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Why the Taleban Should Read the Afghan Constitution

One in every of the working teams in discussion on 24 December 2003 throughout the Constitutional Loya Jirga of 2003/04. Photograph: Thomas Ruttig, 2003.

As talks between the US and the Taleban transfer ahead, we’re beginning to see the contours and obstacles to peace in Afghanistan. One in every of the potential obstacles to reaching an agreement is the Taleban’s view that Afghanistan’s current constitution is unsuitable and unacceptable. Ghizaal Haress, a outstanding Afghan lawyer and a member of the Unbiased Fee for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution, takes a better take a look at the Taleban’s position and discusses how this relates to the realities of Afghanistan’s structure and how it was arrived at.

Throughout the February assembly in Moscow, Taleban representative Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai highlighted the structure of Afghanistan as a serious impediment to peace. He labelled it “the constitution of the Kabul Administration” and dismissed it as invalid, copied from the West, imposed on a Muslim society, and arbitrarily carried out. Based on the Taleban, for the structure to be acceptable to them it have to be based mostly on Islamic rules, national interests and historical achievements. It must additionally ensure human dignity, national values, social justice and human rights, as well as guaranteeing Afghanistan’s territorial integrity. The draft of such a structure, he added, ought to be ready by autonomous Afghan students in an environment of freedom.

As a commissioner on the Unbiased Fee for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution, I might be the first to acknowledge that Afghanistan’s constitution has quite a few shortcomings and challenges to its implementation. Nevertheless, I consider, the Taleban are mistaken on a number of counts relating to the Afghan structure. I’ll argue under that the structure is in truth a constitution of the Afghan Individuals, that Islamic rules have been written into the very material of the doc, and that what the Taleban think about its vagueness, the truth is supplies essential flexibility for deciphering and adapting the doc. I finally make the case that somewhat than discarding this historic achievement, it will be a lot better to seek out methods to bridge our political differences within the framework of the present structure.

A constitution of the Afghan individuals

The constitution of 2004 is in some ways unique compared to all its predecessors. With the exception of the structure of 1964, all previous Afghan constitutions have been drafted because of regime change, and have been used to consolidate the power of the new ruler. Public participation was a lacking component in the formulation of all these constitutions, with the Jirgas that authorised them being principally appointed. These constitutions have been thus made and endorsed by a circle of individuals close to their rulers, without the involvement or consensus of the wider population. Subsequently, these constitutions did not endure when these regimes changed, as the individuals – typically disillusioned – noticed them as the instruments of failed administrations, quite than a structure by and for the individuals.

On this long view, the 2004 constitution can’t merely be seen as “of the Kabul Administration”, since its formation between 2002-2003 was the most rigorous and consultative in the history of Afghanistan. The method, outlined in the Bonn Settlement, was led by Afghans. The process took 18 months and was led by two commissions – the Constitutional Drafting Commission and the Constitutional Evaluate Commission – comprised of Afghan specialists (with 9 and 35 members respectively) that drafted and reviewed the draft constitution. It included travel to the then-32 provinces, and two neighboring nations (Iran and Pakistan) to consult with the Afghan diaspora and an electoral school of 19,000 individuals. They, in turn, elected 502 Loya Jirga members who mentioned and accepted the structure. This makes it certainly one of the earliest and biggest achievements of the post-2001 era.

An informal men's caucus at the 2003/04 Constitutional Loya Jirga. Photo: Thomas Ruttig/2003

An off-the-cuff males’s caucus at the 2003/04 Constitutional Loya Jirga. Photograph: Thomas Ruttig/2003

The Constitutional Evaluate Fee, over the course of two months, managed to run an unprecedented public session. As described in this UN Report, the fee initiated the public consultation after a month-long consciousness marketing campaign on the position and importance of the structure. The report signifies that “178,000 Afghans, 19 per cent of whom were women, participated in more than 556 meetings to discuss the draft. In addition, over 50,000 written surveys were submitted.” Based on the Worldwide Disaster Group, the fee solicited views of individuals from numerous backgrounds and walks of life, together with “elders, ulema (Islamic scholars), women, business groups, youth groups, Afghan employees of NGOs and international organisations, and former Emergency Loya Jirga delegates.”

The public session process also included institutions and people taking the initiative to present their recommendations and considerations to the constitution-making entities. In 2003, a whole lot of establishments and associations, in addition to quite a few people, introduced written submissions to the Fee. I keep in mind how my workplace at the time, International Rights, facilitated a process whereby a gaggle of 40 judges, legal professionals and prosecutors held several discussions, and then introduced their collective views to the Constitutional Assessment Fee.

Public participation has many strategic advantages. I might, nevertheless, wish to give attention to two in this piece. First, participation and consultation reinforce the legitimacy of the structure as “the people’s constitution.” Second, they lay the foundations for the acceptance and respect of the prospective constitution by residents. Thus, public consultation empowered the Afghan individuals to interact in the making of their structure and allowed them to take part in the public affairs of their war-torn country. This enhanced the legitimacy of the doc, ensured its broad consensus and endurance and left much less area for grave disagreements in the years to return.

The implementation of the public consultation faced a lot of challenges (as described in the ICG report), together with inadequate public schooling, the absence of a draft constitution during the consultations, and uncertainty round the use and incorporation of the comments into the last draft. However, regardless of minimal experience, assets and the availability of technological amenities, the process was stored open to recommendations and submissions, and the commission reached out to an enormous variety of Afghans, in addition to the diaspora in Iran and Pakistan, and brought back widespread insights and considerations to the fee in Kabul. The Fee might not have had time to course of all the knowledge or to systematically use it in the ultimate draft, but the proven fact that the fee reached out to individuals, and was accessible to all citizens, made it an inclusive and participatory process that was broadly hailed by the Afghan individuals.

Islam in the Afghan structure

The Taleban declare that the structure is just not based mostly on the rules of Islam; nevertheless, Islamic rules and values are written into the material of the constitution. The very first two articles of the constitution outline Afghanistan as an Islamic Republic and acknowledge Islam as its faith. Article three proscribes legal guidelines that contravene the tenets and rulings of Islam in Afghanistan. (1) Articles on schooling require the state to give attention to creating spiritual teachings, regulate and improve spiritual establishments, including mosques, and devise instructional curricula that includes the tenets of Islam. (2) The structure requires presidential, and vice-presidential candidates to be Muslim, and to obey and shield the faith of Islam. (three)

On the judicial front, the structure requires members of the Supreme Courtroom to ensure justice in accordance with the tenets of Islam. It additionally obligates judges to use provisions of Hanafi or Shi’a jurisprudence (as applicable) while deciding on instances, in the absence of related provisions in the Constitution or other legal guidelines. (4) The structure ensures the proper to type political events, but prohibits their manifesto or constitution to contravene the faith of Islam. (5) The mixture of those provisions enshrines Islam as the bedrock of the state.

An Afghan or a western doc?

The Taleban’s declare that Afghanistan’s structure has been copied from the West is a part of a wider view that always dismisses the progress of the last fifteen years as “western” in nature. This argument is usually introduced without much rigour and, for the 2004 constitution particularly, the argument doesn’t maintain. The 2004 structure drew heavily on the 1964 constitution, so much so that it created disputes inside the drafting and evaluate commissions, with some arguing that Afghanistan ought to undertake extra trendy constitutional provisions, fairly than going again to a structure adopted 40 years before. The construction and powers of judiciary and parliament, as well as the elementary rights provisions, all have robust similarity in content and wording with the 1964 structure.

Western influence and cooperation

While I claim that the structure was Afghan-made and led, it can be argued that this was offset by the undeniable fact that there was appreciable worldwide influence and cooperation in the course of. Many years of struggle and political turmoil in the nation, notably between 1992 and 2001, had left Afghanistan devastated. The state’s establishments and infrastructure have been largely destroyed, poppy had turn into the major cash crop and a serious driver of the nation’s financial system, formal authorized and judicial institutions turned dysfunctional, and ladies have been systematically denied their primary human rights.

Given how the nation was left shattered in 2001, there was nice need for worldwide help, as acknowledged by each Afghans and the administration of the time, to rehabilitate state establishments and begin processes for social and political improvement in the nation. Without worldwide help, the broad-based constitution-making course of would never have been realised. While in a perfect state of affairs, Afghans would have wished to see the course of solely dealt with by Afghans, dependency on overseas assist left Afghanistan reliant on donor nations.

However the claims of intervention in the course of, there’s little proof of direct international affect in the substance of the constitution, notably none that goes towards accepted social and non secular norms. For example, throughout the drafting of the Afghan constitution there have been international technical advisors, however their position was minimal. The Afghan members paid little attention, if in any respect, to their international and comparative expertise, as they wished to take care of Afghan possession of the course of. One in every of the advisors, Professor Yash Pal Ghai, an internationally renowned constitutional lawyer from Kenya, who I met in 2015 in Budapest, advised me how underutilized he had been at the fee. The fee and its management largely ignored the dialogue papers that have been written by Ghai and his international colleagues.

Elementary rights

Certainly one of the issues that the Taleban notably are likely to associate with the influence of the worldwide group is the situation of human rights. It’s true that there were efforts by the international group to make sure that the new constitution would safeguard elementary rights. Nevertheless, in view of the widespread violations of human rights and ladies’s rights in the interval before 2001, this was clearly not a purely worldwide concern. Numerous national organisations, including the members and secretariat of the Constitutional Evaluate Fee, have been closely involved in demanding higher protection of elementary rights, notably those of girls and minorities. It will be unjust to argue that human rights have been only a concern of the international group and that Afghans did not voice their considerations after many years of violations of their rights.

Women delegates sat separately during the the Constitutional Loya Jirga of 2003/04 (left to right: Suraya Parlika, unknown, Massuda Jalal). Photo: Thomas Ruttig

Ladies delegates sat separately during the the Constitutional Loya Jirga of 2003/04 (left to right: Suraya Parlika, unknown, Massuda Jalal). Photograph: Thomas Ruttig/2003

One also needs to look again at the earlier constitutions of Afghanistan, and assess the scope of elementary rights. Ranging from the structure of 1923, each subsequent structure in Afghanistan has had provisions with regard to elementary rights. As an example, the structure of 1923, amongst others, upheld the equal rights and obligations of Afghan citizens, guaranteed human liberty and abolished slavery, assured freedom of the press, and prohibited torture. Furthermore, Afghanistan, as a member state of the United Nations, had worldwide obligations on the subject of the rights and liberties of its residents.

Itemizing the specific rights enshrined in the structure and discussing how they mirror the realities, historical past and obligations of Afghanistan with regard to its worldwide commitments, is beyond the scope of this text. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy, that these elementary rights weren’t imposed on Afghans, but have been somewhat strengthened, in response to previous systematic violations and breaches.

It’s also essential to note that constitutions serve as the guarantors of elementary rights, and not as the imposers. It’s for residents to determine how they wish to take pleasure in and follow these rights. In different words, the constitution guarantees citizens’ rights, but doesn’t inflict them on them. For instance, a citizen’s right to vote is guaranteed by the constitution, to make sure that the government does not deprive the individual of this proper. Nevertheless, the citizen has the freedom to decide on whether or not to train this right or not.

On the other hand, the Afghan constitution explicitly recognises its own supremacy over international treaties and covenants, and requires their conformity with the structure. (6) International scholars in addition to a body of literature have repeatedly pointed out the structure’s weak spot of provisions on international regulation, and its lack of robust provisions to make sure Afghanistan’s commitments to its worldwide obligations. The Islamic provisions of the structure, in distinction, are a lot stronger than those on worldwide regulation and human rights: the place the former has acquired in depth consideration, the latter has not. The structure thus presents average language on international treaties and human rights paperwork, and requires the state to ‘observe’ them, as in comparison with Islamic provisions that ‘obligate’ the state.

Vagueness or flexibility?

Where the Taleban declare there’s vagueness in the structure, I might argue that there’s essential flexibility. When constitutional drafters write constitutional provisions, they depart gaps and ambiguities, each intentionally and unintentionally. The latter is due to the incapability of the drafters to foresee all attainable situations which will come up in a constitutional regime. The former is to go away room for innovations and reforms; offering regulation makers with the potential to adapt to needs of the time. Constitutions also prescribe strategies for amendments to be made where provisions are unclear, contradictory, want additional particulars, or have to be changed.

There are indisputably ambiguities and gaps in the structure of 2004. However it isn’t unique to Afghanistan. When the current structure of the United States was drafted, it did not embrace any provision on elementary rights. The rights of citizens have been included in the US structure via amendments.

The Afghan constitution describes three categories with respect to amendments. First, provisions that can’t be amended: the rules of Islam and Islamic Republicanism. Second, provisions that can be amended conditionally: amending elementary rights of the citizen, on the situation that the intention is simply to strengthen them. Third, the amendment of anyother provision with respect to new necessities of the time. (7) The structure also presents the mechanisms for constitutional amendments, which would permit for the refinement of outstanding and vital ambiguities or factors of rivalry.

A constitutional amendment course of may be initiated at the proposal of the president or a majority of National Assembly members. So as to course of the modification, a fee might be established to organize a draft proposal. The fee may have members from the government, National Meeting and Supreme Courtroom. At the third stage, the Loya Jirga might be convened to approve the modification (with a two-thirds majority). The amendments come into drive after endorsement by the president.

Conclusion: Better to bridge political differences without discarding the structure

The structure making course of was not good. There have been flaws and shortcomings. Likewise, there are gaps and limitations in the substance of the structure which have posed challenges to its implementation during the final 15 years. There have also been situations of violations and extra-constitutional acts. Nevertheless, given how shattered the nation was at the time, it was arrived at by way of an imperfect however democratic process. Like all other constitutions, the Afghan structure displays an ambition for its society to wrestle in the direction of, for its authorities to uphold, and for its residents to have the ability to maintain their governments to account. What issues most is the political will to uphold the constitution. In the absence of any commitment to the rule of regulation and constitutionalism, no structure, nevertheless well-drafted, may help a government succeed.

A constitution may be written in the greatest approach potential, but nonetheless not be carried out. The constitution of North Korea is a perfect example of a structure that protects the rights of its citizens on paper, but not in apply. On the other hand, a constitution may be written with shortcomings and gaps, but when there is a political will to uphold the rules of constitutionalism, it may be greatest practiced.

What makes the Afghan constitution of 2004 totally different and price retaining, is its inclusiveness. It combines and reconciles Islam, democracy, pluralism, human rights and social justice; a mixture that is unprecedented in Afghanistan.

The Taleban say they envision a constitution based mostly on Islamic rules, national interests, historical background, social justice, human dignity, and human rights. Whereas these rules and values are explicitly enshrined in the Afghan constitution, the Taleban claim they don’t seem to be. It’s understandable that the Taleban want to see modifications in the constitution; nevertheless, the current structure is open for modification, with a view to remain a dwelling document and one that may respond to the emerging needs and calls for of society.

There’ll stay deep ideological divisions within Afghanistan, regardless of our structure. Our historical past exhibits that creating a brand new structure won’t clear up this. It is very important observe that folks of various political backgrounds came collectively and agreed on this regulation, endorsed it, accepted it, and revered its provisions. In doing so, they built broad consensus and vested the highest degree of legitimacy in the constitution, greater than any authorized doc ever has in Afghanistan. Subsequently, moderately than throwing out this structure and creating a new one, it will be higher to seek out ways to bridge our political differences with out discarding this really historic achievement.

Ghizaal Haress is a commissioner of the Unbiased Fee for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution

(1) Article One. Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, unbiased, unitary and indivisible state.

Article Two. The sacred faith of Islam is the faith of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Followers of different faiths shall be free inside the bounds of regulation in the train and performance of their spiritual rituals.

Article Three. No regulation shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.

The complete text of the constitution might be discovered here:

(2) For articles on schooling see articles 43-46, particularly: Article Forty-Five. The state shall devise and implement a unified instructional curricula based mostly on the tenets of the sacred faith of Islam, national culture as well as educational rules, and develop spiritual subjects curricula for faculties on the foundation of present Islamic sects in Afghanistan.

For spiritual schooling, see: Article Seventeen. The state shall adopt mandatory measures to foster schooling in any respect levels, develop spiritual teachings, regulate and improve the circumstances of mosques, spiritual faculties in addition to spiritual centers.

(3) Article Sixty-Two. The person who becomes a presidential candidate shall have the following qualifications:

  1. Shall be a citizen of Afghanistan, Muslim, born of Afghan mother and father and shall not be a citizen of one other country;
  2. Shall not be lower than forty years previous the day of candidacy;
  3. Shall not have been convicted of crimes towards humanity, a legal act or deprivation of civil rights by courtroom.

No particular person shall be elected for more than two terms as President. The supply of this article shall additionally apply to Vice-Presidents.

Article Sixty-Three. Before assuming workplace, the President shall take, in accordance with special procedures set by regulation, the following oath of allegiance:

“In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, I swear by the name of God Almighty that I shall obey and protect the Holy religion of Islam, respect and supervise the implementation of the Constitution as well as other laws, safeguard the independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, and, in seeking God Almighty’s help and support of the nation, shall exert my efforts towards the prosperity and progress of the people of Afghanistan.”

(4) Article One Hundred Thirty. In instances into account, the courts shall apply provisions of this Constitution in addition to different legal guidelines. If there isn’t any provision in the Constitution or different legal guidelines a few case, the courts shall, in pursuance of Hanafi jurisprudence, and, inside the limits set by this Constitution, rule in a means that attains justice in the greatest method.

Article One Hundred Thirty-One. The courts shall apply the Shia jurisprudence in instances involving personal issues of followers of the Shia sect in accordance with the provisions of the regulation. In different instances, if no clarification in this Constitution and different laws exist, the courts shall rule based on legal guidelines of this sect.

(5) Article Thirty-5. To achieve ethical and materials objectives, the residents of Afghanistan shall have the right to type associations in accordance with provisions of the regulation. The individuals of Afghanistan shall have the right, in accordance with provisions of the regulation, to type political parties, offered that:

  1. Their manifesto and charter shall not contravene the Holy religion of Islam and rules and values enshrined on this structure;
  2. Their organizations and financial assets shall be clear;
  3. They shall not have army or quasi-military goals and organizations; and
  4. They shall not be affiliated with overseas political events or other sources.

Formation and operation of a celebration on the foundation of tribalism, parochialism, language, in addition to spiritual sectarianism shall not be permitted. A celebration or association shaped in line with provisions of the regulation shall not be dissolved without authorized causes and the order of an authoritative courtroom.

(6) Article One Hundred Twenty-One. At the request of the Authorities, or courts, the Supreme Courtroom shall evaluate the laws, legislative decrees, worldwide treaties in addition to international covenants for their compliance with the Constitution and their interpretation in accordance with the regulation.

(7) Article One Hundred Forty-Nine. The rules of adherence to the tenets of the Holy religion of Islam in addition to Islamic Republicanism shall not be amended. Amending elementary rights of the individuals shall be permitted solely to improve them. Amending different articles of this Constitution, with due respect to new experiences and requirements of the time, as well as provisions of Articles Sixty-Seven and One Hundred Forty-Six of this Constitution, shall turn into effective with the proposal of the President and approval of the majority of National Meeting members.

Article One Hundred Fifty. To process the amendment proposals, a commission comprised of members of the Government, Nationwide Meeting as well as the Supreme Courtroom shall be shaped by presidential decree to organize the draft proposal. To approve the amendment, the Loya Jirga shall be convened by a Presidential decree in accordance with the provisions of the Chapter on Loya Jirga. If the Loya Jirga approves the amendment with the majority of two thirds of its members, the President shall enforce it after endorsement.