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Row Over Anthem

Controversy over the Afghan national anthem reflects Loya Jirga tensions.
By Danesh Kerokhil

Afghanistan's sense of national unity is so fragile that even the playing of

the national anthem at the opening ceremony of the Loya Jirga has caused some controversy among delegates.

After Ismael Qassimyar began the proceedings and Barakatullah Saleem

recited from the Quran, ex-king Zahir Shah was due to give the first

address. While delegates waited, the national anthem of Afghanistan under

president Burhanuddin Rabbani was played.

Aryan Yoon, a representative of Laghman, protested that the state song from the time of Daud Khan, president in the 1970s, would have been a better choice. The latter is in Pashto while that from the Rabbani period is in Dari.

Other delegates said that according to the Bonn agreement, the 1963

constitution from the period of Zahir Shah should be widely applied, but there was no proper national anthem in the time of the former monarch.

Ismael Qasimyar, chair of the commission which convened the Loya Jirga,

agreed with the complaints, saying the version played at the opening of the gathering had just been a filler because the ex-king was late.

But the Rabbani-era anthem, which has no formal name, was not entirely

without defenders. Ustad Sayaf, leader of the Itehad-e-Islami

party, said, "It has the words of 'Allahu Akbar' - the nation rallied under those words and made sacrifices."

Allahu Akbar (God is Great in Arabic) is the traditional war cry of

Muslims going into battle.

Last month, Hafiz Mansoor, chairman of Kabul radio and TV, said of the delicate anthem question, "We don't have national unity. If we did, we would have a national song and our national heroes wouldn't have been neglected".

Danesh Kerokhil is an IWPR trainee journalist.

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