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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
Round-up of opinion on CLJ - part one
Includes commentary from Barney Rubin, Khalilzad, and Mother Jones.
A Brief Look at the Final Negotiations on the Constitution of
Afghanistan's Milestone Zalmay Khalilzad The Washington Post January 6, 2004 The constitutional loya jirga that concluded in Kabul Sunday was a milestone on the Afghan people's path to democracy. Afghans have seized the opportunity provided by the United States and its international partners to lay the foundation for democratic institutions and provide a framework for national elections in 2004. The Afghan people manifested this remarkable commitment to democracy in two ways. They defied the enemies of Afghanistan's progress -- remnants of the extremist Taliban and al Qaeda forces -- by participating in elections for the delegates to the constitutional loya jirga. The extremists sought to intimidate candidates and voters. They failed. Women especially were not intimidated. There was a powerful reversal of symbolism when the Kabul soccer stadium -- used less than three years ago by the Taliban to execute women accused of adultery -- was used by thousands of women to choose their representatives to the constitutional loya jirga. Of the voting delegates, 102 were women -- more than 20 percent of the total delegates. Second, Afghans overcame their past. Instead of relying on the power of the gun, they embraced the often difficult and sometimes messy democratic process of debating, listening and compromising. They trusted in the power of their words by openly deliberating the important issues. Afghans used newspapers, radios, teahouses, schools, universities, mosques -- even the Internet -- as forums to debate fundamental issues such as the system of government, the role of religion, human rights -- particularly the role of women -- and, in a country with more than a dozen ethnic groups, such emotional issues as official languages and the relationship between the center and provinces. Such a wide-ranging debate is unprecedented in more than 5,000 years of Afghan history. The Afghan people's desire to succeed overcame the potential for failure. In the midst of sharp debates, the delegates and people of Afghanistan were unswervingly committed to obtaining a sound constitution. Attempts by warlords and religious fundamentalists to hijack the process were thwarted. Women and minorities held leadership roles. When one brave young woman denounced some of the delegates for their role in the destruction of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the chairman initially sought to throw her out of the hall. The delegates forced him to relent, and Malalai Joya refused to be intimidated and went on to play an active role in her working committee. By the loya jirga's completion, three women were part of the seven-member leadership team and several more took leading positions in the working committees. When ethnic and regional divisions emerged as possible fault lines over issues such as official languages, the delegates decided to find unity in diversity by making all languages official where they are spoken by the majority. This is unprecedented for Afghanistan and the region. With the Afghan people and the world watching, Hazaras, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Turkmen, Uzbeks and others adopted one of the most enlightened constitutions in the Islamic world. The Afghan constitution sets forth a presidential system with a strong parliament and an independent judiciary. The final document embraces a centralized government structure, which reflects most delegates' belief that years of war and the destruction of national institutions have left the central government far too weak. Delegates strengthened parliament by determining basic state policies and requiring confirmation of key presidential appointees, including the head of the central bank and the director of the national intelligence service. The Afghan constitution also sets forth parallel commitments to Islam and to human rights. While embracing Islam as the state religion, the document provides broad religious freedom -- allowing adherents of other faiths to practice their religions and observe religious rites. The loya jirga increased the number of women in parliament to an average of two female representatives from each province and explicitly stated, "Citizens of Afghanistan -- whether men or women -- have equal rights and duties before the law." Accepting equality between men and women marks a revolutionary change in the roles women are able to play in Afghan government and society. The United Nations has played a vital role in building Afghan political institutions since the Bonn Conference set the country on its current course. In particular the secretary general's special representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, was critical in helping the loya jirga delegates bridge their differences and achieve this successful outcome. Afghanistan faces more challenges: implementing this constitution, defeating the remaining extremists and terrorists, disarming militias, strengthening national institutions, eliminating narcotics production and helping the poorest of Afghans gain a foothold on the ladder of opportunity. After the suffering of the past 20 years, ordinary people of Afghanistan want their country to work. By adopting a sound constitution through an orderly and transparent process, Afghans have cleared a major hurdle. Afghanistan has sent a compelling message to the rest of the world that by investing in that country's development, the United States is investing in success. Americans can take pride in the role we have played in leading the multilateral effort to support Afghan democratization. The toppling of the Taliban and the stabilizing presence of the coalition and NATO International Security Assistance Force troops have enabled the seeds of political progress to sprout. President Bush's decision to increase aid to Afghanistan -- which will likely total more than $2 billion in fiscal 2004 -- will accelerate reconstruction of the country's national army, police force, economic infrastructure, schools and medical system. Our work in Afghanistan is not yet done. It will take several years and a sustained commitment of significant resources by the United States and the international community before the country can stand on its own feet. Given the stakes involved, we must remain committed for as long as it takes to succeed. The writer is special presidential envoy and ambassador to Afghanistan.
MotherJones.com January 6, 2004 Good Government? After a protracted and painful labor, Afghanistan's loya jirga gave birth on Sunday to a democratic constitution, the country's first. Given Afghanistan's history of violent civil strife, the mere fact that the 502-member council of elders and local dignitaries managed to agree on a final draft is extraordinary, and was hailed as such by many Afghan and international leaders, who welcomed the news as clear progress towards a democratic government in Afghanistan. The big question now is whether the constitution, so impressive on paper, can be implemented in practice. The constitution sets the framework for the first democratic government in the history of the country, now to be named "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan." The key points of the document provide for a strong president, two vice-presidents, a cabinet, and a parliament, with presidential elections to be held in June. The country will have an official civil law system, with the caveat that no civil law may contradict the laws of Islam. Women, strictly repressed under Taliban rule, are officially recognized as equal to men and allocated 25 percent of seats in the lower house of the parliament. The controversy over the nation's official language, which almost derailed the entire process, was resolved with Pashto and Dari, the languages spoken by the biggest ethnic groups, as the primary languages, with minority languages to be recognized in specific regions. The constitution was met with approval by everyone from human rights leaders and U.S. president George Bush and to the secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. In Washington Bush issued a statement congratulating the loya jirga for creating a country that will, "help ensure that terror finds no further refuge." Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, who lobbied for increased presidential powers, welcomed of the document, which greatly increased the power of any future president, as "a success for us all, for all the people of Afghanistan." The government funded paper, Anis also welcomed the document, praising the delegates for having put their differences aside for the sake of the national interest. However good the constitution looks in theory, it's far from clear that the new government will have to power actually to implement its provisions, as Mohammed Alam, a delegate to the loya jirga from the Farah Province, told Agence France Presse: "This constitution reflects the views of all Afghans including minorities. It is a well-balanced constitution, but it is only on paper.... There is no guarantee of its implementation. There are weapons everywhere in the country. The government has to disarm militias and gather the weapons, then it will be possible to think about implementation of the constitution and other laws in Afghanistan." As London's Independent reports Afghanistan's warlords hold the real power on the ground, and are unlikely to cede it willingly to a central government. "Afghanistan, which is the world's largest opium producer and has a plethora of warlords and militias, have anything approaching a national judicial or law enforcement system capable of enforcing the terms of a new constitution. Corruption abounds, large areas of the country, which is awash with arms, are lawless." Groups representing ethnic minorities and women fear that without provisions to de-militarize warlords, women and minorities, traditionally hard done by in Afghanistan, will continue to suffer. Women's rights in particular has been controversial throughout the constitutional process. Frustration with the proceedings led Malalai Joya, 26-year old Afghan social worker, to interrupt the constitutional proceedings to condemn what she saw as a convention full of criminals. Her testimony, brought attention to the country's mujahideen leaders who had taken part in the country's civil war of the 1990s, in which they killed and raped civilians. Joya's outburst was heralded by feminists -- and landed her under the protection of the United Nations. Meena Nanji, a filmmaker who has been working on a film about Afghan women, writes in the San Jose Mercury News that mujahideen leaders won't support women's rights. "The mujahedeen do not approve of women leading any part of their lives in public, and harshly intimidate those who think differently...The litany of laws passed this year to govern women's conduct reads like a page out of the Taliban handbook. They include the banning of coeducational classes; restrictions on a woman's ability to travel by limiting the time she can be without a 'mahram,' a male relative or husband; and forbidding women to sing in public. The biggest blow to women's rights was dealt in November when a 1970s law prohibiting married women from attending high school classes was upheld." The new constitution officially recognizes men and women as equal before the law, but many fear that intimidation and harassment of women will continue. The independent Afghan weekly, Farda expressed concern over threats against female delegates to the convention. Some women who are running for office under the new constitution have reported having been threatened by armed men. Still, the constitution is a huge step for Afghanistan and represents a break with the past, explains Nader Naderi, a spokesperson for the Independent Afghan Human Rights Commission. "There are still some problems with the constitution, but the process was very positive, because people came together despite their differences and came to an agreement without violence…. This is a major change in the traditional way of doing politics in Afghanistan."
Philadelphia? No, Kabul
Palm Beach Post Editorial
Wednesday, January 7, 2004
On Saturday, Afghanistan's constitutional convention
was breaking up in failure. On Sunday, the 500
delegates approved a new constitution. That jump from
crisis to compromise is a hallmark of democratic
governments. Maybe Afghanistan can do this after all.
Even as participants celebrated and accepted
congratulations, they didn't kid themselves. "We all
know," Ladhdar Brahimi told the delegates, "that all
we have tonight is a number of pages on which words in
Dari and Pashto have been written." Mr. Brahimi, U.N.
special envoy to Afghanistan, reminded them that the
real challenge is "to translate these words on a piece
of paper into a living reality."
The references to Dari and Pashto, Afghanistan's
dominant languages, acknowledged a problem that also
has implications for U.S. policy in Iraq. The
constitutional convention nearly crumbled because
Afghanistan's traditional Pashtun rulers tried to
force Uzbeks, Hazaras and other ethnic minorities to
bow to Dari and Pashto as the country's only
"official" languages. Ethnic and religious rifts are
just as serious in Iraq. It took two years for
Afghanistan to approve a constitution, and elections
still are six months off. How will Iraq reconcile its
competing interests by July 1, as the Bush
The Afghanistan constitution also has at least one
conflict that also could emerge in Iraq. Women and men
are equal under the constitution, but conservatives
passed an amendment declaring that all laws must
conform to their view of Islam. It's a contradiction
that the courts -- when they exist -- will have to
settle. The tension reminds Americans of the potential
for Afghanistan and Iraq to become radical Islamic
states if rebuilding fails.
The Afghan constitution envisions a strong president
with strong central powers. But the reality is that
most power outside Kabul is in the hands of warlords
and tribal chiefs, many with more allegiance to their
tribes or Taliban remnants they harbor than to the new
constitution. The lack of security is the single
greatest threat to a new Afghanistan. A bombing
Tuesday in Kandahar that killed 13, most of them
children, interrupted celebrations for the new
constitution. Again, that sounds warnings for Iraq.
How does the central government in either country
enforce the rule of law? U.S. military power is the
temporary solution, but as the occupation of Iraq
shows, a troop presence can create enemies.
The jump from crisis to compromise in Afghanistan was
a political milestone. Given that a stable Afghanistan
is as important to United States security as a stable
Iraq, it also is a potential milestone for Americans.
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.