Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Every Word Has a Special Significance

The inclusion of the word ‘resistance’ in the preamble of the proposed constitution triggers heated, and sometimes violent, debates.
By Danesh Karokhel

The word ‘resistance’ in the preamble of the new Afghan constitution has triggered a scuffle among Loya Jirga delegates and could be removed from the draft.

The term ‘moqawmat’, or resistance, was adopted by Northern Alliance fighters soon after factional fighting started following the defeat of the Communists in 1992. But of late, the term has also come to symbolize their war against the Taleban.

The fourth paragraph of the preamble of the draft constitution acknowledges "the sacrifices and historic struggles, rightful jihad and resistance of the nation."

But many delegates have raised objections to the inclusion of moqawmat. Some say the meaning is unclear, while others say its inclusion will only encourage the Northern Alliance to demand more privileges.

An elected representative of Jowzjan province, Gul Ahmad Paiman, said that while slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud did participate in the “resistance” out of love of country, some “criminals” now seek to justify their actions with the same term.

“A number of criminals have abused the term ‘moqawmat’, have committed murders and pillages, and they could use this term to rescue themselves from the people [justice] in future,” he said.

Pulwasha Hassan, one of the 38 members of the coordination committee, said there was much debate on the use of this word in the 10 committees. “Most of the people have rejected it, and there is a good chance this word will be removed,” she told IWPR.

In some cases, the conflict over the use of the term has been intense.

Malawi Ahmad Nabi Mohammadi, a former jihadi whose party, Harakat-e-Inqelab-e-Islami (Islamic Revolutionary Movement) was supportive of the Taleban, was the chairman of one committee considering the constitutional draft. He objected so strenuously to inclusion of the term ‘moqawmat’ that a shouting match erupted and delegates had to physically restrain Mohammadi from getting into a fist fight with another committee member, according to Faizullah Qaderi, a delegate from Faryab who witnessed the confrontation.

The committee decided to replace Mohammadi as its chairman and, in the end, voted to retain the word ‘moqawmat’. Mohammadi could not be reached for comment.

El Murad Arghoon, representing Mazar-e-Sharif at the Loya Jirga, said that his committee also had strong debates on the term. “The aggression by Pakistan and al-Qaeda would be ignored [forgotten] if the term ‘moqawmat’ is removed”, he said, explaining his support for retaining the term.

But Sayed Mohammed Hanif, a delegate from Logar province south of Kabul, said, “The term ‘moqawmat’ is the creation of northern people, and should not be inscribed in the constitution.”

Abdul Ghani, a delegate from the eastern province of Nangarhar, claims that the majority of delegates in his group rejected the use of this term. “There have been many resistances here among groups [civil war], so which resistance does it mean?” he asked.

A member of the Constitution Commission, Shukria Barakzai, agrees that the term could be removed. “There is no definition for the ‘moqawmat’ era. Who has conducted resistance against whom?” she said.

Danish Karokhel is an IWPR editor/reporter in Kabul. Qayum Babak is an independent journalist in Mazar participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.

More IWPR's Global Voices

FakeWatch Africa
Website to provide multimedia training and resources for fact-checking and investigations.
FakeWatch Africa
Africa's Fake News Epidemic and Covid-19: What Impact on Democracy?
Amid Pandemic, Cuban State Curbs Its Entrepreneurs
The crackdown on street vendors selling basic goods means people have to join long queues in government-run shops.
Cuba's Elderly Work Through the Pandemic
Cuba Slow to Act Over Domestic Abuse