Objectives of the Nation
Brave Afghan Women
Important Figures Outside
The Father of the Nation
It is possible to cut and twist and paste, with some changes, democratic
constitutions of the Western World into national documents of the so
called third world countries in an exercise for nation building there
especially when they are devastated by war, intrigue, internal chaos
and international intervention. The process of cut and twist and paste
could then be called an exercise in nation building. What follows are
proceedings of testing of the above hypothesis.
the Nation Building Exercise:
One of the most interesting social organization tests was conducted
on Afghan soil, under a huge tent on the grounds of a higher education
institution's campus in Kabul for three weeks. The results of the test
were of utmost importance to the social and political well being of
Afghanistan. They were also meant to set standards for similar procedures
elsewhere in the third world countries where Western interests and influences
were concerned. Therefore, the world political machinery as well as
students of political science and Afghanistan's friends and foes alike,
closely watched the proceedings of the test and the conditions under
which it was conducted.
This paper is an effort to record for the study of the students of
politics as well as for posterity the different aspects of the procedures
adopted for conducting of the test measuring adoptability of Western
style democracies in third world countries. The test was also to find
out compatibility or otherwise between what is considered as civil values
of Western civilizations and those of the sacred religion of Islam.
Furthermore, in the conduct of the test individual politicians or groups
as well as interested international powers used all the tools of politicking
in a search for means to grasp or maintain power or safeguard their
The test would include drafting of a new constitution, amending of
the draft and presentation of the same to an old social institution
in Afghanistan called Loya Jirga. This Loya Jirga would be called the
Constitutional Loya Jirga and would consist of the choices for representatives
of an electoral college in 32 provinces of the country. The size of
the Electoral College ended up being 19000. The actual test was conducted
with the participation of 502 delegates chosen by the Electoral College
and Afghanistan's president of the Transitional Government. Some semblance
of democratic process would be observed and recorded. This would show
that the nation had participated in the experiment.
In preparation for the test, a small committee of eight people selected
by the United Nations, were entrusted with the compilation of a draft
constitution for a new Afghanistan founded after the world's mightiest
power bombed down and toppled the world's harshest regimes of Taleban
in Afghanistan. The Big Brother, the United States, immediately pledged
helping the country to re-establish as a democratic state and to emerge
as a peaceful country on the way to reconstruction and prosperity.
The small committee worked diligently and copied for the most part
articles from an older constitution of the country namely the Constitution
of 1964 of the era of monarchy, subtracted or changed the chapter on
the person and authority of the Monarch but assigned most of the monarchical
privileges to a president.
The head of the country's transitional government then assigned a larger
committee of more than 35 people to review the first draft and institute
changes, as needed making the document presentable to a Grand National
council called Constitutional Loya Jirga. This second draft was studied
by the head of the transitional government who was hopeful of remaining
in power as the first elected president in June of 2004.
The commission worked on the draft, introduced minor changes and sought
views of the public on the draft. The method for seeking of the public
input into the draft was unscientific, haphazard and unorganized. Still
a formidable number of opinions were presented in tens of thousands
of pages to the commission. It is not known how the commission reviewed
these views and or how it promulgated those views in the draft. What
is known is that the draft with no or very little change was presented
to Hamid Karazai for his study and presentation to the Constitutional
Reportedly he further strengthened the part dealing with the powers
of the president if the Jirga were to adopt the new constitution.
It was this draft that was presented to the Jirga as it started its
deliberations on December 14, 2003 in Kabul. A major part was played
by the United Nations and the United States helping make the Jirga possible
and especially the United Nations in working diligently in making the
selection of members of the Electoral College possible as well as working
with a governmental commission to prepare the ground work for the proceedings
of the Jirga.
In the selection of the Loya Jirga members, a great deal of politicking
took place and many factions as well as so called parties including
the transitional government used a variety of tactics in order to ensure
selection of their supporters as Loya Jirga delegates.
Finally, as per procedures drawn by the United Nations and in order
to ensure some degree of representation by women, it was decided that
at least two women must be elected from each province and that another
fifty percent of the delegates that were to be selected by the president
should be women. The end result of this endeavor was selection of 100
women as part of the final 502-member Loya Jirga.
It is important to note that the person of the president and his advisors
also included among the choices of the president for Loya Jirga membership,
some of the powerful warlords perhaps either to appease them or win
over sympathy of their supporters as to the plans of the government.
One example was selection of the powerful warlord from Northern Afghanistan
namely, Abdul Rashid Dostum to participate in the Jirga and who later
proved an obstacle instead of a supporter to the president's program.
As expected the Jirga began on December 14, 2003 under the giant tent
donated for the purpose of the Emergency Loya Jirga of two years ago
by the German government. The temporary leader of the Jirga was selected
to be one of the Jihadi leaders and a religious figure Mr. Gailani.
Under his leadership the Jirga was opened by a lukewarm speech delivered
by the former King Zahir Shah and somewhat elaborate talk by the president
of the transitional government. The former expressed fatherly hope for
the success of the meeting while the latter pointed out to the so-called
achievements of his government. Pretty soon afterwards few candidates
were nominated to the presidency of the Loya Jirga. Among them was Mr.
Sibghatullah Mojadedi one of the Jihadi leaders and the first president
for two months of the Jihadi government that replaced the communist
regime of Dr. Najibullah after the retreat of the Soviet forces from
Afghanistan. Mohadedi, an elderly figure, familiar with power politics
and considered a pro-western personality seemed the most acceptable
to majority of the delegates and won over 252 votes almost 100 votes
ahead of the second runner and thus became the president the Constitutional
Loya Jirga. He is considered a moderate and a supporter of the present
governmental set-up and thus his election was looked upon as a big boost
to the position of Hamid Karzai the president of the transitional government.
It was then decided that the work of the Loya Jirga be carried out
by smaller committees, ten in number, headed by the following:
- Burhanuddin Rabbani, former president of the Jihadi government
- Abdul Rasul Sayaf, leader of Itehad-Islami Jihadi group.
- Ahmad Nabi Mohammadi, the son of the late Mawlawai Mohammad Nabi
Mhammadi, leader of the Harakat-e-Islami Jihadi group.
- Mohammad Tahir
- Ayatullah Mohsini, a Jihad Islamic group leader.
- Mawlawai Gul Mohammad
- Dr. Mashahed
- Ustad Farid, a former close confident of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar who
had delegated him in his own place as the prime minister in the Jihadi
government of Rabbani.
- Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, brother of the powerful minister of finance
of Karzai's government
- Sayed Mohammad Hanif
(For a detailed look at the list of participants, you may wish to
go to http://www.users.tns.net/~mroashan/ and click on the list of
members of the Loya Jirga.)
After looking at the list, any observer of the Afghan scene would have
concluded that the committees dominated by the Jihadi elements with
their past associations and affiliations and their present stands would
lead the Jirga toward a purely Islamic Jihadi path.
Nevertheless, the committees apparently did a great job in a short
time to review the assigned articles of the draft constitution and most
of them reported within the given time to the Jirga leadership that
they had accomplished their task. Only two committees took longer than
usual in concluding their task.
But the result of these deliberations coupled with a few blunders by
the Jirga leadership proved a big hurdle in the speedy conclusion of
the work of the Jirga. The main areas of disagreement included major
and minor points each intended to further a variety of ideologies of
participants as individuals and as followers of groups, factions and
parties. Some examples of the changes proposed to the draft presented
to the Jirga are given below:
Article 1 of the draft referred to the religion of Afghanistan. The
delegates added the words of: "the people and the state" in
front of the word Afghanistan. Looking at this change you could imagine
the depth of the ideological rift that reflected in the debates of the
Furthermore article 3 was modified by the Reconciliation Commission
of the Jirga to add strength to the Islamic nature of laws in the country.
This shows the concern about the problem of compatibility or otherwise
of the civil laws with those of the Islamic Sharia. While the word Sharia
was not used, some delegates found a remedy in the change in the wording
from: "..no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam
and the values of this Constitution, to: In Afghanistan, no law can
be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of
Article 4 was found controversial in its draft form in that while it
referred to the nation of Afghanistan consisting of all individuals
who are the citizens of Afghanistan, but did not qualify the term citizen
to mean woman and man. This simple change, often felt to be unnecessary
in civil societies where it is taken for granted that women and men
both are equally the citizens of their nations, was considered a big
victory for the women in Afghanistan whose rights have constantly been
endangered by mainly male dominated social institutions.
A minor change was suggested to Article 7 about the issue of narcotics.
The commission suggested a change from: "
production and smuggling
of narcotics, to: production, consumption and smuggling of intoxicants."
The above examples were cited to show the intricacies and difficulties
of working with the wording of a national document and the fact that
the participants were thorough in their study of the draft and were
ready to further their points of view. They showed that notwithstanding
any amount of politicking, a democratic institution would remain democratic
and would reflect the concerns of its participants.
While the reader is encouraged to study Professor Rubin's analytical
notes on the issue,
(Professor Barnett R. Rubin of New York University and an avid observer
of the Afghan Loya Jirga has worked out a detailed discussion of these
points. Professor Rubin is also member of the Advisory Board of the
Institute for Afghan Studies, IAS. For a study of his analytical notes
dated December 31, 2003, please visit: www.institute-for-afghan-studies.org
) I will point only at major issues where changes were proposed by the
Bureau and Conciliation Commission:
The issue of market economy, the authority to print money, the language
of the national anthem, exceptions to the issue of the forced labor,
the necessity for administrative reform, the issue of provision of free
medical services by the state the issue of extending of help to the
descendants of martyrs and to the disabled and handicapped individuals,
the issue of provision of free education at most levels, the powers
and duties of the president, the citizenship of the head and members
of the government, the need for a Constitutional High Council to share
supervision of the Constitution, boosting up of the powers of the parliament
at the cost of reducing of the president's powers, and a host of other
issues proved to show the divisions within the Jirga and the deep concerns
of the delegates regarding the choice of a strong presidential system
and seeking of methods to check his powers. Furthermore, most of these
issues showed the ethnic divide among various groupings in the country
and the concern mainly of the warlords and their supporters about dilution
of the powers of regional warlords when a central strong government
is chosen. The viewpoints of the delegates on some of the issues above
were so far from those of the Karzai government that at times it was
feared that the Jirga would fail altogether. Voices of disagreement
were heard at great distances from the main tent and many representatives
of the mass media transmitted them to the world at large to hear.
Within the Jirga, some of the well-known personalities such as Professor
Rabbani, Professor Sayat, General Rashid Dostum and some of other ethnic
representatives belonging to minority tribes together with a valorous
women's delegates group continued to voice their objections to the procedures,
to the tactics used by the government to influence representatives and
to the shortcomings of the draft. (There were also some reports that
alleged bribing of the delegates by the government with cloaks, money
and banquets to support its stand. Another unconfirmed rumor suggested
that heads of the committees were promised a big sum of money to spend
in their provinces on their own discretion upon return home from the
Jirga.) At one time, the grievances and the disagreements of the participants
gave way to the formation of a boycotting group consisting of one third
of the deputies. The situation shook up the foundation of the Jirga,
but Karzai did not back off from his stand of insisting on a strong
presidential system for the government and blocking of efforts to include
the post of a prime minister to share the powers of the president. However,
the problem was so grave that it required a temporary adjournment of
the Jirga so that diplomats, the United States and the United Nations
officials and government activists could find peaceable solution for
preventing a serious boycotting of the Jirga.
Two Famous Blunders and the Voices of Valorous Afghan Women:
The Chairman of the Jirga, Professor Sibghatullah Mojadedi an experienced
politician and one of the good choices for the leadership of the Jirga
was expected to play a miraculous role in leading the Jirga to a successful
end. For the most part, his eloquence, his familiarity with the task
at hand and knowledge of the characteristics of the participants helped
him play a positive role to the benefit of the wishes of the organizers
of the Jirga. However, in the course of the Jirga he made two errors
of judgment. After the declaration of the organization of the Jirga
in ten committees and introduction of their officers, a young woman
delegate Malalai Joya from the province of Farah asked for a couple
of minutes during which she in a calculated tone criticized the choice
of the committee officers which consisted of the so called Mujahidin.
Representing her constituency and in fact, as many would agree, majority
of the Afghans, she questioned the wisdom of letting these elements
lead the committee discussions. Because of the significance of her intervention,
her speech on December 17 addressing the Loya Jirga is copied here in
"My name is Malali Joya from Farah Province. By the permission
of the esteemed attendees, and by the name of God and the colored-shroud
martyrs, I would like to speak for couple of minutes.
My criticism on all my compatriots is that why are they allowing the
legitimacy and legality of this Loya Jerga come under question with
the presence of those felons who brought our country to this state.
I feel pity and I feel very sorry that those who call Loya Jerga an
infidel basis equivalent to blasphemy after coming here their words
are accepted, or please see the committees and what people are whispering
about. The chairman of every committee is already selected. Why do you
not take all these criminals to one committee so that we see what they
want for this nation. These were those who turned our country into the
nucleus of national and international wars. They were the most anti-women
people in the society who wanted to who brought our country to this
state and they intend to do the same again. I believe that it is a mistake
to test those already being tested. They should be taken to national
and international court. If they are forgiven by our people, the bare-footed
Afghan people, our history will never forgive them. They are all recorded
in the history of our country."
Ms. Joya's speech created a strong reaction on the part of the so-called
Mujahidin and Professor Sayaf asked the chair for five minutes to respond
to it. In his lengthy speech Sayaf enumerated the sacrifices of the
Mujahidin and pointed to some of the delegates as elements of communism
that were there to disturb the proceedings.
Professor Sibghatullah Mojadedi asked that Ms. Joya should leave the
meeting. She did not. Professor Sibghatullah Mojadedi then asked her
to apologize for her statements against the Mujahidin. She refrained
from doing so. Professor Rabbani then suggested that forgiveness is
a merit and should be shown to this case. And the Jirga bought the argument.
Later Professor Sibghatullah Mojadedi qualified his action by saying
that it was for the security of the delegate Joya that he had asked
her to leave the meeting. He also later tried to correct himself by
saying that when he had said that in Islam two women equal one man was
not to belittle women, but that women should have had more representation
in the Jirga meaning that instead of one hundred women, since the Jirga
consisted of about 400 men, then the number of women should have been
eight hundred. None of these explanations would convince the observer
of the intentions of the chair of the Jirga.
Another time, as per Jirga rules, more than 151 members produced an
affidavit, which should have served as legal basis for consideration
of their point in open debate about the official name of Afghanistan.
They wanted the name to be the Republic of Afghanistan instead of the
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. They argued that by structure the Afghan
nation is made up of more than 99 percent of Moslems and thus it was
superfluous to call their country Islamic.
Professor Mojadedi reacted strongly to the affidavit by saying that
it was the work of infidels and those who opposed Islam and therefore
the Jirga would not entertain the request. His ruling was so out of
order that one of the international observers, Mr. Fransisc Vendrll,
representing the European Union, expressed surprise and fear in an interview
on the issue.
Brave Afghan Women:
Besides, the young woman from Farah, namely Ms. Joya, there were 99
other strong, vociferous and fearless women as delegates to the Jirga.
Dr. Masooda Jalal, a known figure from the last Loya Jirga was another
Afghan woman who dared speak out her mind on important issues including
the performance of the transitional government and rejecting some of
the claims made by Karzai as major achievements of his government.
Another woman was elected as the Vice Chairman of the Jirga and many
others worked hard to not only make their presence noted, but to make
the Jirga recognize essential rights of the greater half of the Afghan
population namely the women. Some observers were surprised to note the
bravery of the women in taking a firm stand on their convictions even
in the face of threats to their lives and apparent attempt at inflecting
physical damage to them. Ms. Joya, at attempt on whose life had reportedly
been made by an intruder at the women delegates' hostel had to be protected
by the United Nations at an undisclosed site.
Important Figures outside the Jirga:
US Ambassador Zalmai Khalilzad was a key figure and a close watcher
of the Jirga proceedings. Khalilzad who has been with the Afghan case
even from times before, during and after the Bonn Meeting and especially
during the Emergency Loya Jirga was considered not only an important
American personality, but a close adviser to President Karzai, who is
as important to the United States as he is presently to Afghanistan.
Ambassador Khalilzad has consistently denied intervention in the Emergency
Loya Jirga, the decision of the former King to give up any chance for
Afghanistan's leadership and instead accept the ceremonial title of
the Father of the Nation, and the current Loya Jirga. However, many
observers agree that he has been in constant touch with the Jirga and
with the transitional government of Afghanistan as well as his adopted
country's President Mr. George W Bush. His government is also credited
in helping the transitional government in Afghanistan prepare for the
Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations Secretary General's special representative
and one of the main pushers for peace in Afghanistan before, during
and after the Bonn meeting, very similar to Khalilzad, was another important
personality that had participated in the preparations for the Jirga,
the Jirga itself and considered the success of the Jirga as a personal
achievement as well.
The above two diplomats are credited in working behind the curtains
to make the final agreement of the Jirga possible. The reason for this
besides their long participation in the process is their personal involvement
in planning for a new, democratic and peaceful Afghanistan.
The Father of the Nation:
As the old "Father" that he is called, he participated in
the opening and closing ceremony with short benevolent speeches void
of political ferver. The Constitutional Loya Jirga clapped at his lukewarm
speeches read with some degree of difficulty because of his frail physical
The exercise concluded after three weeks on Sunday January 4, 2004.
It proved the hypothesis, at least on paper to be true. It further proved:
- 1. You can exercise democratic process even under very difficult
conditions where true and universal representation of the nation cannot
take place. The idea of selection and election of a huge Electoral
College from villages, districts and provinces could be used as the
basis for the democratic effort.
- You can translate democratic principles from any democratic document
of the West, change it to suit local conditions, put it up for study
and discussion and within a given period of time, minus or plus a
few days, expect passage of your original draft with some changes
that could not absolutely been avoided.
- Expect the document to work.
- You can come up with a Constitution for an Islamic country where
the word Sharia is not mentioned as the basis for the Justice System,
but a strong wording open to interpretations stresses the importance
of Islam as the main law of the land.
- The test also provided precedence for repetition of the exercise
in other similar societies in the world promising similar degree of
Afghanistan now has a new Constitution. It serves as a document for
not only the return of peace to the country, but for the start of an
era of true reconstruction and resuscitation. Afghanistan is now only
one step away from having a permanent democratic government that would
complete the process of the country's unity, establish the country's
dilapidated administrative system and take up the difficult but the
most necessary process of reconstruction not only of the infrastructure,
but of the economy as a whole. Above all others, it is now ready to
tackle the most difficult and the most challenging issue of provision
of security for the ordinary women and men in the country. The Constitution
has explained the mandate of the future government of Afghanistan and
it is the task of whoever gets to lead that government to fulfill the
national aspirations of the Afghans for a peaceful, secure and prosperous
Afghanistan where men and women would work together to achieve the highest
social goals for the current and future generations of Afghanistan and
to live in a united country and be called Afghans equal in status irrespective
of their ethnic origin or linguistic root and equal in the eyes of the
law. The document may have shortcomings that might be corrected in the
future by the process of amendments, but one thing that makes it a welcome
step in the process of nation building in Afghanistan is hope. It nurtures