Afghans agree on new constitution
Posted 04 January 2004 - 01:14 PM
Senior Afghan officials say they have reached a deal on a new constitution after three weeks of heated debate by the grand council, or loya jirga.
The deal was announced by the council's chairman, Sibghatullah Mujaddedi.
The final draft envisages a powerful presidency for Afghanistan - in line with the wishes of current leader Hamid Karzai - and two vice-presidents.
Divisions over official languages and whether ministers could have dual citizenship had delayed the agreement.
"It is an opportunity for great pride and happiness that members of the loya jirga came to a total agreement on the constitution," the chairman told the 502 delegates.
Islamic Sharia law is not specifically mentioned in the draft document, the BBC's Crispin Thorold reports from Kabul, where the loya jirga has been meeting in a huge tent.
But observers say one article could allow Sharia to be introduced by the back door.
Delegates had faced a Sunday deadline for a deal, amid warnings that the talks could collapse.
The document is expected to be ratified by a vote shortly - then it will pave the way for elections in June.
It is intended to consolidate an ethnically diverse state strong enough to stand up to die-hard Taleban insurgents.
The international community said there is no money left for the meeting to continue beyond Sunday.
President Karzai is struggling to quell ethnic rivalry
One of the thorny issues was whether Uzbek should be recognised as an official language.
Some delegates were opposed to the Uzbek language being recognised as official along with Pashto, spoken by Pashtuns who form the majority of Afghans, and Dari, spoken by Tajiks.
There is intense rivalry between the Pashtuns, who have traditionally dominated Afghan political life, and smaller groups like the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras.
Agreement appears to have been reached on having Pashto and Dari as the two official languages.
The tongues of the minority ethnic groups will be third official languages in the areas where those communities are in the majority.
The divisive issue of the dual nationality of ministers also appears to have been resolved.
If a minister in the new government holds citizenship of two countries, it is believed that parliament will vote on that appointment.
Many of President Karzai's cabinet ministers hold dual nationality.
Posted 04 January 2004 - 02:09 PM
given to US backroom negotiators. I don't see any of
that here at the BBC. In any case, this is great news
for a country once rated as either the poorest or second
poorest and suffering from the greatest number of
UN resolutions against of any and is a credit to the
many nations, too numerous to list, which got behind
this rehab effort.
If Afghanistan succeeds, any rehab effort can succeed.
Posted 04 January 2004 - 02:39 PM
Beyond that, this is another VERY GREAT STEP for that country. All involved should truly be proud of their accomplishments.
It appears their children may get a chance at a decent life for the first time ion generations.
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