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

Islam Awarded a Greater Role in Government

By Rahimullah Samander and Danish Karokhel in Kabul (ARR No. 95, 30-Dec-03)
By IWPR

The revised draft was presented to the 502-member body earlier on Monday. Delegates had three hours to read the draft and complete a form indicating whether or not they approved of each article in the document. Any article that gained a simple majority was considered approved by the assembly, said Dr. Fatema Fatemi, one of the secretaries of the Loya Jirga.


By assenting to the revised versions of Articles 2 and 3, delegates approved giving Islam a larger role in the government. The original draft of Article 3 said that “no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this constitution”. The revised article reads: “In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the sacred Islamic beliefs and commands”.


The elimination of “the values of this constitution” – which includes a commitment to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights – leads some to fear that conservative interpretations of Islam will take precedence over human rights in the future.


The original draft of Article 2 stated that “The religion of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam”. The committee voted to change the wording to, “The religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam”. This is interpreted as placing Islam at the heart of the government, as opposed to only the country’s people.


Meanwhile, 25 articles failed to win the approval of a majority of delegates. These disputed articles include those that would have weakened the powers of the president, strengthened the role of the parliament, altered the terms of Supreme Court justices and required that ministers cannot have dual citizenship.


Other articles yet to be approved include those dealing with the official languages, the national anthem, the rights of the nomadic Kuchi tribes, and the king’s title of “Father of the Nation”, Fatemi told IWPR.


These articles will be debated before the entire body, possibly as early as Tuesday, with five minutes given to each of five advocates and opponents of each measure before a final vote.


The revisions contained in the draft distributed to the delegates would significantly weaken the powers of the president. They would give parliament the power to set government policy, as well as to appoint the ministers, the attorney general, the head of the national bank and the head of intelligence – all of which the original draft had vested in the president.


The revised document also requires the first presidential and parliamentary elections to be held at the same time. The original document called for parliamentary elections to be held within a year after the presidential election. The revision in effect removes the president¹s ability to appoint Supreme Court justices and ministers without parliamentary approval.


In another revision, the clause that said, “The president is responsible to the nation” is deleted. But in another article, the words “The president is responsible to the parliament and the nation” are added. Another revision specifies that the president may not have a wife who is foreign-born.


The revised draft of the constitution was written by the coordination committee, which included the leadership of the 10 working committees and the leaders of the Loya Jirga. About 45 additions or deletions were made to 30 articles in the 160-article original draft.


Some of the changes are relatively minor; others carry mostly symbolic weight. For example, the preamble's reference to “respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. But the portion of article 7 which says that Afghanistan will abide by the human rights declaration was left intact.


Article 7 was also changed from reading that the state will prevent “production and smuggling of narcotics”, to read that the government will seek to stem “production and use of intoxicating substances” in order to include alcohol as well as narcotics.


As for the controversial national anthem, the language will remain in Pashtu but the song itself will be rewritten to include the key phrase of the jihadi national anthem, “Allahu Akbar” as well as mentioning each of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan.


Rahimullah Samander and Danish Karokhel are IWPR reporters/editors participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.