Afghanistan: Constitution in the Works, Fighting Persists

An eight-member committee created last October to write a new constitution for Afghanistan submitted a draft last week to President Hamid Karzai, reported the Associated Press. While details have yet to be disclosed, the general framework is expected to be based on the 1964 Constitution, incorporate some elements of sharia (Islamic law), and resemble an Islamic democracy with a strong president and weaker parliamentÑall with terms lasting four to five years.

A president-appointed 30-member commission will gather “public” comment from select Afghans including professors, elders, and religious leaders. Already, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Women’s Affairs have made several recommendations to the commission to improve the status of women, including provisions to guarantee women’s rights, give women full citizenship, increase the age for marriage, and implement compulsory education for girls and boys. In addition, the institutions are urging that the constitution serve as the law of the land, above custom or local rule. The loya Jirga will debate the final draft in October.

Meanwhile, security remains an issue throughout Afghanistan. Last month, two US soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters attacked their convoy. Khalid Pashtoon, spokesman for Gov. Gul Agha Shirzai (Kandahar) told the Washington Post, “The last few weeks the situation in Kandahar was getting worse day by dayÉ The increase in violent incidents started five months ago, but became more common after [the start of] the Iraq war.” Last Sunday, Islamic extremists, under the leadership of former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are suspected of launching the rocket attack on International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul, according to Agence France Presse. The Feminist Majority has been leading the call for ISAF expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.

When command of ISAF in Afghanistan transferred from Turkey to Germany and the Netherlands in February, German Defense Minister Peter Struck called for NATO to assume larger responsibility for peacekeeping after their six-month command term. This week, the 19 NATO members asked military planners to consider the issue, with the alliance taking charge of the 4,000-person peacekeeping force.

TAKE ACTION Urge Congress to Appropriate Funds for Peace Troops and Reconstruction in Afghanistan


Associated Press 4/2/03, 4/3/03; Washington Post 4/3/03; Agence France Presse 3/3/03; Reuters 3/31/03; Feminist Daily News

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