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Afghan Report: November 13, 2003

13 November 2003, Volume 2, Number 40
By Amin Tarzi

In this part there is an analysis of women's rights and the monopoly over the use of force in Afghanistan's draft constitution. In the first part of this series, the powers of the president and the role of religion as proposed in the draft constitution issued by the Afghan Constitutional Commission (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November 2003) were examined.

Since the commission unveiled its official draft of the proposed constitution on 3 November, women's rights groups have already voiced their displeasure with the draft, suggesting that it lacks specific measures to safeguard the rights of female citizens in a country where customs and traditions favor male domination in almost every aspect of life and the law. Already, the Gender and Law Working Group -- an advisory body that reviews women's rights issues within the Transitional Afghan Administration's Ministry of Women's Affairs -- has proposed several amendments to the draft constitution (see "News" section below).

While the issue of women's rights has received much attention in the press and by various organizations studying the Afghan draft constitution, the question of the monopoly over the use of force and the creation of a legal framework for the presence of foreign forces on Afghan soil has not been debated at any length.

Women's Rights
The current draft, reviewed strictly textually and without appropriate regard for Afghanistan's history and social conditions, arguably contains no infringements on the rights of women. The language used in the draft does not distinguish between genders in any article. While the Dari language is not gender distinctive, the careful wording in the Pashto version of the draft has eliminated any reference to gender regarding to the occupant of the office of the president or any other position.

Not only does the draft constitution not deprive women of their rights, it affords female citizens of Afghanistan certain affirmative actions designed to promote their presence in the decision-making levels of the country. For example, in the election process for the members of the lower house of the Melli Shura (National Assembly) -- the Wolesi Jirga (House of People) -- the draft stipulates in Article 83 that "at least one female delegate should be elected from each province." Likewise the president, who under the provisions of Article 84 selects one-third of the members of the upper house of the Melli Shura -- the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders) -- must appoint half "of these people from among women."

But while there is an absence of "negative discrimination" in the draft constitution, the advocates of women's rights in Afghanistan are concerned with the lack of more specific language guaranteeing the equality of women in a strictly male-dominated society.

This concern is clearly expressed in proposed amendments to the draft constitution spelled out by the Gender and Law Working Group on 5 November (see "News" section below). Those amendments would constitutionally "recognize the considerable role" that women play in Afghan society. If the proposals of the Gender and Law Working Group would be accepted, the constitution would actively prohibit those cultural and customary practices prevalent in Afghanistan that can work "against the dignity, welfare, or interest of women" -- such as forced marriages, denial of inheritance, or lack of participation in local tribal councils. The amendments also call for constitutional guarantees ensuring that women have "fair and just working conditions" and the freedom to marry a spouse of their own choosing. The constitution, if amended along the recommendations of the Gender and Law Working Group, would legally oblige the state to "provide special health services for mother and child during the period of pregnancy, delivery, and nursing."

A cursory look at the incidents that followed the adoption of the first Afghan Constitution of 1923 justifies the apprehension of women's-rights advocates in Afghanistan and their demands for specific provisions in the new Afghan constitution to safeguard the rights of women.

A year after the promulgation of the 1923 constitution, the Pashtun tribes in the vicinity of Khost began to rebel against the central government in Kabul, then led by King Amanullah. The actual cause of this rebellion -- referred to in most sources as the Mangal or Khost rebellion -- is still debated. The controversy that in fact led to the Khost rebellion may indeed not have been Amanullah's then-progressive constitution, giving women certain rights and privileges, but rather the disenchantment of the local tribes and religious leaders with regard to the king's centralization programs threatening their autonomy. Nevertheless, the leadership of the Khost rebellion comprised mostly ulama (religious scholars), and their official complaint was that the new laws of the country did not conform to shari'a, or Islamic law. While Amanullah was forced to amend the constitution in 1925, reversing some of the freedoms accorded to women, the rebellion eventually forced the reformer king to abdicate his throne and leave the country in 1929.

Laws addressing matrimony, inheritance, and other family issues are a domain in which shari'a has traditionally had a strong influence in Islamic societies. In Afghanistan, the Islamic law codes also have been greatly influenced by tribal laws and customs -- albeit under the rubric of Islam -- which favor male domination in the society.

As such, while the draft constitution as it stands has no provisions that would infringe on the rights of women, the fact that the country has been named an "Islamic Republic" and that Article 3 of the draft stipules that "no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam" may allow conservative forces in Afghanistan to usurp the rights of women. Conservatives may seize this issue to reinforce the traditions that are assumed to be Islamic, or as a means to undermine the central government -- if that government does not follow their directives.

The Monopoly Over The Use Of Force
One of the basic requirements of a sovereign state is the necessity of having a monopoly over the use of force. The drafters of the proposed constitution have envisaged the country as highly centralized, and the means and decision to use force are to be held solely by the president of the country. Article 64 of the draft stipulates that the president of the republic will be "the commander in chief of the armed forces of Afghanistan." However, what the draft omits are two main issues: one short-term and one temporary, and the other long-term or even permanent.

In the short term, the draft avoids any discussion of the presence of international military contingents and foreign bases on Afghan soil. Article 41 of the draft prohibits "foreign individuals" from owning "immovable property in Afghanistan." It allows only the "the sale of estates to diplomatic missions of foreign countries and to those international agencies of which Afghanistan is a member." The draft does not state whether it is permissible to lease property to foreign military forces or international military organizations, such as NATO. Likewise, the draft fails to tackle the norms that will govern the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the multitude of foreign forces in the country.

In the future, Afghanistan is to have its own military to safeguard the state's interests from foreign and domestic threats; foreign forces are expected to eventually leave the country. However, the draft constitution is scheduled to be approved in December, and foreign forces will presumably still be in Afghanistan at that time. Perhaps the draft constitution should include specific provisions to this regard in Chapter 12, titled "Transitional Provisions." Otherwise, the president's legitimacy, especially given the absence of an Afghan National Army at this time, may erode domestically.

The more permanent question, not addressed at all by the draft constitution, concerns the role of various militia (some of which are currently much more powerful than the nascent Afghan National Army) and how they will or will not be incorporated into the country's future power structure.

The constitution does not prevent the formation of militia forces, nor does it call for the disbanding of current forces under various warlords, commanders, and generals. In the draft constitution there is only one reference to the existence of militia forces, and it does not explicitly prohibit them. Article 35, discussing the formation of political parties, indirectly leaves room for the existence of militia forces by only prohibiting political parties from having "military or paramilitary aims and structures."

Unless the new constitution for Afghanistan explicitly declares the illegality of any armed force within the country other than the Afghan National Army and perhaps certain tribal militia organized and supervised by the central-military structure, the future Afghan government will lack the necessary legal tools to disband the warlords and militias.

A Constitution with the Future in Mind
The new constitution is not only the symbol but also the core tool in moving Afghanistan toward a new future. If the constitution is genuinely reflective of the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan -- as it claims in its preamble -- then it ought to take bolder steps to ensure a successful future for the country. It should not become a tool for various powers which might attempt to take hostage the progress of Afghanistan and its ability to become a viable nation-state.

Without the freedom for Afghan women to exercise their right to vote without fear and intimidation, they cannot begin to be counted as equal citizens of their country. Let us remember that Kabul is not Afghanistan. Without a central army and a central police force with firm and abiding loyalties to the Afghan state, there can be no guarantee that Afghan women --- or men, for that matter -- will be able to exercise their constitutional rights. Today, unlike in the 1920s, the forces interested in a stable, forward-looking Afghanistan have foreign supporters that could help prevent a collapse of the system. This opportunity should not be wasted for short-term expediencies.

To quote Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, a "constitution will be meaningless without a central army, a central police force, without the measures that are necessary to give the Afghan people the freedom to exercise their right to vote" (see RFE/RL "Afghanistan Report," 18 September 2003).

The Gender and Law Working Group has called for amendments to the Afghan draft constitution that would eliminate forced marriages and institutionalize equality in the workplace, Reuters reported on 9 November.

Members of the Gender and Law Working Group have produced a list of amendments that they believe should be in the final version of the constitution. Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs Suraya Subhrang acknowledged that "obstacles exist [because of] lack of awareness." Subhrang added that Afghan women "cannot achieve everything overnight." State Minister for Women's Affairs Mahbuba Hoquqmal said that if the recommendations made by the Gender and Law Working Group are positive, "then one minute should be enough" to incorporate them into the draft constitution. (For an analysis of Afghanistan's new draft constitution, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

RFE/RL has obtained a copy of the amendments to the draft constitution for Afghanistan that was recommended by the Gender and Law Working Group on 5 November. Below is a brief summary:

In the preamble, an additional point would be iserted in the number nine spot. It reads: "For securing equal rights for women and men and eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women."

In Article 4, after "none of the citizens of the nation shall be deprived of his Afghan citizenship," the group suggests the following amendment be added: "Men and women shall have equal rights to acquire, change or retain their citizenship."

In Article 6, where the state is required "to create a prosperous and progressive society based on social justice, protection of human dignity, protection of human rights," the phrase "equality among women and men," would be added. Also in Article 6, the following statement was recommended for inclusion: "The state shall recognize the considerable role women play in Afghan society."

In Article 7, after, "the state prevents all types of terrorist activities, production and smuggling of narcotics," the following would be added: "and trafficking in human beings."

Article 22 of the draft reads: "Any kind of discrimination and privilege between the citizens of Afghanistan is prohibited. The citizens of Afghanistan have equal rights and duties before the law." This would be modified by the group to: "Any kind of discrimination and privilege based on gender, language, religion, ethnicity, sect, family origin, social, economic and civil status between the citizens of Afghanistan is prohibited."

Notwithstanding, the state is obligated to take necessary measures to safeguard women's property rights and to promote women's participation in all political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other affairs in order to reach gender equality. "The citizens of Afghanistan have equal rights and duties before the law. Women have full and equal rights with men before the law and the courts. All laws, cultures, customs or traditions which are against the dignity, welfare or interest of women or which constitute discrimination against women are prohibited."

In Article 45, where the state is obligated to "devise and implement a unified educational curriculum based on the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, national culture, etc," the group suggested the words "equality of women and men," be added after national culture.

Article 48, which regulates working hours and holidays, would be modified with the following addition: "fair and just working conditions including those for working women."

Article 49, prohibiting forced labor, would be preceded by "Slavery, stave-like practices."

Article 52, obligating the state to "provide the means of preventive heath care and medical treatment" to its citizens, would be amended with the following: "The state is obligated to provide special health services for mother and child during the period of pregnancy, delivery, and nursing."

Article 53, guaranteeing "the rights of pensioners and renders necessary assistance to needy elders, and needy orphans in accordance with the law," would be changed to include the following: "...female-headed households." Also in Article 53, the following clause has been recommended for incorporation: "The state shall ensure adequate housing for those in need through a national policy of housing according to the priority of needy people."

Article 54, establishing family as the "fundamental unit of society," would be amended with "Marriage must take place freely and with the agreement of both parties."

In Article 83, the number of women that should be elected to the Wolesi Jirga would be raised from one to two.

In Article 138, which requires the formation of a provincial council in every province, the inclusion of the following amendment has been recommend: "The law shall ensure gender balance through all phases of the electoral process including women's representation in the provincial assembly."

Finally, in Article 140, in which the election of local councils is discussed, the following would be added: "The law will provide for the participation of women in the local councils."

The Gender and Law Working Group was established on 28 December 2002 to provide "a forum for government and nongovernment actors concerned with women's human rights to ensure that these issues are addressed in Afghanistan's constitutional, legal, and electoral reform process." Members of the working group include State Minister of Women's Affairs Hoquqmal, Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs Subhrang, and female judges, professors, human-rights activists and a representative the United Nations Development Fund for Women. (Amin Tarzi)

Commenting on the new draft constitution for Afghanistan that was released on 3 November, "Sirat," a publication devoted to women's issues, wrote on 9 November that the new draft "is a victory" for Afghan women. Referring to the period 1992-2001, "Sirat" wrote that "during the years of the rule of men...lawlessness and injustice" prevailed in Afghanistan and "women were kept at home as property and objects." However, with the publication of the new draft constitution, "it seems like the [Afghan] society is breathing anew and humans of the society, particularly women -- the semi-paralyzed creatures -- are revived." (Amin Tarzi)

Islamic scholars (ulama) in the Panjsher and Ghorband districts of Parwan Province on 9 November prevented women from participating in the election process for the Constitutional Loya Jirga, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 11 November, citing Bakhtar, the official Afghan news agency. An unidentified member of the Constitutional Commission reportedly asked the news agency not to publicize the report, the Iranian radio station added. The Constitutional Loya Jirga is scheduled to assemble on 10 December to adopt the new Afghan constitution. (Amin Tarzi)

Nematullah Shahrani, the head of the Afghan Constitutional Commission that unveiled the draft constitution on 3 November, stressed the same day that the draft constitution is not set in stone, Afghanistan Television reported. Shahrani said the draft can be changed to take into account opinions and views expressed by the Afghan people. A final draft should be presented to the Constitutional Loya Jirga that is due to begin on 10 December in Kabul. The constitution will be considered complete only after the Constitutional Loya Jirga approves the text. Commenting on the draft constitution, Herat-based "Etefaq-e Islam" wrote on 5 November that while for "illogical reasons" the Constitutional Commission delayed publishing the draft, representatives of the Loya Jirga will now "be held responsible for scrutinizing" the draft "with determination and responsibility." The draft constitution was originally due to be released by 1 September (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 September 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

A delegation comprising representatives of all 15 UN Security Council member states and headed by German Ambassador to the UN Guenter Pleuger met with rival Afghan commanders Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammed on 5 November, RFE/RL reported the same day. Pleuger said the UN wants to replace their respective forces with national police officers, Afghanistan Television reported on 5 November. The German ambassador added that the "main message was that the Security Council feels that factional strife and factional fighting has to stop, that this is a matter of the past and not the future," Reuters reported on 5 November. Forces loyal to Dostum, who is a special adviser to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on security and military affairs, and those loyal to 7th Army Corps commander General Ata Mohammad, have clashed intermittently since Taliban forces were defeated in Afghanistan in late 2001 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May and 16 October 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

The UN Security Council delegation has urged two powerful warlords in northern Afghanistan to bring an end to fighting between their private militias.

The delegation visited the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif on 5 November for talks that brought together General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Commander Ata Mohammad.

The militias of the two commanders fought against the Taliban regime together. But in the two years since the Taliban was ousted from power, the same militias have turned on each other repeatedly in hit-and-run battles that have brought instability and lawlessness to parts of five northern Afghan provinces.

Both militia commanders assured the UN delegation on 5 November that they support the internationally backed Afghan Transitional Administration headed by Hamid Karzai. But Germany's UN ambassador, Guenter Pleuger, who was part of the delegation, said getting a verbal promise of support for Karzai was not the purpose of the visit. "Our aim was to deliver a message that cooperation between the local authorities here in the north and the factional leaders is essential for the political process," Pleuger said.

Ata Mohammad, who commands some 20,000 troops, has close ties with Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim. Both Ata Mohammad and Fahim are members of Jamiat-e Islami, a predominantly ethnic Tajik political grouping.

Ata Mohammad told reporters after the meeting that the UN ambassadors had raised the issues of security, cooperation with Karzai's central government, and the battle against illegal drug trafficking.

Dostum's force of some 20,000 militia fighters is composed mostly of ethnic Uzbeks who are members of his political group, Junbish-e Melli. He told reporters that he was "happy" about the meeting. But he said Afghanistan needs international assistance in order to stem the production and smuggling of opium and heroin.

Pleuger said the most important issue facing Afghanistan is how to bring security to remote provinces in order to ensure free and fair democratic elections for a new Afghan president in June. The UN Security Council recently expanded the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force to include provinces outside of Kabul. And German troops this week began to deploy at a base for a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Konduz.

Pleuger said Dostum and Ata Mohammad would set a good example for militia commanders in other parts of the country if they can put their differences aside so that democracy can flourish. "We got satisfying answers to our request that the local authorities cooperate with the government in Kabul," Pleuger said. "And we have stressed that, especially Mr. Dostum and Mr. Ata, are very influential and powerful leaders in this country whose visions, whose views, and deeds are affecting the fate of Afghanistan as a whole."

Pleuger also said cooperation from both Dostum and Ata Mohammad is vital to the success of the two-year-old UN-backed Bonn process on post-Taliban reform. "We feel it is important they lend their full support not only to the necessary reforms that the Karzai government has started, but also to the reforms here in the north," Pleuger said.

Last month saw more fighting between the militias of Dostum and Ata Mohammad of the past two years. While the actual number of casualties remains uncertain, members from the two factions reportedly were killed when tanks and artillery faced off just outside of Mazar-e Sharif. That battle erupted despite numerous cease-fire deals brokered by Karzai's government and international officials (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 and 23 October 2003).

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali later dismissed several senior officials in the north. The central government also has stated that it would implement further dramatic steps, if necessary, to bring peace and establish security.

But tensions remain high. At least nine people have been killed and seven injured in the northern province of Sar-e Pul following a renewed outbreak of fighting there last week (see below).

Ata Mohammad said fighting is continuing and that representatives have been sent from Mazar-e Sharif to Sar-e Pul in an attempt to get local commanders from both sides to stop the shooting.

The UN delegates met yesterday with the new interim governor of Balkh Province, of which Mazar-e Sharif is the capital. They also met UN officials who are based in northern Afghanistan as well as British troops who have established a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif.

In addition to Pleuger, the delegates included the UN ambassadors for the United States, Britain, France, Mexico, Spain, and Bulgaria. There were also deputy ambassadors from other countries currently on the UN Security Council.

Their visit to Mazar-e Sharif is part of a five-day tour of Afghanistan aimed at demonstrating the international community's support for Afghan reconstruction and Karzai's government. Their tour was to concluded on 6 November. (Ron Synovitz)

After meeting with the UN Security Council delegation on 5 November, rival commanders General Abdul Rashid Dostum and General Ata Mohammad pledged that day to work toward unity, Balkh TV reported. While warning that "no one can govern" his "people by force [but] only by the law and principles," Ata Mohammad said his side wants to "ensure security," which "means being united" with all other forces in northern Afghanistan. On the topic of uniting Ata Mohammad's 7th Army Corps with his 8th Army Corps, Dostum said the forces "can be merged if an impartial commander is appointed to head it." Dostum added that he would consent to Kabul appointing a commander for the joint forces, provided that his side is "consulted first." (Amin Tarzi)

Forces loyal to General Dostum's Junbish-e Melli continued to fight against loyalists of Jamiat-e Islami under General Ata Mohammad's command in the Kohestanat District of Sar-e Pol Province, Radio Afghanistan reported on 4 November. Clashes that began on 2 November were reported to have ended a day later thanks to mediation efforts by the British Provincial Reconstruction Team based in Mazar-e Sharif in the neighboring Balkh Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November 2003). Aziz, the deputy commander of the 26th Division in Sar-e Pol, said Junbish forces want to drive Jamiat supporters out of the area, Radio Afghanistan reported. A Junbish official, General Abdul Majid, confirmed the clashes took place but said his party's forces were not involved. (Amin Tarzi)

Austrian Defense Minister Guenter Platter on 5 November turned down a NATO request for that country to send additional troops to bolster the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, the Vienna-based daily "Die Presse" reported the next day. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told Platter that a contingent of Austrian troops within the NATO-led ISAF would boost security not only in Central Asia but also in Europe, dpa reported on 5 November. Since it assumed command of ISAF in August, NATO has been unable to obtain pledges for troop contributions from some of its own members and from non-NATO members such as Austria (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 October 2003). ISAF currently lists 33 countries as troop contributors, 18 of which are NATO members. (Amin Tarzi)

The central government's Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program that was to be launched in the Paktiya Province capital of Gardayz on 10 November might face opposition, the Hindukosh news agency commented on 9 November. The agency quoted Pacha Khan Zadran, a powerful commander in the province, as saying that unless the DDR program starts in the Panjsher region, he will oppose it in Paktiya. Zadran was an ally of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai and the United States, as well as a signatory to the 2001 Bonn agreement; but he later took up armed opposition against the government in Kabul. His forces are based in Paktiya Province. (Amin Tarzi)

U.S. forces killed one enemy fighter on 10 November while participating in a major operation in Nuristan and Konar provinces that was launched on 7 November, Reuters reported on 11 November. According to the coalition forces' military spokesman, U.S. Colonel Rodney Davis, the aim of operation Mountain Resolve is to "to clear the area of anticoalition and antigovernment fighters," "The New York Times," reported on 11 November. While most international media have indicated that the operation is being conducted by U.S. forces, Radio Afghanistan reported on 10 November that "coalition forces together with the Afghan forces have launched" the military campaign. Forces loyal to the former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are concentrated in areas inside Konar and Nuristan provinces, the New York daily reported. In December 2002, Hekmatyar declared a holy war against U.S. forces in Afghanistan which led the United States' decision in February to designate him as a terrorist (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 2 January 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Coalition spokesman Colonel Davis said on 11 November that operation Mountain Resolve is "one of the most challenging" undertaken by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in two years, Reuters reported. Davis said the operation is intended to "destroy and disrupt anticoalition forces and deny sanctuary to them by taking control of the major weapons caches and terrorist bases." Hekmatyar was out of the spotlight for a few months until he resurfaced in July urging Afghans to "cut off the hands of the foreign meddlers" and to drive all foreign forces out of Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

A Romanian soldier was killed and another wounded in southern Afghanistan on 11 November, Romanian Radio and international news agencies reported. It was the first death of a Romanian soldier in Afghanistan since it committed more than 500 soldiers to serve in the country in 2001. A Defense Ministry press release said the 33-year-old sergeant was killed when a convoy of armored vehicles came under attack near Kandahar. President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase have offered their condolences to the soldier's family. (Michael Shafir)

The deputy governor of Zabul Province, Mawlawi Mohammad Omar, said on 9 November that a six-member commission has been established to investigate two explosions in the provincial capital of Qalat on 8 November, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. The first explosion damaged the house of Zabul Governor Hafizullah Khan but did not cause any injuries. Six minutes after the first explosion, another blast "took place in the depot of the [military] division," destroying several missiles, Mohammad Omar said. The deputy governor indicated that he is not certain who was responsible for the bombings, suggesting that the main reason behind the explosions "is that there are four districts in the south of Zabul where the government has no control." Mohammad Omar said that in Ata Ghar, Naw Bahar, Shinkay, and Shamalzai districts, "either the government does not have control...or [the provinces] are abandoned or they are controlled by people connected with the Taliban." (Amin Tarzi)

A car bomb exploded on 11 November near the United Nations office in the southern city of Kandahar, international news agencies reported. No UN personnel were injured in the blast but a bystander sustained injuries, Reuters reported on 11 November. Hindukosh news agency on 11 November claimed that a bystander was killed, but this has not been confirmed by any other source. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. (Amin Tarzi)

The spiritual leader of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has issued a death sentence against maverick former Taliban Foreign Minister Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, Hindukosh news agency reported on 6 November. Muttawakil, who has been characterized as a moderate member of the former regime, was reportedly released from U.S. custody sometime in October after he allegedly tried to mediate between the Afghan Transitional Administration and resurgent Taliban forces. The circumstances of Muttawakil's release have been shrouded in mystery, and Afghan authorities have offered mixed signals about his release (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 and 30 October 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said on 6 November that the Afghan Transitional Administration will not deal with the kidnappers of Turkish engineer Hasan Onal, dpa reported. Jalali said "efforts to free the engineer" are continuing, but he declined to provide details. Militants with presumed ties to the former Taliban regime kidnapped Onal and his driver on a road in Ghazni Province on 30 October and have threatened to kill him if the Afghan authorities fail to release six "high-ranking" former Taliban members (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November 2003). It is unclear whether Afghan authorities are talking directly with the kidnappers or through a mediator. (Amin Tarzi)

An unidentified Indian national was killed in the Taimani District of Kabul on 7 November, the BBC reported. The man was working for an Indian construction company that was under contract to the Afghan Wireless Communication Company, the Kabul daily "Erada" reported on 9 November. The reports did not identify the attacker or a possible motive. (Amin Tarzi)

Afghanistan's first private passenger airline, Kam Air, began operations on 8 November, Balkh TV reported. The Mazar-e Sharif-based carrier flew a route from its hub to Kabul following the launch ceremony. The president of Kamgar, which operates the airline, said Kam Air is being supported by the Afghan Transitional Administration's economic policies geared toward supporting private enterprise. The airline operates a fleet of four aircraft. (Amin Tarzi)

8 November 1933 -- King Mohammad Nader is assassinated. His son Mohammad Zaher becomes king. The assassin, a student named Abdul Khaleq, killed Mohammad Nader to revenge the killing of Gulam Nabi Charkhi, who has beaten to death on the king's orders on 8 November 1932.

13 November 1967 -- Newly appointed Prime Minister Nur Ahmad Etemadi submits cabinet to Wolesi Jirga.

10 November 1987-- The Revolutionary Council Presidium endorses a decree providing for the formation and registration of political parties.

Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghan Afghanistan," by Ludwig W. Adamec (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997).