category includes articles which are being discussed to be
approved, but if they could not be approved through discussions,
then, they would also be voted on this afternoon.
12. 0720 gmt Dr Faruq said Articles 16, 157, 60, 2, 1 and 72 were
being discussed and if they could not be approved through discussion,
then they would be voted on. Dr Faruq asked his UNAMA colleagues to
bring the ballot boxes and show them to the representatives to make
sure they were empty. Afghan and UNAMA officials bring the boxes to
the podium. Dr Faruq Wardag asks representatives to start voting.
13. 0730 gmt The TV shows representatives standing in queues and
getting into the voting rooms. Video shows representatives putting
their votes into the ballot boxes.
14. 0745 gmt A number of representatives seem not to agree with the
voting process and they do not take part in the voting. They say the
articles should be approved through discussion.
15. 0820 gmt A number of representatives are complaining, but their
voices cannot be heard as the microphones are off.
17. 0925 gmt Mojaddedi announces break for lunch and prayers. He said
the votes would be counted after lunch. He said those representatives
who have not voted yet could vote even after lunch, but a number of
the representatives insisted that they would not vote.
Articles Altered in Constitution; The dilution of presidential powers
and the creation of a national commission to oversee major government
decision are declared part of the document.
By Ezatullah Zawab, Mohammad Monir Mehraban & Danish Karokhel in
(ARR No. 97, 01-Jan-04)
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Without a new vote being cast, major changes to Afghanistan's new
constitution were declared approved Thursday by the Loya Jirga. The
changes include modifications of presidential and parliamentary
powers and the establishment of a commission to oversee the
implementation of the constitution.
Changes made to one article would reduce presidential authority by
requiring parliamentary approval of national policy, as well as the
president's choices for the head of the national bank, the head of
intelligence and the attorney general.
Other changes made in the draft document include scheduling
parliamentary elections six months after the presidential vote;
making the president responsible to the parliament as well as the
nation; and requiring that the national bank obtain permission from
the parliament's economic committee before issuing new currency.
In addition, a new article was added to the document that would
establish an independent commission to oversee the implementation of
the constitution. The article fails to specify how the commission
would be composed or the extent of its powers.
It is also unclear whether the commission will rule on the
constitutionality of new laws – a role otherwise assigned to the
Supreme Court – or have the authority for other practical aspects of
the new government.
The new article says that members of the independent commission will
be chosen by the president and approved by parliament.
A coordination committee, made up of 38 delegates including the
leadership of the 10 working committees and the elected leadership of
the Loya Jirga, wrote these changes into five articles. They
discussed the changes with the leaders from various ethnic and
political groups within the assembly.
Then the articles were read to the entire gathering Thursday morning
and declared approved. Delegates were not allowed to debate or object
to articles. This time, there was no outcry from the floor for a
debate, as had happened on the previous day.
The new commission replaces the idea of the Diwan-e-Aali, or High
Council, that had been scrapped from the revised draft earlier this
The Diwan-e-Aali, which would have overseen implementation of the
constitution and supervised work of the administration, was proposed
by jihadi delegates. Some observers described that proposal as
similar to the Council of Guardians in the Iranian constitution,
which checks that all legislation does not contradict the tenets of
But many delegates said they feared the Diwan-e-Aali would have been
dominated by jihadi leaders who would impose their own interpretation
on the constitution.
The mujahedin delegates had warned they would boycott a final vote on
the document if the Diwan-e-Aali was not approved, and there was a
heated exchange among delegates Tuesday when an article creating the
council was not included in the revised draft of the constitution.
Sediq Chakari, deputy leader of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani's
party, Jamiat-e-Islami, told IWPR there should be an independent and
authoritative body to supervise the implementation of the
constitution fairly for all people. "I believe this council would
greatly benefit Afghan people", said Chakari.
But others opposed its establishment. Abdul Hamid Mubarez, deputy
minister of information and culture, said that a Diwan-e-Aali was a
jihadi council suggested by fundamentalists. "I am strictly opposed
to the High Council, because it would become an obstacle to the
development and improvement of the country", he said.
Suria Parlika, a delegate from Kabul, said, "At first we women agreed
with this proposal. But later we realized there were jihadis working
for their own advantage and wanting to dominate the country. So we
changed our stance."
Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, a delegate representing Kuchis and brother of
the finance minister Ashraf Ghani, said that the idea of the High
Council was mainly presented by Professor Abdul Rab Rasool Sayaf, one
of the most conservative senior jihadi leaders.
"It would have been better if President Hamed Karzai had given Land
Cruisers and bodyguards to the jihadi leaders to keep them out of
politics," he said.
The creation of the independent commission was apparently the
The other changes, which weaken the president's powers by making more
of his decisions subject to the approval of parliament, had
previously been widely discussed. Delegates who had been supportive
of a strong presidential system this time did not oppose the changes
that were announced. Some delegates told IWPR Wednesday that they
could accept some of the changes in order to resolve the entrenched
But other delegates said that the battle was not over yet. Mohammad
Hassan Kohzad, a delegate from Faryab province, told IWPR, "All of us
who demanded a presidential system wanted more power for the
president. The discussion is still continuing on that issue."
But Kohzad said he ultimately decided not to oppose the changes "to
avoid more chaos in the Loya Jirga. We didn't create conflict and
didn't take any serious steps on this."
He observed that, "The environment was in a situation that if we did
something like that, the jirga could have broken down."
Ezatullah Zawab, from Jalalabad, and Mohammad Monir Mehraban and
Mustafa Basharat, from Kabul, are independent journalists. Danish
Karokhel is an IWPR editor/reporter. They are all participating in
IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.
Loya Jirga Falls into Disarray; Disputes over a national language and
the national anthem leads to the final vote on the constitution being
put off yet again.
By IWPR team in Kabul
(ARR No. 97, 01-Jan-04)
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
The Constitutional Loya Jirga came close to complete breakdown
Wednesday, with the leadership in disarray and an attempt at
reconciliation ending in failure.
In the morning, the elected Loya Jirga leaders walked out on chairman
Sibghatullah Mujadidi, leaving him to manage the problems by himself.
A committee that Mujadidi formed to resolve problems dissolved into
name-calling. And a key alliance between major factions has
apparently broken up along ethnic lines.
The entire gathering was finally called into session around 6 p.m.
but because several dozen delegates were absent, the leadership said
that the final vote on the 32 articles of the constitution still in
contention would be put off until Thursday.
Wednesday morning, a special committee was formed that included three
representatives from each province and leaders of the 10 working
committees in an attempt to resolve the main points of contention.
Mujadidi called the meeting, but Abdul Rasul Sayaf, leader of the
Itehad-e-Islami party and a major figure among jihadis, acted as a
The committee did discuss some of the key issues, such as the powers
of the president, and Sayaf suggested several possible compromises.
But the meeting erupted into shouting matches over the emotional
issue of the national anthem and national language, according to
delegates who took part in the meeting.
When several Pashtuns insisted that Pashtu should be added to the
constitution as the national language, other delegates began shouting
and calling the Pashtuns "filthy and wicked," according to Shahida
Hussein, one of the delegates who was in the meeting. Several other
delegates in the meeting confirmed her account.
The meeting deteriorated from there. In the end, nothing was resolved
and the committee broke up.
Charan Singh, a Hindu delegate who was in the meeting, said
that "those who created chaos are in the minority. The majority had
Some delegates have been resisting the final vote, claiming that the
process revision the draft constitution was flawed and that the final
document fails to reflect their demands.
But other delegates – many of them Pashtuns – were pushing for a
vote. There were some indications that these delegates have united
along ethnic lines and, since they have a majority among the 502
delegates, would win on key issues.
Ghulam Faroq Khpalwak, a Pashtun delegate from Balkh province, told
IWPR, "We Pashtuns will not be satisfied without a vote. If we win or
they win, this is the only solution."
The current dispute centers on the national anthem and the national
language, delegates told IWPR.
Pashtuns had wanted their language enshrined in the constitution as
the national language, but the original draft made no mention of a
national language. Dari and Pashtu are the official languages, to be
used in government communications.
The original draft of the constitution had said that the national
anthem would be in Pashtu, but a revision altered this article to
include the phrase "Allah-o-Akbar" – the jihadi rallying cry – and
the names of all the tribes of Afghanistan.
Delegates said some Pashtun members had at first been opposed to the
strong presidential system outlined in the original draft
constitution. On this question, and on the issue of strengthening the
role of Islam in government, these delegates had been united with
jihadi leaders. The most vocal jihadi leaders are dominated by Tajiks
from the Northern Alliance.
However, when the non-Pashtun jihadi leaders began to tinker with the
national anthem and objected to Pashtu being named the national
language, the Pashtuns felt that these leaders were working against
them. Consequently, they decided to back a strong presidential system.
Paktia delegate Fazal Rahman Samkani agreed that Pashtuns had
originally, in the name of Islam, joined with jihadi leaders in
supporting a parliamentary system.
However, "Pashtuns know that the situation is going differently now,"
he said. The language and anthem issues had split things along ethnic
lines. "Speaking in the name of Islam has gotten old", he
said. "Because of that, the absolute majority of Pashtuns are in
favor of the presidential system."
President Hamid Karzai called a press conference Wednesday morning to
defend the creation of a strong presidential system, saying it was
the only way to avoid partisan bickering in any future government.
Parliamentary systems are often accused of leading to unstable
governments because coalitions among various political parties –
sometimes controlled by small, marginal groups – are frequently
necessary to win the passage of important legislation.
Karzai also said that he has stayed out of the Loya Jirga process,
despite accusations that he has interfered in the process. "Anything
that is good for the nation of Afghanistan, and any suggestions that
come to me for the good of the nation of Afghanistan, that is also my
choice," the president said.
Wednesday was a day filled with tensions and rumors. Various factions
accused each other of interference and forgery in balloting and of
powerful people exerting pressure and influence.
Safia Siddiqi, a deputy chair and spokeswoman for the assembly, said
there was interference from all sides. "This is out of our control,
and we are not doing anything now," she said after she and other
leadership walked out of the main hall Wednesday morning.
Other members of the assembly's leadership said they had walked out
because the session had descended into chaos. Some blamed Mujadidi
for not exerting greater control over the gathering.
IWPR journalists Danish Karokhel, Wahidullah Amani, Ezatullah Zawab,
Mashal Aziz, Baabak Quyom, Rahimullah Samander and Bashir Gwakh
contributed to this report, which is part of IWPR's Loya Jirga
2 January 2004
Afghanistan: Freedom of expression an essential right
It is absolutely essential that freedom of _expression is ensured in
Afghanistan, said Amnesty International as the Constitutional Loya
Jirga (CLJ) draws to a close in Kabul and debate around key issues
Amnesty International has received reports that intimidation and fear
of retribution are preventing some delegates from participating freely
in the CLJ.
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. Some delegates fear for
their safety of their families and for their own lives, especially
after they return home at the end of the CLJ.
It is particularly worrying that even the elected leadership of the
Loya Jirga have been involved in curtailing the freedom of speech
during the Loya Jirga. In one example, a petition was circulated
suggesting that the country's official name should be changed from the
'Islamic republic of Afghanistan' to the 'republic of Afghanistan'.
The petition gained over 151 signatures, but the chair of the CLJ,
Sebghatollah Mojadedi, refused to allow a vote on the issue, publicly
calling those who had sponsored the petition 'infidels'. Amnesty
International is concerned that this could place the sponsors of this
petition in serious danger.
"The onus must be on the elected leadership of the CLJ to set an
example by facilitating a free debate upholding freedom of
_expression. Discussions conducted in an atmosphere of fear will not
produce a Constitution that protects the human rights of the Afghan
people." Amnesty International concluded.
The Loya Jirga has highlighted the complex divisions within Afghan
society and debate has been heated around a few key issues such as the
role of Islam, the powers of the Presidency and other highly symbolic
issues such as the national language.
Agence France Presse
January 3, 2004 7:49 AM Eastern Time
Karzai calls for consensus following boycott of Afghan convention
By MIKE PATTERSON
President Hamid Karzai Saturday called on hundreds of delegates who
have boycotted a vote on the country's new draft constitution to work
towards consensus, in a move aimed at dampening bitter ethnic rivalries.
"The purpose is to have a constitution that reflects the views and
considerations and interests of all the people of Afghanistan.
"Therefore, it is important to have a constitution that comes with
near consensus, if not total consensus," Karzai told reporters at the
He said progress had been made in discussions with delegates, who
Saturday were continuing talks with United Nations special envoy
Lakhdar Brahimi, US ambassador Zalmay Khalizad and members of the
"It's too early to comment on what has been resolved and what remains
but what I can tell you is that the major things have been resolved,"
Safia Siddiqi, deputy chairwoman of the loya jirga, or grand assembly,
Most of the draft's 160 articles have been agreed without opposition
but delegates said they were still divided on whether Uzbek should be
an official language, whether ministers should be allowed dual
citizenship and on a call to establish a temporary parliament of loya
"They have reached agreement on all these conflicting articles but not
on the double citizenship and the temporary parliament," Abdul Hafiz
Mansour, who heads a faction of mujahedin (anti-Soviet fighters) who
favour a parliamentary system rather than the proposed presidential
system, told reporters.
Mansour and some other delegates oppose dual citizenship. Key figures
in Karzai's adminstration such as Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and
Interior Minister Ali Ahmed Jalali returned after spending years in
the United States, although it is not known if they now hold US passports.
He said they had also agreed to make Uzbek an official language
alongside Dari and Pashtu, but other delegates disagreed.
"We've reached agreements on all articles and there is only one thing
remaining which was very problematic and that's the Uzbek language,"
Khandahar delegate Khalid Pashtun told AFP.
"Accepting Uzbek as an official language is laying the foundation
stone for Afghanistan's separation. It means going towards
federalism," said fellow Kandahar delegate Hakim Noorzai.
Noorzai also opposed calls to set up a temporary parliament and said
dual citizenship should be allowed.
"It wouldn't be fair to say those well-educated Afghan experts who
have lived abroad cannot work in high-ranking positions, like become
ministers, but those criminals who are responsible for the destruction
of Kabul, who are responsible for the the civil war and present
disasters in Afghanistan can be ministers," he said.
After nearly three weeks of heated debate, more than 200 of the 502
delegates boycotted Thursday's vote on five contentious articles in
the draft constitution.
The boycott forced an adjournment of the loya jirga, or grand
assembly, which has been dubbed the "loya jagra" ("big fight") by some
Delegates from the Uzbek, Tajik, Hazara and Turkmen minorities refused
to vote, worried they would be sidelined under the proposed
constitution which has been largely supported by the Pashtuns who
account for around 40 percent of the country's multi-ethnic population.
Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission chairwoman Sima Samar said
some delegates complained they had been threatened into not voting but
their claims had so far not been verified.
Ratification of the draft constitution which lays out a presidential
system favoured by Karzai will pave the way to the county's first
democratic elections later this year.
Loya Jirga Remains Deadlocked; The constitutional process appears
endangered by disputes over the issues of national language and dual
By Rahimullah Samander and Danish Karokhel in Kabul
(ARR No. 98, 03-Jan-04)
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Negotiations among Loya Jirga delegates and U.S. and U.N. diplomats
Saturday failed to break a stalemate over the controversial issues of
language and dual citizenship that threatened to lead to the collapse
of the entire constitutional convention.
Sibghatullah Mujadidi, the chairman of the assembly, warned that "If
this is not solved tomorrow [Sunday], we will announce to the world
that the Loya Jirga has failed."
Mujadidi announced late Saturday afternoon that key delegates were
still tied up in a debate over a single word. "Maybe we will lose our
honour over wanting or not wanting a word," he said.
He declined to identify the specific word in question. He told
delegates to pray for resolution on this issue.
Other delegates told IWPR late Saturday that the controversial
articles still on the table included making Uzbek one of the official
languages, and whether ministers can have dual citizenship.
It is not known how many or which delegates were involved in the
final debates on key issues. Zalmai Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to
Afghanistan, and U.N. special envoy Lakdar Brahimi were taking part
of the negotiations, sources said.
On Thursday, 231 of the 502 delegates boycotted the vote on changes
to five articles of the constitution. Among those boycotting the vote
were key jihadis Burhanudin Rabbani, head of Jamiat-e-Islami, Siddiq
Chakari, deputy of Jamiat, Hafiz Mansoor, chief editor of Payam
Mujahed newspaper and Waqef Hakimi, chief editor of Mujahed
newspaper, as well as Uzbek leader Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Most of the Pashtun delegates had been willing to participate in the
It was unclear Saturday how the issues of a national language or dual
citizenship might ultimately be resolved.
Dr. Kabir Ranjbar, a delegate from Kabul, said one proposed
compromise was that Uzbek would be an official language only in Uzbek-
speaking areas. The national language issue would ultimately be
resolved by parliament when it is elected in a year, he said.
The draft constitution made Dari and Pashtu the nation?s official
languages. Uzbeks have demanded that their language be included.
Progress on the citizenship issues seemed less clear. Hakimi, who is
a delegate from Kabul, said, "We haven't reached absolute
resolutions. The important issue is about dual citizenship. All the
Loya Jirga is moving around the dual citizenship of some ministers."
Five members of the current interim government are said to have dual
citizenship, most prominently Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Jihadi
leaders want to prohibit future government ministers from holding
Meanwhile, many of the Pashtun delegates who had agreed to
participate in Thursday's vote, said the current secret negotiations
left them feeling ignored.
"No one is contacting us, despite the fact that we are following the
agenda, said Rohul Amin Bashir, a delegate from Nengarhar
province. "But our opposition was contacted, and UNAMA (the U.N.'s
Assistance Mission in Afghanistan), [Loya Jirga] leadership and
Khalilzad listened to their demands."
Bashir said his side wants to allow ministers to have dual
citizenship, and doesn't want Uzbek to be an official language. These
weren't such big problems before, he said, but both sides are
antagonizing each other over them now.
"If our demands are not accepted," he said, "we will boycott tomorrow
and we won't sign even if they cut off our hands."
Rahimullah Samander and Danish Karokhel are IWPR reporters/editors in
Kabul participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.
mariam   September 30th 2004, 2004 3:38 PM
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