View Full Version : Afghani Council approves new constitution

01-04-2004, 09:52 PM
From the New York Times: (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/04/international/asia/04CND-AFGH.html?hp)

In a carefully balanced wording, the country will be renamed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, combining democracy and religion. There is to be a system of civil law, but no law will be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam.

The 502 delegates from all over Afghanistan who have been assembled in a vast white tent in Kabul Polytechnic approved the Constitution by acclamation. They said prayers, then rose and stood in silent respect.

The new bedrock of the government was welcomed by Afghan human rights and women's activists as offering the prospect of the rule of law in the ravaged country. Diplomats and foreign experts who have been here to observe the process also praised it for being coherent and even forward looking for the region.

In Washington, President Bush welcomed the new Constitution, saying in a statement that it would "help ensure that terror finds no further refuge" in Afghanistan. The Americans hope the new arrangements will provide a stronger government that can help Afghanistan rebuild after the war that defeated the Taliban government that had befriended Osama bin Laden.

The United Nations special representative here, Lakhdar Brahimi, who helped in last-minute mediation, was the first to congratulate the assembly. "Is the Constitution perfect? Probably not," Mr. Brahimi told delegates. "Will it be criticized? 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."

There had been long battles in the assembly and committee rooms over the three weeks right up to the last moment, but delegates over all said they accepted the final draft. The grand council, or loya jirga, added some checks and balances to the presidential powers, giving the Parliament a veto over senior appointments and over some policy decisions, and it gave broad language rights to the ethnic minorities in their own regions.

In addition, women were given recognition as equal citizens, and 25 percent of the seats of the lower house of Parliament were set aside for them..

The main critique of the constitution in the article seemed to be that it gave the president too much power, but other than that, most of the statements made by various folk were fairly positive. That the constitution is rooted in Islam gives it a certain legitimacy, in that it seems less a purely Western product but rather a compromise that does incorporate what the locals want. In addition, the step of protecting minority language rights seems pragmatic and more likely to draw broader support. Equal rights before the law for women can only be a good thing, though I suspect in practice this will take a long time to secure (heck, abolition of slavery and the big Civil Rights movement were a century apart!). I saw no mention of freedom of religion, which is a bit puzzling (are other religions outlawed?).

In any case, to my untrained eyes, the document looks like a step in the right direction, though implementation seems like it will depend a lot on interpretations of Islam. In the current climate of the country, I'm not sure how this new constitution will fit in. Will it actually have teeth, or will regional warlords laugh in the face of it? Will the government it leads to be too fractious or corrupt to be much good? Will the document be respected in the long-run?

I guess this all leads to: is the quality of life in Afghanistan on the way up?

01-04-2004, 10:51 PM
Where else can it go? Now that the Republic of Kabul has a rudimentary constitution, the 200 square miles under its control will, no doubt, experience some sort of cultural and political renaissance.

In the countryside, all politics is local. And heavily armed, with fresh hardware due to the generosity of America, the baskets and carload of $100 bills we rained down upon them to rent their unswerving loyalty. I have little doubt that they will examine this document with the utmost attention, fervently and patrioticly obeying whichever of its provisions they find convenient.

01-05-2004, 09:07 PM
Ever the optimist.

Rashak Mani
01-05-2004, 09:16 PM
HHmmm... I am from a third world country... no matter what constitution you have the problem is enforcement. Its no good having a solid constitution if you can't make people obey it.

Should be interesting to see how Afghanistan goes though... do other Muslim countries even have constitutions ? (It is a western thing I suppose ).

Sine Nomen
01-06-2004, 03:08 AM
It is most definitely not a western thing: http://confinder.richmond.edu/

Alan Owes Bess
01-06-2004, 07:53 AM
Personally, I would be supportive of any and every Parliament, Assembly, Congress, whatever, on this planet having 50% female representation, or split houses.

25% female representation in the Afghan constitution seems good at first glance, but in the final analysis, we have:

but no law will be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam.

That trumps all.

At the end of the day, the women of Afghanistan will end up under Burkhas, as usual.

smiling bandit
01-06-2004, 11:38 AM
At the end of the day, the women of Afghanistan will end up under Burkhas, as usual.

I wouldn't bet on it. The Taliban was more than a little extreme even for a more-or-less tradition-holding non-nation like Afganistan.