3 April 2003, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
RFE/RL has launched a new website providing breaking news and in-depth analysis on the situation in Iraq. Place a bookmark at: http://rferl.org/specials/iraqcrisis
ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN AFGHAN STATE BUILDING: THE CASE OF THE AFGHAN CONSTITUTION
By Amin Tarzi
The Constitutional Drafting Commission (CDC) announced on 16 March that the first draft of the new constitution for Afghanistan was ready (for more on the new Afghan constitution, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January 2003). The CDC stated that the new code is designed to establish the rule of law and safeguard national sovereignty of a democratic Afghanistan, free of ethnic, racial, and linguistic discrimination (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 March 2003). The fact that the nine-member CDC has managed to produce the first draft of the new Afghan code of law on time, is, by itself, an achievement. However, the true test for the document prepared by the CDC is the reaction of the Afghan people to it, its approval process, and most importantly, whether or not the new constitution can become the roadmap for Afghanistan as it moves towards building a viable state.
The longevity of the new constitution depends on its proposed vision of how to guide a shattered and divided state into the future, and whether or not this vision is then widely shared among Afghans. The best way to inform the majority of Afghans of the contents of their new proposed code of law and to generate constructive debate is through the media.
And while no constitution can be viewed as perfect, the new Afghan constitution can at least take account of the past experiences of the Afghan state with constitutionalism -- and there are many lessons as Afghanistan has promulgated, on average, a new code of laws every decade, or seven constitutions from 1923 to 1993 (the last of which was not officially adopted). For the last decade, Afghanistan has had no written constitution.
Learning From The Past
Of all the constitutions of Afghanistan, only two were opened to public debate. Namely the 1964 constitution of King Mohammad Zaher and, to a lesser extent, the 1923 constitution of King Amanullah. Other Afghan documents were drafted without public participation and adopted by loya jirgas (grand assemblies) in which neither the selection of the delegates nor their votes necessarily corresponded to the wishes of the majority of the Afghan people.
A brief look at the popular reaction to the 1923 constitution might bear a valuable message to the current process. The code, Afghanistan's first, was drafted in 1921 with no public debate, two years after Afghanistan gained its full independence from Britain. It was adopted two years later by a loya jirga held near Jalalabad. The process took place during the winter when most of the roads in Afghanistan were closed, thus very few people could travel to Jalalabad even if they were invited. The constitution, as it was first drafted, contained some liberal and inclusive articles regarding the rights of religious minorities, mandating equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as between the Islamic schools of jurisprudence by not designating one specific school as official. Once promulgated, the conservative religious establishment in the country voiced its objections and demanded that non-Muslims be differentiated from Muslims, and that the Sunni Hanafi school be recognized as official. The king called for a countrywide loya jirga, and he personally answered to most of the grievances of the people, but eventually lost and accepted a much more intolerant document. However, the rebellion against Amanullah did not stop, and he was eventually forced to abdicate and go into exile in 1929.
At the time Afghanistan had very few media outlets, and the vast majority of the population was illiterate. Even if the king wanted to get the views while the constitution was being drafted or at the first approval stage, it would have been a very difficult task to get the message across. As such, the lack of public participation in the drafting of Afghanistan's first constitution at that juncture allowed conservative clerics in alliance with religious leaders keen to preserve their privileges, to derail the state-building process in the country, effectively plunging it into a civil war.
Public Participation In Adopting The New Afghan Constitution
Some of the debates about what occurred 70 years ago are being raised today among discussions about the new Afghan code of law and commentators are making the use of the media to do so. Recently, for example, Ayatollah Mohammad Asef Mohseni, the leader of the predominately Shia Harakat-e Islami-yi Afghanistan, proposed to the CDC that along with the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence, the Shia Ja'fari school be included. If not, then he stated that no mention of schools of jurisprudence be made. The 1964 constitution, which according to the Bonn Agreement of 2001 is to form the basis of the document, recognizes only the Hanafi school as official. Mohseni expressed this view using the radio - namely Iranian radio's Mashhad-based Dari service.
The Herat-based newspaper "Takhasos" recommended in January that, since the authority of the Afghan Transitional Administration does not extend beyond Kabul and the power of warlords means that the people of Afghanistan are unable to exercise their right to determine the shape of the new Afghan constitution, the 1964 constitution be used as the country's basic law, and remain in force until the central government's rule is established throughout the country.
The chairman of CDC, Nematullah Shahrani, has consistently confirmed that the Afghan people would be involved in the debate about the new constitution, and the draft would be circulated to legal scholars in the provinces. According to Shahrani, discussions would be held with religious scholars, tribal leaders, and jurists, with an enlarged drafting committee, which would have a final draft ready by August, to be presented to a special Constitutional Loya Jirga in October. In a meeting with Afghan journalists in late March, Shahrani praised the role of the media in helping the CDC complete the first draft of the constitution, by keeping the members of the committee aware of public sentiments and views.
The role of the media is most crucial at this juncture, as the draft is being reviewed. The CDC has only five months to let the Afghan people know what sort of a constitution they will have and what issues they should be concerned about when they elect their representatives, who are to approve the document in October. Moreover, given the current political situation in the country, free and fair elections for loya jirga representatives may prove to be a very difficult undertaking. The more the people in general, whose voices may not be heard in October, know and discuss the draft today, the better the chances of Afghanistan moving forward towards statehood.
The only conceivable way for the CDC to inform as many people as possible about the draft constitution is through the use of the media. And the only media outlet that can reach the majority of the Afghan population -- with nearly 90 percent illiteracy -- is the radio. The people of Afghanistan, due to negligence of their governments and because of the wars against the invading Soviet forces and among different factions, have remained one of the least literate people in the world. The same conflicts, however, have made them politically very savvy.
In the last seven decades Afghanistan has not experienced a regular and preplanned transfer of power -- other than President Sebghatullah Mujaddedi relinquishing power as part of a United Nations plan in 1992 -- and each new ruler has tried to change the constitution. Today, with foreign assistance, the country has a chance to become a viable state in which the rule of law and respect for international norms would determine the future -- not the rule of the gun. The new constitution is not only the symbol, but the core tool in moving Afghanistan towards its new future. As such, it should first and foremost try to adjust itself to the realities of the majority of Afghan society and not to the wishes of a few, nor the ideals being imposed by the outside world. This may be the last chance for the Afghans to determine their future through peaceful means. This bitter reality requires that the Afghan people be involved, consulted, and that their wishes be heard and incorporated into the new constitution. There is no other means by which this difficult task can be done than through utilization of the broadcast media.
If it becomes apparent that there is much disagreement, or that a relatively fair process of choosing members of the loya jirga is not possible, then rather than adopting a potentially divisive constitution, it may be prudent to wait and allow for broader discussions among the Afghan population as the central government is able to get a bitter grip of the state of affairs and security for its people.
TWO U.S. SOLDIERS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN...
Two U.S. military personnel were killed and a third sustained injuries on 29 March when their four-vehicle reconnaissance patrol was ambushed in Gereshk in Helmand Province, "The Boston Globe" reported on 31 March. Three Afghan soldiers operating with the U.S. forces were also injured. According to Helmand Province's chief of security, Dad Mohammad Khan, the patrol was attacked by men riding motorcycles. U.S. officials have not confirmed that report. Colonel Roger King, spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said intelligence reports had indicated that enemy forces were in the region of Gereshk, and that the attack is evidence that those reports were "probably correct," AP reported on 30 March. No group has assumed responsibility for the attack, but the area is a stronghold of remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the report added. The incident marks the first time since December that U.S. soldiers were killed in action in Afghanistan. (Amin Tarzi)
...CLOSE TO WHERE AN AID WORKER WAS KILLED.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead a Salvadoran water and habitat engineer working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 27 March in the Oruzgan Province of central Afghanistan, the ICRC reported. The killing does not seem to have been a robbery, but an intentional act to discourage international organizations from working in Afghanistan. (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. AND AFGHAN TROOPS ARE ATTACKED IN KANDAHAR, NANGARHAR PROVINCES.
U.S. Special Forces troops assisting a larger group of Afghan militia came under attack on 29 March in Khakrez, Kandahar Province, "The Boston Globe" reported. The attack was not far from where the ICRC engineer was killed on 27 March. Also on 29 March, a number of rockets hit an air base used by U.S. and Afghan forces near Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar Province, AP reported. No injuries were reported in either of the 29 March attacks. "The Boston Globe" commented that these attacks, along with the fatal attack in Gereshk and the suicide bombing in Iraq the same day that killed four U.S. soldiers, "are a stark reminder" that U.S. forces in Afghanistan are as "as much targets as those in Iraq." (Amin Tarzi)
ISAF COMES UNDER ATTACK IN KABUL...
One of two 122-milimeter rockets fired on the International Security and Assistance Force's (ISAF) compound in Kabul on 30 March struck the headquarters, resulting in minor damage and no injuries, the ISAF announced the next day. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The ISAF's headquarters are situated across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and it is not clear if the intended target was the ISAF or the embassy. German military and intelligence sources have expressed concern that the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq could lead to attacks on the ISAF, which is currently is under the joint command of Germany and the Netherlands (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 March 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
...BUT NO LINK MADE WITH WAR IN IRAQ...
Mark Whitty, a spokesman for the ISAF, told RFE/RL on 1 April that no one has claimed responsibility for the 30 March rocket attack on the ISAF's headquarters in Kabul. Another spokesman for the ISAF, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Loebbering of Germany, said the international forces "do not expect any general deterioration" of the security situation in Kabul as a result of the war in Iraq. However, he added that the ISAF has "been prepared for such attacks and we even expected them." Sayyed Fazl Akbar, a spokesman for the Afghan Transitional Administration, echoed Loebbering's views, saying that elements who are opposed to peace and security in Afghanistan "have always wanted to destabilize the country, and their aims have nothing to do with the Iraqi case." Akbar said Afghanistan does not expect the United States to decrease its engagement with Afghanistan, adding to do so would mean that "attacks like the one on 11 September  might be repeated." (Amin Tarzi)
...AND ISAF LAYS THE BLAME ON HEKMATYAR.
Referring to the recent escalation of attacks against the ISAF, Loebbering said on 31 March that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda "are no longer capable of acting in a military sense" of forming battalions and conducting maneuvers, "The Boston Globe" reported on 1 April. However, he said that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the radical leader of Hizb-e Islami, "obviously has the money, influence, political will, and power to reorganize" remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda under his own leadership. Loebbering said intelligence reports have indicated that Hekmatyar's supporters have regrouped into 15 to 35 mobile camps, each consisting of 10 to 30 men, along the Afghan-Pakistani border. In an interview with Pakistan's "The Friday Times," Hekmatyar denied forming an alliance with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, but has welcomed them to join in the "struggle," according to the Boston daily. Hekmatyar, who received the lion's share of U.S. aid during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, was also the Pakistani military's favorite Afghan Mujahedin leader. However, he left Afghanistan in 1996 due to his differences with the Taliban, and lived in exile in Iran until he was expelled in 2002. He is believed to be living in Pakistan. (Amin Tarzi)
SENIOR TALIBAN COMMANDER WARNS OF MORE ATTACKS AS WAR CONTINUES IN IRAQ...
In the first interview by a member of the Taliban leadership since the regime collapsed in December 2001, commander Mulla Dadullah said on 28 March that the Taliban is united under the leadership of Mulla Mohammad Omar and will step up attacks on foreigners in Afghanistan, the BBC reported. Dadullah claimed he is still in Afghanistan and took credit for some of the recent attacks against the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition. He also said radical Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has joined the ranks of the Taliban. Dadullah also said in the interview that he does not know Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Helmand Province deputy police chief Haji Mohammad Ayyub said Dadullah and his men are responsible for the killing of ICRC worker Munguia (see above), "The New York Times" reported on 31 March. Ayyub said the increase of the Taliban's activities is a new phenomenon that he attributed to Iraq. "Lots of people are against the war in Iraq, and they are getting training in Pakistan and coming from there to launch attacks. It's serious and dangerous," he said. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS TALIBAN LEADER ISSUES FATWA AGAINST U.S. TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN.
Mulla Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban movement, has issued a fatwa (Islamic legal opinion) against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In the fatwa, published on 1 April in the London-based Arabic "Al-Hayat," Mulla Omar notes that the United States toppled Afghanistan's Taliban regime because it was sheltering Osama bin Laden. However, regarding the current military campaign, he asks, "What crime did Iraq commit?" Mulla Omar says it is the "duty" of Muslims in Afghanistan to wage jihad against U.S. forces. Copies of the fatwa have reportedly been distributed in eastern and southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan. Hekmatyar issued a similar fatwa in December (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 2 January 2003), and another was issued by an unknown group calling itself Tanzim al-Fatah Afghanistan (Afghanistan Victory Organization) in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
SCORES OF TALIBAN, INCLUDING HIGH-RANKING OFFICIALS, ARRESTED IN GHAZNI...
Ghazni Province Governor Assadullah Khaled claimed on 31 March that 80 members of the Taliban -- including Sayyed Shahidkhayl Akhond, who served as deputy minister of education under the Taliban regime, and Asadullah Sadozai, former commander of security zone No. 6 -- have been arrested in ongoing sweep operations in Ghazni, Radio Afghanistan reported. Khaled added that the Taliban's and Al-Qaeda's bases in Ghazni have been destroyed, but that elements loyal to the two organizations enter Afghan territory from Waziristan in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province. Furthermore, he said those elements are financially supported by sympathizers in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Quetta, and Peshawar. Khaled said the arrests were made by Afghan military forces without any involvement by U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition forces. Khaled said the prisoners are in custody in Ghazni and will not be "handed over to any foreign country," Radio Afghanistan reported. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS TALIBAN MEMBERS REPORTEDLY KILLED, ARRESTED IN KANDAHAR.
Kandahar Province Governor Gol Agha Sherzai said on 31 March that eight members of the Taliban have been killed and 13 were arrested in military operations in Oruzgan Province in the past week, Radio Afghanistan reported. Sherzai rejected a claim made by senior Taliban commander Mulla Dadullah to the BBC on 28 March in which he said the Taliban captured 60 Afghan and two U.S. soldiers in the operation. Governor Sherzai said Mulla Mohammad Zaher and Mulla Mohammad Gol were among the dead and that Mulla Abdul Razaq, the former minister of commerce in the Taliban regime, was among those arrested. Sherzai did not elaborate on the significance of the two dead persons he named, presumably because they were well-known figures in Kandahar. According to Radio Afghanistan, Sherzai personally commanded the military operations in Oruzgan, and only eight U.S. soldiers participated, performing "the duties of communications and wireless operations." (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. CONCERNED ABOUT ESCALATION OF ATTACKS IN AFGHANISTAN.
U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said on 1 April that the United States has "been following with concern the recent security incidents directed at U.S. forces, nongovernmental organizations, and other foreign nationals in Afghanistan," U.S. State Department reported. "These attacks have complicated the international community's ability to carry out assistance activities in some parts of Afghanistan," he said. As regards concerns expressed by Afghan, Russian, and UN officials that the U.S.-led war in Iraq could lead to a reduction in the allocation of needed resources and in attention paid to Afghan reconstruction efforts, Reeker said the United States "is a long-term partner in Afghanistan's reconstruction" and will remain so, irrespective of U.S. "responsibilities elsewhere." (Amin Tarzi)
ETHNIC FIGHTING FLARES UP NEAR AFGHAN-TURKMEN BORDER...
A local Pashtun commander in the Badghis Province of northwestern Afghanistan said heavy fighting erupted on 26 March between the local Pashtun population and the forces of Badghis Governor Gol Mohammad Arefi, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Commander Joma Khan said that in the past year and a half, the local Badghis administration, supported by Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan, has organized the beating and torture of local Pashtuns in Badghis and confiscated their homes, AIP reported. Joma Khan added that when Pashtuns seek to defend themselves, they are labeled Al-Qaeda members or Taliban. He said Ismail Khan has launched a major attack against Pashtuns in the villages of Manghan and Tora Shaykh, near the Turkmen border, causing civilian casualties and forcing thousands of people to cross the border into Turkmenistan. He said that, as a representative of those living in areas under attack, he demands that Afghan Transitional Administration President Hamid Karzai dispatch a delegation to investigate the situation. Joma Khan also demanded that Karzai replace the governor of Badghis, saying his loyalties are with Ismail Khan rather than Kabul, AIP reported. (Amin Tarzi)
...IN FIGHTING THAT RADIO AFGHANISTAN BLAMES ON TALIBAN...
At least eight people were killed in Badghis Province on 26 March when a group of Taliban "are said to have attacked a government frontier checkpoint" causing a firefight, citing Governor Arefi, Radio Afghanistan reported. The report added that the incident has not been confirmed "by independent sources." Radio Afghanistan's report of the fighting in Badghis arguably illustrates one of the difficulties facing the Transitional Administration in Kabul: On one hand, the report calls the forces under the Badghis governor "government personnel"; on the other hand, it reports the incident as if it occurred outside areas controlled by the Transitional Administration. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS BADGHIS COMMANDER GIVES DISPUTED VERSION OF EVENTS.
Mohammad Karim Khadem, a brigade commander in Badghis, said on 26 March that 13 combatants were killed when around 400 gunmen suspected to be Taliban supporters attacked a checkpoint in Tora Shaykh, AP reported. A Pashtun commander from the neighboring Herat Province, Amanullah Khan, said the fighting was ethnically based and that forces loyal to Ismail Khan attacked the village of Atashan in Badghis Province on 25 March, burning homes before advancing to the nearby village of Manghan, AP reported. Khadem said he is unaware of hostilities in Atashan or Manghan. Amanullah Khan and Ismail Khan waged numerous battles before 1 December, when a U.S. aircraft bombed both sides during a conflict (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 5 December 2002); that incident led to a cease-fire agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 2002). The apparent timing of Ismail Khan's military operations in neighboring Badghis Province, if the reports are accurate, suggest he might be trying to deflect international attention away from allegations of rights abuses. (Amin Tarzi)
SIX KILLED IN HELMAND PROVINCE MINE BLAST.
Six people were killed on 30 March when their vehicle triggered an antitank mine in the Nasiraj Desert in Helmand Province, the Pakistan-based "Daily Times" reported on 31 March. The province's security chief, Dad Mohammad, said it is believed that the mine was not placed there recently, and could have been a Soviet mine laid during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, AFP reported. (Amin Tarzi)
KABUL PAPER 'PUZZLED' BY AFGHANISTAN'S OFFICIAL SUPPORT FOR WAR IN IRAQ...
Citing a 19 March announcement by the Afghan Foreign Ministry that Afghanistan supports the use of military force in Iraq because the Iraqi regime failed to comply with UN orders to disarm and dispose of its weapons of mass destruction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March 2003), the English-language "Kabul Weekly" commented on 26 March, "There is no doubt that the Afghan government took into account the importance of the political, economic and military relationships with the U.S.A., when it made this decision." The paper argued that the "validity" of such a calculation is disputable. It added that the majority of Afghans are opposed to the war in Iraq, but suggests that perhaps Afghan officials cannot "hear the voice of the people." The "most puzzling" point in the Afghan pledge of support, the paper said, is the ability of Afghanistan to actually provide political, military, or economic support to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The paper asked how a country such as Afghanistan can offer such support when it is trying to "rise up from the ashes of war." "Kabul Weekly" also warned that support for war in Iraq could touch the religious sensitivities of Afghans in general and possibly lead to more attacks by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban around the country. The paper concluded that the best course of action for Afghanistan would have been to remain silent or announce its neutrality, because it had "nothing to gain from this announcement." (Amin Tarzi)
...AS AFGHANS PROTEST AGAINST IRAQ WAR.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Panjsher Valley in the Kapisa Province of Afghanistan on 27 March, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported. Two other protests were reportedly held in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 March 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
KABUL ADMINISTRATION 'INCENSED' BY TREATMENT OF JOURNALISTS IN HERAT...
Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Hamid Mobarez said on 26 March that the Afghan Transitional Administration is "incensed by the way in which newsmen are treated in Herat" and demanded that authorities in that province allow reporters to "resume their work," "The Kabul Times" reported. Mobarez said laws guaranteeing press freedoms in Afghanistan are in full force, and he urged Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan to "revise his attitude and restore freedom atmosphere in the ancient city of Herat." Alluding to reports that Ismail Khan has targeted journalists critical of his administration, Mobarez asked why other officials should be immune from criticism when Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, for instance, accepts it. Mobarez was responding to reports of the beating and arrest -- allegedly on Ismail Khan's orders -- of a reporter for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on 19 March (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 March 2003), "The Kabul Times" reported. Ismail Khan has labeled as "traitors" Radio Free Afghanistan reporter Ahmad Behzad and correspondents who have supported him, "The Kabul Times" reported. (Amin Tarzi)
...WITH SENTIMENTS ECHOED BY INFORMATION AND CULTURE MINISTER.
Information and Culture Minister Sayyed Makhdum Rahin expressed concern over the Behzad case and the ensuing protests of other journalists, Radio Afghanistan reported on 27 March. Rahin said he is in contact with authorities in Herat Province to ensure that journalists are free to carry out their work. (Amin Tarzi)
PAKISTAN REFUSES TRANSIT RIGHTS FOR INDIAN GOODS DESTINED FOR AFGHANISTAN...
Shoukat Aziz, the finance adviser to Pakistan's prime minister, told Afghan officials on 30 March that Islamabad has refused a request by Afghanistan to allow Indian goods to pass through the Wagah border crossing in Pakistan's Punjab Province, the Indian daily "The Hindu" reported on 1 April. Pakistan has agreed to allow Afghan exports to pass through the same border crossing to India, according to the report. The daily reported that Pakistani officials have indicated that Islamabad might consider allowing Indian-made cookies to be exported to Afghanistan, but not Indian wheat. Pakistan's the "Daily Times" reported on 31 March that Islamabad regretfully accepted Afghanistan's request to send goods to India via Pakistan, but the newspaper did not provide any explanations. Afghanistan's landlocked status makes the country dependent on Pakistan for exports to India as well as for sea shipments, and this dependency was used by Pakistan for political leverage during tensions between Kabul and Islamabad in the 1950s through the 1970s. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS ISLAMABAD TRIES TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH KABUL.
The Peshawar-based Nawa-e Dost (Melody of the Friend) radio station said in a commentary on 30 March that historically "friendly relations" between Afghanistan and Pakistan "are getting better day by day." As an example, the commentary cited Islamabad's offer to allow Afghanistan to export its goods via Pakistan, which it said "can play a big role in the economic stability and life of the people of Afghanistan." While Pakistan is trying to help Afghanistan, there seems to be apprehension in Islamabad over the strengthening of traditional ties between Kabul and New Delhi. (Amin Tarzi)
INDIA, RUSSIA TO HELP AFGHANISTAN OBTAIN AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE TO THE SEA.
Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal has said that India and Russia are planning to construct a highway in Afghanistan with the aim of providing the landlocked country with access to the sea via Iran, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported on 1 April. Afghanistan is currently dependant on Pakistan and its ports for access to the sea. The new highway, if built, may have a negative effect on relations between Kabul and Islamabad. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHANISTAN TO GET FUNDS FROM WORLD BANK.
The World Bank will provide Afghanistan with $208 million by the end of March, Radio Afghanistan reported on 26 March. Some $148 million is earmarked for the salaries of teachers and health workers and for essential government projects, while the remainder will be used for "special development projects." The Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Bank, UN agencies, and the World Bank will administer the funds, the report said. (Amin Tarzi)
UN EXTENDS ASSISTANCE MISSION'S MANDATE IN AFGHANISTAN.
The UN Security Council on 28 March unanimously adopted Resolution 1471, thereby extending to 28 March 2004 the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the UN announced. The Security Council also endorsed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal to establish an electoral unit within UNAMA to assist Afghanistan in planning its upcoming elections. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN HISTORY RECEIVES A HELPING HAND.
In order to save Afghanistan's historic literature, New York University has began a program to digitize all books and pamphlets printed in that country from 1871 to 1930 in what is called the Afghanistan Digital Library project (http://dlib.nyu.edu/divlib/bobst/adl/index.html), "The New York Times" reported on 29 March. An Afghan anthropologist and former professor at Northern Illinois University, M. Jamil Hanafi, said that "symbolically," the digital library is the best thing that can be offered to "Afghanistan at this stage of reconstruction." The project's temporary editor, Robert McChesney, made an analogy to the United States, saying the situation in Afghanistan is similar to Americans not knowing that "there was a Constitution," the New York daily reported. Most of Afghanistan's surviving historic documents are scattered in private hands or in various libraries around the globe; thus, most Afghans have no access to their own country's history. The project should allow Afghans access to their past and help them plan their future with due respect to their achievements and failures as an emerging nation-state. (Amin Tarzi)
29 March 1955 -- Prime Minister Mohammad Daud warns Pakistan of "grave consequence" if Pashtun areas of the North-West Frontier Province are included in unified West Pakistan.
28 March 1963 -- Constitutional Review Committee named, headed by Minister of Justice Sayyed Shamsuddin Majruh.
2 April 1991 -- Afghan Mujahedin capture the city of Khost, taking 1,000 Afghan troops loyal to Kabul prisoner.
(Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan" by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997); Sueddeutsche Zeitung.