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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.

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

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More articles on end of CLJ (Washington Times, AP, IWPR)
The following summarize course of CLJ as well as its conclusion. I have also put a link to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting Afghanistan reports page below; the archives have even more of their articles on the CLJ and other reconstruction-related topics.

January 10, 2004 The Washington Times Afghans write constitution version By Roland Flamini UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
WASHINGTON, January 12 (Online): The point when the 502 delegates to the loya jirga (grand assembly) realized the extent to which things were changing in Afghanistan was probably Dec. 17, when Malalai Joya, a 25-year-old delegate, stood up and denounced several of those present as criminals who deserved to be tried for crimes against humanity To Afghans, what was remarkable was not just that she had the courage to speak up, one observer said, but that she is still alive - though under the United Nations' protection. Miss Joya was referring to warlords who had collaborated with the Taliban regime in exchange for retaining control of their territories - a grip they retain. That was only one of the many skirmishes, confrontations and arguments that punctured the proceedings as rival interests represented in the assembly came to a head. In the end last Sunday, a version of the draft submitted to the loya jirga on Dec. 14, bristling with about 40 amendments, won approval by acclamation with no vote taken, The Washington Times (USA) reports. According to the new constitution, Afghanistan will have a strong presidential system with a directly elected president, two vice presidents and a two-chamber national assembly consisting of the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) and the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders). Zahir Shah - Afghanistan's last monarch who returned to Kabul in 2000 after years in exile - is formally recognized as the father of the country but has no official role in running it. The addition of a second vice president where the draft constitution had originally called for only one was a concession forced on interim President Hamid Karzai at the insistence of the Northern Alliance, the ethnic minority coalition that, with strong U.S. air and ground support, waged the successful offensive against the Taliban. The 160-article charter makes the president commander in chief of the armed forces and charges him with determining the nation's fundamental policies. But in another concession to ethnic rivals, the new Afghan lower house has considerable veto power over senior appointments and policies. Even so, with the president acting as both head of state and head of government - there is no prime minister - Mr. Karzai still emerges as a powerful figure. Presidential elections are scheduled for June, and possibly assembly elections as well, the report said. Members of the Wolesi Jirga will be elected by district to serve for five years. The upper house will consist of a mix of appointed and elected members. One-sixth of its representatives will be women, appointed by the president, who will also nominate to it two representatives of the physically disabled, and two of Afghanistan's Kuchi nomads. The lower house will pass laws, approve budgets and ratify treaties - all of which will require subsequent approval by the Meshrano Jirga. The constitution also divides the country into 32 provinces, each governed by a provincial council with members elected for four-year terms. Every village and town will also have councils, but at this level members will serve for three years. On the face of it, women gained status during the weeks' deliberations. The final document specifies that women have equal rights with men - a key demand by human rights campaigners and a dramatic reversal of their secondary role under the Taliban. After heated debate, the conference - grudgingly, according to some present - also agreed that at least two women should be elected to the Wolesi Jirga from each province, guaranteeing them 64 of the 320 seats. But some observers felt the new constitution's reference to the role of Islam could make the position of women less secure than it seems. Although Afghanistan will have a civil law system and there are no separate religious courts, the original draft was amended to say: "No law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam. Observers said this left the laws subject to the interpretation of the Supreme Court, traditionally controlled by conservatives, who could undermine women's gains. To some, the Shariah, or Islamic law, had been let in by the back door. The constitution recognizes 14 ethnic groups, and in a last-minute compromise on official languages, does not designate a "national language." But it names Pashtu - spoken by Afghanistan's ethnic majority - as the language of the Afghan national anthem, and Dari as the other main language. When the Uzbek minority from the north pressed for its language to be considered a main language as well, it was decided that six ethnic minority languages, including Uzbek and Turkman, would have official status in the regions where they are most widely spoken. Meanwhile Ishaq Sharyar, Afghanistan's ambassador to Washington, said the new constitution is historic as the first one produced through popular consensus. Earlier Afghan constitutions had been drawn up by the king and his advisers. Who would have thought that 500 Afghans from different points of the country could come to an agreement? It's a tribute to [Mr.] Karzai's leadership," he said. Although commentators hailed the constitution as a breakthrough and a personal success for Mr. Karzai, they said the real test would be implementing it. In Kabul, the NATO-backed International Security and Assistance Force was a major restraining presence. But large sections of the country remain largely unpoliced, with warlords still in control of several regions. Right on cue Tuesday, a bomb attached to a bicycle in Kandahar killed at least 13 persons, most of them children, and injured dozens more. It was a reminder, as U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had warned the delegates, that "there is no rule of law in this country yet. Mr. Brahimi and U.S. diplomats played a key role in preventing the loya jirga from collapsing. But the real challenge for the international community is in making the new constitution stick by bringing security to Afghanistan, Mr. Sharyar said. "The basis is there in the form of the peacekeeping force in Kabul. It needs to be expanded," the ambassador added. "A sense of security will unite the people, and work can begin on the reconstruction. Observers said there were signs that the success of the loya jirga had encouraged the Bush administration to focus renewed attention on Afghanistan as a welcome antidote to the setbacks of the Iraq occupation.

January 26, 2004 8:25 AM Eastern Time Afghan president signs post-Taliban constitution into law By STEPHEN GRAHAM The Associated Press
President Hamid Karzai signed Afghanistan's new constitution into law Monday, putting into force a charter meant to reunite his war- shattered nation and help defeat a virulent Taliban insurgency. Seated next to Afghanistan's former King Mohammed Zaher Shah in a palace at the Foreign Ministry, Karzai signed a decree formally declaring the 162-article document ratified earlier this month as the country's supreme law. "Congratulations!" he called to Afghan leaders who helped draw up the new charter, as Cabinet ministers and foreign diplomats applauded at the brief ceremony. The step was just the latest under a U.N.-sponsored peace drive designed to rebuild the Afghan state since a U.S.-led invasion drove out the Taliban two years ago. The constitution outlines a tolerant, democratic Islamic state under a strong presidency - as sought by Karzai - a two-chamber parliament and an independent judiciary. Ratified Jan. 4 after a sometimes bruising debate at a 500-member loya jirga, or grand council of representatives from across the country, the text also declares men and women equal before the law - a victory for human rights advocates. Karzai has praised the constitution, which also recognizes minority languages while giving few powers to provincial authorities, as a chance to pull the country together after nearly a quarter-century of violence. Celebrations of its adoption have been tempered by a fresh wave of attacks across the south and east of the country blamed on holdouts from the hard-line Islamic Taliban and their anti-government allies. About 60 people have been killed in violence in the past three weeks - including 15 civilians, most of them children, who died in a Jan. 6 bombing in the southern city of Kandahar. A remote-controlled bomb exploded Sunday night along a road near the capital of Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, where U.S. troops have a base, causing no injuries, an Afghan security official said. The explosion occurred near Nawabad, about a mile southeast of Asadabad, the province's capital, said Haji Jehandad Khan, the chief of border security of Kunar. The same night, two U.S. helicopters attacked an area about three miles southeast of Asadabad, Khan said. Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a U.S. military spokesman, said he had no information about any operation Sunday by American aircraft in Kunar. The targeting of the bombing was unclear, or whether it was linked to the bombing, which damaged a bridge. Khan said there were no casualties from the U.S. strikes. Anti-government militants loyal to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are believed to operate in Kunar and nearby provinces. Hekmatyar, a former prime minister, has linked up with Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts to oppose U.S. forces and the Afghan government. The United Nations has warned that countrywide elections to be held under the new constitution in June may have to be delayed because of poor security, and can only go ahead at all if the situation improves. So far, only about 500,000 of the estimated 10 million Afghans eligible to vote have been registered, and U.N. teams have yet to venture into the riskiest areas. Karzai is widely expected to win the presidential vote.

Loya Jirga: Roundup of Proceedings Historic assembly produced plenty of controversy and, in the end, a brand-new constitution. By IWPR staff in Kabul and London (ARR No. 101, 26-Jan-04) Institute for War & Peace Reporting
The approval of a new Afghan constitution took weeks of wrangling between delegates at the Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, and represents a compromise between various interest groups. The 502 members of the Loya Jirga, who had been debating amendments to a draft constitution since mid-December, passed the final version on January 4. The document sets out the basic institutions for a constitutional democracy in which Islam is accorded a central role, and in theory should make it possible to hold elections this year, as envisaged in the original Bonn agreement of December 2001.The document proscribes a strong presidential system with a two-chamber national assembly. Observers say the new constitution could help bolster the rights of Afghan women and help resolve ethnic rivalries within the country. Although some have expressed reservations about the way in which the document was drafted and amended - often far from the floor of the grand tent - it has been widely hailed as a step forward for Afghanistan. IWPR carried daily updates of the proceedings and analysis of the issues raised at the Loya Jirga. Following is a round-up of events at the meeting, as covered in our reports. There are links to relevant stories. ORGANISING THE LOYA JIRGA The adoption of a new Afghan constitution marks the end of a long process which began on October 2002, when Karzai appointed the Independent Constitution Drafting Commission to prepare an initial draft. A Constitutional Review Commission, set up in April 2003 to organise public involvement in the process, organised over 500 gatherings nationwide at which the constitution was discussed by around 150,000 people, giving officials a chance to gauge public opinion on the matter. Radio programmes, posters and a magazine were also produced in an effort to make the document more accessible to the general public. After a series of delays, the draft constitution was finally presented to the Loya Jirga for debate on December 14. At this sitting, the assembly consisted of 502 delegates, 450 elected to the post and 52 appointed by the president. They met in a vast marquee on the grounds of Kabul Polytechnic. On the first day of the sitting Sibghatullah Mujaddidi, a moderate ally of Karzai and one of the president's 52 handpicked delegates, was voted chairman. Four deputy chairpersons, including female delegate Safia Saddiqi, were also selected. The Loya Jirga was now ready to begin debating the constitution, amending and approving the draft piecemeal until all delegates approved of its content. The assembly was broken up into ten working committees, each of which chose its own head. The committees then debated the legal provisions in private and their views were passed on to a coordinating committee whose 38 members were made up of the leaders of the working committees and their deputies, representatives from the drafting commission, observers from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the elected leadership of the Loya Jirga. The commission had the task of formulating revised drafts of constitutional articles in light of the feedback from the working committees, and presenting them to the whole Loya Jirga assembly so they could be accepted or rejected. RESERVATIONS ABOUT THE PREPARATIONS A number of observers were critical of the way the Loya Jirga, and the drafting and public consultation processes leading up to it, were organised. Some resented the enormous influence wielded by the former militia commanders and many even said the former mujahedin representatives or "jihadis" were so powerful that they were afraid to disagree with them. One female delegate, Malalai Joya from Farah province, caused outrage on December 17 when she spoke out against the mujahedin leaders, saying many of them were war criminals who should face trial. Delegates called her a communist and an atheist both serious insults in Afghanistan and Mujaddidi tried to have her removed, although he later said he had simply been concerned for her safety. Mohammad Ashraf, a delegate from Mazar-e-Sharif, told IWPR that the way the assembly had been broken down into working groups increased the influence of the mujahedin. "I am opposed to these committees and groups," he said, "because all the jihadis stand at the top of the groups and they want to impose their beliefs on others." Others were unhappy that former Taleban officials were allowed to take part in the assembly, although Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission said it had no problem with this because they had been elected by the people. Some female delegates also said they felt intimidated by the atmosphere in the assembly. (See ARR No. 88: Women Still Silenced. Other observers expressed reservations about the processes leading up to the Loya Jirga sitting. The International Crisis Group think-tank said the drafting process was undemocratic and favoured factions already in power. Others said the election of delegates was badly organised and there were also signs that the attempts at public consultation had been largely unsuccessful. PRAISE FOR ASSEMBLY'S ACHIEVEMENT These expressed reservations notwithstanding, reactions to Afghanistan's new constitution have been largely positive. While chairman Mujaddidi waxed lyrical about the "pious and beautiful" conclusion to the Loya Jirga, President Karzai said the aspirations of all Afghans had found a place in the new constitution. "I want Afghanistan to be cleared of prejudice and hate," he said. "I want an Afghanistan in which everyone respects each other." But he noted that there is much work still to be done. "The constitution cannot exist just on paper," he said. "The constitution will be law when it is practiced. And I will implement this law. And if I don't, remove me." UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told delegates at the ceremony that the UN was pleased with their work. "Is the constitution perfect? Probably not," he said. "Will it be criticised? I feel it will be, inside Afghanistan and outside Afghanistan. But you have every reason to be proud and see this as a new source of hope." GOVERNMENT STRUCTURES Laying the foundations for future Afghan politics, the new constitution describes a presidential system with a two-chamber parliament, the National Assembly. The assembly consists of the Wolesi Jirga, or House of the People, whose members are elected, and Meshrano Jirga, or House of the Elders, made up of a mixture of elected and appointed representatives. The president is directly elected and, as head of both state and government, appears to have wide-ranging powers. There will be two vice-presidents, named as running-mates when presidential candidates declare themselves. The president has to be over 40, and a Muslim. Former king Zahir Shah is named "Father of the Nation" a purely ceremonial title which will disappear on his death. Whilst largely carrying this system through from the original draft, delegates added the proviso that parliamentary approval be required for the president's decisions concerning matters of state policy. It remains to be seen how this will be interpreted and whether it will hamstring the president, or prove to be a mere formality. (See ARR No. 86: President's Powers Questioned. The new constitution requires that "every effort" be made to hold the first round of parliamentary and presidential elections at the same time. In the meantime, the current government will fulfil the roles assigned to the national assembly in the constitution. This has been amended from the original draft, which required that parliamentary elections be held within a year of presidential elections. The final document also contains a provision for a commission to oversee the implementation of the constitution itself, apparently intended to replace the Diwan-e-Aali, or High Council, a supervisory body proposed by delegates from the former mujahedin parties, or "jihadis", at an earlier stage in the proceedings. It is not entirely clear what the alternative commission's role will be, or whether it will have the power to rule on the constitutionality of new laws a task otherwise assigned to the Supreme Court but its creation was an important compromise in accommodating to some extent the wishes of the mujahedin delegates. Many had feared that the proposed Diwan-e-Aali would be dominated by mujahedin leaders, giving them free rein to interpret and implement the constitution on their own terms. ROLE OF RELIGION Discussion of religious issues throughout the three-week sitting was heated and a number of delegates took part in a boycott on January 1. The boycotters gave a variety of reasons, though many of them were jihadi leaders or their supporters. Another group was protesting that assembly chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddidi called them atheists for suggesting that the word "Islamic" should be left out of the proposed title "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan". The final document states explicitly that "The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam", thus putting the faith at the heart of the state as well as its people. Whilst Islamic law is given an explicit place in the final draft it is, at least on the face of it, a limited role. Article 130 says that Hanafi jurisprudence the school of Sunni law that prevails in Afghanistan should provide a guide when no explicit laws apply. At the same time, Article 131 says Shia jurisprudence should be used in personal matters affecting the minority religious community, or when no other laws apply. (See ARR 100: Shia Make Constitutional Gains. The overarching system described is a civil law system. The clergy have no official status as such, and it is also stated that, "Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law". But much could depend on Article 3 "In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the sacred Islamic beliefs and commands" which some say could, in the hands of a conservative Supreme Court, open the back door to Sharia law. WOMEN'S RIGHTS Women were far better represented in the latest Loya Jirga than at the emergency session held in June 2002, where only 200 of the 1,650 delegates were female. This time there were 100 women out of 502 members. Two female delegates were elected by assemblies of women in each of the 32 provinces, with another six representing special groups including Kuchi nomads, domestic refugees and Afghans living in Iran and Pakistan. Another five were elected in general provincial elections, in which they ran along with male candidates. A further 25 were appointed by President Hamed Karzai himself. Women were also represented in the leadership of the Loya Jirga. Mujaddidi appointed female delegate Safia Sediqi as one of four deputy chairpersons, and two of the assembly's four secretaries were women. The final constitution produced by the Loya Jirga provides for better political representation for women in Afghanistan than they have had in the past. The document was amended to state explicitly that the term "citizen" in the phrase "The citizens of Afghanistan have equal rights and duties before the law" applies to both men and women, an important revision in a country where women have in the past been denied civic rights. The approved constitution also requires that the Wolesi Jirga include two female representatives from each province, compared with one per province in the original draft. This means that a minimum of 64 of the lower house's' 250 members will be female. At just over 25 per cent, this is higher than in most Western democracies. The final draft makes no mention of gender in the qualifications necessary to be president and, in places, makes it quite clear that in theory a woman can fill the role. Massouda Jalal, who stood for the presidency during the 2002 Emergency Loya Jirga, has said she intends to run again in the next round of presidential elections. Besides allowing Afghan women greater political representation, it is hoped the new constitution will also safeguard them against a number of controversial traditional practices. Article 54, which is primarily concerned with the family, says the state should strive to eliminate traditions which are contrary to Islam. This could be used to outlaw forced marriage and the practice of paying for brides. (See ARR No. 87: Forced Marriage Ban Possible. ETHNIC ISSUES The rights and demands of Afghanistan's constituent ethnic groups proved contentious throughout the Loya Jirga discussions. Following a particularly bad period of stalemate which concluded with a walkout, Mujaddidi formed a working group made up of three representatives from each province and the leaders of the ten Loya Jirga committees which he hoped would help resolve some of the most controversial sticking points. But the group's discussions collapsed into a series of bitter shouting matches over a range of questions, including the language to be used for the national anthem and the suggestion that Pashtu should be given elevated status as Afghanistan's "national language". (See ARR No. 97: Loya Jirga Falls into Disarray. The original draft of the constitution said simply that the national anthem should be in Pashtu. But some delegates argued it should be sung in a variety of languages and a number even took part in the boycott on voting on January 1 because of the issue. As a compromise, it was eventually agreed that the anthem should be in Pashtu only - but would include the names of all the ethnic groups of Afghanistan and the Muslim phrase "Allahu Akbar" "God is great" associated in this context with ex-mujahedin groups. Other delegates took part in the boycott on January 1 because they felt so strongly that Pashtu should be named the national language of Afghanistan, but that argument was eventually dropped after Pashtu delegates met on January 4 and their leaders persuaded the rank-and- file to withdraw the demand for the sake of compromise. Besides the issue of a national language, arguments raged around the question of which should be named "official languages", to be used in government communications. Where the original draft named Dari and Pashtu, it was eventually concluded that six further languages including Uzbek, widely spoken in the north, should also be official in the areas where they are most widely spoken. The northern leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum was influential in promoting language rights for the Uzbeks his own group - and the related Turkmen. President Karzai said that in return, Dostum had agreed to allow thousands of Pashtuns who have been displaced from their homes in the north over the past two years to return, and to free hundreds of Taleban prisoners in his hometown of Shiberghan. Compiled by Mike Farquhar, an editorial intern with IWPR in London. The report is drawn from material gathered by the Loya Jirga reporting team in Kabul.
(link)  Posted By: mariam   September 30th 2004, 2004 3:35 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.