24 April 2003, Volume 2, Number 14
AFGHANISTAN'S NEW DRAFT CONSTITUTION: A SNEAK PREVIEWBy Amin Tarzi
A copy of the preliminary draft constitution of Afghanistan prepared by the Constitutional Drafting Commission (CDC) has been obtained by RFE/RL. While the public consultation process on this document is due to begin on 1 May and last until 30 June, a brief review of the existing text reveals much about the nature of the constitution-drafting process in a country divided by two decades of war and the difficulties facing the CDC as it has tried to formulate the charter for a new Afghanistan.
The text at hand is in the Dari language and contains 116 articles and 10 sections. Most articles of the current draft are directly transcribed from the 1964 constitution, in some places the only change made is the replacement of the term "king" with "president." Reliance on the 1964 text has caused a few errors in the draft. For example, Section 9 and 10 in the draft are numbered 10 and 11, respectively. In the 1964 constitution, there were 11 sections; the new draft, however, has eliminated Section 9, which dealt with the rights and duties of the king during emergency situations. Moreover, an error, or perhaps a Freudian slip, has occurred in Article 100 where in one instance, the term "king" has remained from the original 1964 constitution.
Article 1 of the preliminary draft constitution defines Afghanistan as a state which is "Islamic, a republic, democratic...." The wording seems to sidestep calling the country "an Islamic state." Similarly, nowhere else in the document has Afghanistan been referred to as being an Islamic state. Moreover, Article 1, following the example of the 1964 Afghan Constitution, stipulates that, "national sovereignty in Afghanistan belongs to the nation." By establishing the sovereignty of the people and not of God, the draft can fundamentally be viewed as a secular document. By comparison, in the preamble to the 1973 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is proclaimed that the "sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone." The 1979 Constitution of Iran links the foundation of the Islamic republican regime to the "exclusive sovereignty of God."
The controversial issue of which Islamic school of jurisprudence should be given priority in Afghanistan, where the people adhere to more than one of these schools, is covered in Article 2 of the preliminary draft, which stipulates, again similar to the 1964 constitution, that the religion of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam (for more analysis and information on the Afghan constitutional-drafting process, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January, 3 and 10 April 2003).
But whereas in the old code it states that the religious rites performed by the state shall be according to the provisions of the Hanafi (Sunni) school, the new draft simply says that it should be done in accordance with "mazhab" (school of jurisprudence) without specifying which one. The new draft also adds that "most schools are equally protected by law" -- again, no specifics are provided. The role of the Hanafi school is further diminished in the new draft by not requiring the president (Article 8) to be a follower of that school, but he or she -- the text, being in Dari, is not gender specific -- must be a Muslim. In comparison, the 1964 constitution required that the king be a Hanafi Muslim.
But in a somewhat contradictory statement, Article 65 of the draft gives priority to the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. It states that except for the conditions for which specific provisions have been made in the constitution, a law is a resolution passed by both houses (of parliament), and approved by the president. In the areas where no such law exists, the provisions of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence shall be considered as law. This article is the same as Article 69 of the 1964 constitution.
In another departure from the 1964 constitution, Article 2 of the preliminary draft constitution allows non-Muslim Afghans an unqualified freedom in practicing their religion. In the old document, religious minorities were afforded freedom of worship, "within limits determined by laws for public decency and public peace."
The CDC's attempt to keep the thorny issue of schools of jurisprudence very vague in the new draft, with the exception of Article 65, most likely will become an issue for much debate and disagreements. The majority Sunnis may insist that the Hanafi mazhab be given a more prominent role, while the minority Shi'ites would undoubtedly oppose any proposal that does not give their schools of jurisprudence, namely the Ja'fari, equal status. The formula of not mentioning any school may be the best compromise; but in that case, Article 65 has to be altered. Beyond the constitution, the Afghan Transitional Administration should be prepared to deal with the scope of Islamic shari'a in the Afghan judicial system.
Beyond the question of religion, the second point of debate among Afghans during the constitutional-drafting process has been the administrative system of the country. Some powerful Afghan regional leaders have been backing a federal system, arguing that in a ethnically diverse country such as Afghanistan, the rights of minorities can only be safeguarded in a decentralized system. Others have been arguing that federalism in Afghanistan would be tantamount to partition. The other administrative matter of debate revolves around the question of whether Afghanistan will become a presidential or a parliamentary system.
The draft constitution deals with these two issues unswervingly. Article 103 states that the administration of Afghanistan is based on the principal of centralization, while in Article 12 the presidential system is envisaged for Afghanistan. There is to be a president with two deputies, one for civilian affairs and the other for military and security affairs. According to this article, if the president dies while in office, the vice president in charge of civilian affairs will assume the presidential duties for a period of three months, in which time elections are to be held. Somewhat redundantly, Article 19 reemphasizes the point about succession in presidency.
The fact that the preliminary draft constitution has not left any vagueness in the two administrative issues of the envisaged state may be related to the fears that some of the regional leaders or warlords who favor a federal system may inject their own ideas into the text. This way, even if some of the delegates of the Constitutional Loya Jirga -- which is to be held in October to approve the final draft of the constitution -- argue for a decentralized system, there may be room to maneuver without giving much power from the center to the periphery. There have also been voices favoring a parliamentary system for Afghanistan, either with a weak president, such as India, or a strong president and a prime minister, similar to France. Some had suggested that in the Indian model the former Afghan King Mohammad Zaher would assume the role of the president. Those favoring the French model viewed the system as accommodating the two dominant groups in Afghanistan, namely the Pashtuns and the Tajiks.
The choice made by the CDC has been most likely governed by short-term realities in Afghanistan, in which the possibility of Mohammad Zaher playing a role has been eliminated. Also, the military, currently controlled by Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, arguably the strongest man in Afghanistan, has been taken out of the top position in the government. In the long-term as well, a centralized presidential system is the answer to making Afghanistan a viable state, granted that elections do not become a process merely confirming pre-selected candidates.
Involve the Afghans
The current preliminary draft text is true to the aspirations of the Bonn Agreement of December 2001, which assigned the 1964 constitution "with the exception of those provisions relating to the monarchy" as the provisional legal framework of the country. It is a good starting step for formulation of the final constitution of Afghanistan, which must take into account the facts on the ground in modern Afghanistan as well as chart the future of the state. The most important task before the Constitutional Commission -- the successor to the CDC -- from the beginning of May to the end of June is to be true to its own plan. It must include as many Afghans in as many places as possible, and it should finalize a final document in which the aspirations of as many Afghans as possible are addressed, even if only partially. This task may prove to be a very difficult one, as reflected by Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 23 April in response to a question from the "Financial Times": "The 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."
FOUR AFGHAN SOLDIERS KILLED IN CLASH ALONG PAKISTAN BORDER...Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said on 17 April that two clashes took place on 16 April between Afghan government forces and fighters who entered Afghanistan's southeastern Zabul Province from Pakistan, AFP and Reuters reported. Jalali said four Afghan soldiers and several "terrorists" were killed during the battles. Five people were also arrested before the operation ended on 16 April, according to Jalali. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND AFGHAN BORDER GUARDS CLASH WITH PAKISTANI FIGHTERS.Interior Minister Jalali also said that in a third incident, fighting broke out on 16 April between Afghan border guards and Pakistani militiamen who penetrated 5 kilometers across the border into Afghanistan's southeastern Khost Province, AFP reported the next day. No casualties were reported. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border remains a matter of dispute in many areas and is a longstanding problem in the countries' relations. Moreover, suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants are believed to be hiding in Pakistan and launching attacks from across the border into Afghanistan. During a 17 April meeting with the visiting U.S. presidential envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said Pakistan will work to prevent terrorists from operating from its territory, according to AFP. Cross-border security will be on the agenda of a meeting scheduled for 22 April between Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHAN LEADER VISITS ISLAMABAD AMID TENSIONS...Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai began a state visit to Pakistan on 22 April that is expected to ease tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan resulting from a border clash that took place on 16 April, "Dawn" reported on 22 April. Karzai postponed a visit to Pakistan last month due to the war in Iraq. Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said on 21 April that Karzai's visit will provide an opportunity "to clear up misconceptions and help remove irritants between the two countries," the Karachi daily reported. The two sides will discuss economic cooperation, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the movement of Taliban members across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and review the proposal to set up a joint commission to settle the border dispute between the two countries. The current border between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- known as the "Durand Line" after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the British signatory of the 1893 agreement that demarcated the border between Afghanistan and British India -- has never been officially recognized by Afghanistan, and has been at the core of disagreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan since the creation of Pakistan in 1947 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 2 January 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
...THAT COULD BE LINKED TO ELEMENTS WITHIN PAKISTAN'S INTELLIGENCE SERVICE.Pakistani journalist and Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid commented in "Eurasia Insight" on 21 April that Karzai might confront Pakistani President Musharraf with charges that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) continues to support the Taliban militia and could be responsible for the border shootout between Afghan and Pakistani forces in the Pashtun tribal belt. According to Rashid, U.S. special envoy to Iraq and Afghanistan Khalilzad, who visited Kabul on 10 April and said the United States will not turn its "face from Afghanistan," afterward met with ISI officials and urged them "to contain the Taliban and come to an agreement" with Karzai to ensure stability in Afghanistan. On 12 February, two ranking members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said elements within the ISI are helping the Taliban destabilize the Afghan Transitional Administration (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February 2003).
The Taliban's emergence in the Afghan political scene in the mid-1990s was partly the brainchild of the ISI, which was seeking a government in Kabul that would be subservient to Islamabad and would secure Afghanistan as a transit route between Pakistan and Central Asia and resolve the border disputes between Kabul and Islamabad. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN LEADER EXPECTS PAKISTAN TO PREVENT BORDER INCURSIONS...Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai met with Pakistani President Musharraf and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali in Islamabad on April 22 during his two-day visit to Pakistan and said during a news conference with Jamali that he received assurances that Pakistan will "help Afghanistan to attain the best levels of safety and security," "The New York Times" reported on 23 April. Karzai said Pakistan should arrest "certain key leaders" of the Taliban, adding that he is "sure Pakistan will help Afghanistan in that regard." Musharraf said Pakistan and Afghanistan "will fight terrorism all the way," and that the two states are "mutually complementing each other to tackle the problems" they face. The Pakistani president added that his country and Afghanistan share the same "strategic perception" on how to deal with the issue of terrorism, "Dawn" reported on 23 April. (Amin Tarzi)
...BUT DOWNPLAYS RECENT BORDER CLASHES.Karzai, apparently choosing to avoid making public statements about contentious issues while in Pakistan, denied that a border clash recently took place between Afghan and Pakistani forces, "The Hindu" reported on 23 April. Diplomatic niceties notwithstanding, Afghan officials are also upset about attacks perpetrated by the Taliban or their supporters "who are widely believed to be orchestrating a campaign from Pakistan to destabilize" the Afghan Transitional Administration, according to "The New York Times" on 23 April. An unidentified Afghan Foreign Ministry official said prior to Karzai's visit to Islamabad that "Pakistan can and should be doing more to stop the infiltration and they should be more serious about the Taliban who are actively operational," the New York daily reported. In a message to Pakistan, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq Khalilzad said during a news conference in Kabul last week that stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of the United States and "any effort that undermines that stability, that threatens it, is a challenge" to U.S. interests, "The New York Times" reported. The issue of Pakistani support for the Taliban might not be something that is sanctioned by Musharraf or his administration, but goes deep into the Pakistani military-intelligence community, which has had a longstanding relationship with the ousted Afghan regime. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN DISCUSS BILATERAL TRADE.Karzai said during his news conference in Islamabad that he wants the volume of trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan to increase, "The New York Times," reported on 23 April. According to Karzai, exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan stood at $270 million over the past nine months, compared to Pakistan's import of $35 million worth of goods from Afghanistan, "The Hindu" reported on 23 April. Pakistan exported much more to Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule, as Islamabad was the main and in some ways, the sole, partner of the internationally isolated regime. Recent border incursions and attacks on roads between Afghanistan and Pakistan have also hampered the flow of goods between the two states. In March, Islamabad refused a request by Kabul to allow Indian goods to pass through the Wagah border crossing in Pakistan's Punjab Province on their way to Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 April 2003). Pakistan is concerned about the improvement of relations between New Delhi and Kabul. (Amin Tarzi)
EIGHT PEOPLE KILLED IN WEEK'S CLASHES IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN...Forces loyal to Jamiyat-e Islami under the command of General Ata Mohammad clashed in Faryab Province on 8 April with the Junbish-e Islami forces of Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum, Radio Afghanistan reported on 9 April. Eight people -- including two civilians -- were killed in the fighting, and 10 fighters were injured, according to the report. In January, clashes between forces loyal to the Jamiyat-e Islami party, which is headed by former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Dostum's forces took place in Faryab Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003). Unconfirmed reports have indicated that Ata Mohammad has recently sought the help of General Abdul Malik, who is from Faryab Province and collaborated with the Taliban in ousting Dostum from northern Afghanistan in 1997. (Amin Tarzi)
...PROMPTING KARZAI TO DISPATCH DELEGATION TO INVESTIGATE CLASHES, BRING COMMANDERS TO KABUL...Hamid Karzai ordered a delegation to Faryab Province to investigate the reasons for the outbreak of fighting between forces of Dostum and those loyal to Jamiyat-e Islami under the command of General Ata Mohammad, Afghanistan Television reported on 10 April. Seventeen people, mostly soldiers, have been killed and 13 injured in the fighting that broke out on 8 April, AFP reported, citing the UN. Representatives of the Defense and Interior ministries were sent, including ministerial adviser Asadullah Wafa (tribal affairs) and ministerial adviser Mohammad Alam Rasekh (social affairs). In addition to evaluating the allegations of each group, the delegation was tasked by Karzai to bring the commanders of both groups back with them to Kabul. This move is significant in that Karzai appears to be making an effort to exert government control over a continuing regional source of insecurity. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AS CEASE-FIRE IS REACHED, AID AGENCIES PULL OUT.General Faruq, a commander of Ata Mohammad's forces, said the fighting broke out after attacks against the forces headquarters in Maymana, the capital of Faryab, during the night, Hindukosh news agency reported on 10 April. He claimed that a group of individuals from Dostum's forces opened fire on some of his men, killing seven. Hindukosh reported that Dostum's spokesman Fayzullah Zaki "interpreted the clashes as resistance to the disarmament process." A delegate of the United Nations has brokered a cease-fire between the two groups, the news agency reported. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told a press conference in Kabul on 10 April that the fighting began "following the killing of a high-ranking commander of [Jamiyat-e Islami in Maymana]," AFP reported. "UN and nongovernmental organizations were forced to close their offices because they happened to be in the line of the fighting of the different factions," he said. (Kimberly McCloud)
CLASHING AFGHAN FORCES PULL OUT OF MAYMANA.Manoel de Almeida e Silva said on 13 April that approximately 50 percent of the fighters engaged in the prior week's fighting in Faryab Province had withdrawn from provincial capital Maymana, UNAMA announced. An official cease-fire between Junbish-e Islami forces of Dostum and those loyal to Jamiyat-e Islami under the command of General Ata Mohammad was signed on 11 April. The UN-brokered agreement mandates that no unauthorized armed men be allowed in Maymana, and UNAMA remains in the area to monitor the withdrawal of troops and to register collected weapons. Meanwhile, the UN Mine Action Centre was dispatched to Maymana on 13 April to assist in bringing about security. (Kimberly McCloud)
DOSTUM COMMANDER KILLED IN AMBUSH.Commander Shahi, a military commander loyal to Deputy Defense Minister Dostum, was killed in an ambush on 15 April in northern Afghanistan, Reuters reported. He was traveling to Mazar-e Sharif when his vehicle was ambushed in the Char Bolak area, about 29 kilometers west of the city, according to Dostum's deputy, General Majid Ruzi. Two bodyguards were also killed. While there was no immediate indication of who perpetrated the attack, it came on the heels of deadly fighting and a subsequent 11 April cease-fire between Dostum's Junbish-e Islami forces and the Jamiyat-e Islami forces loyal to General Ata Mohammad. Reuters reported that the cease-fire is officially recognized but tensions remain between the two factions, and there is a possibility of renewed clashes. (Kimberly McCloud)
PASHTUNS FLEEING HARASSMENT, PERSECUTION IN AFGHANISTAN.Internally displaced persons (IDPs) -- mainly ethnic Pashtuns -- continue to flee northern Afghanistan for shelter in the south, according to a statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 16 April. Pashtuns are facing "harassment and insecurity" from other ethnic groups in the northern provinces of Faryab, Jowzjan, and Badghis, as some people blame the Pashtuns as a whole for the crimes committed by the Taliban regime. Commanders, in many cases, are seizing land from people, especially from Pashtuns, according to UNHCR spokeswoman Maki Sinohara. "Objectively, even if the situation might be OK for the people to come back, having the experience of being harassed out of their homes or the experience of fleeing from them, does take some time for the people themselves to be convinced and confident enough to go back," Shinohara said. She warned that unless security is established in Afghanistan, refugee and IDP crises and insecurity will continue. According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 350,000 IDPs now in Kandahar and Hilmand provinces, about 15 percent of whom are Pashtuns from the north. (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHAN, U.S. OFFICIALS DISCUSS NEW NATIONAL ARMY...Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim met with a representative of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Karl Eikenberry, on 13 April to discuss political and military issues in the country, Afghanistan Television reported the same day. Among the issues covered included the role of U.S. forces in providing security in the country, the formation of the Afghan national army, and both successes and challenges in these areas. Eikenberry reportedly underscored the importance of a national army, saying that it will ultimately guarantee freedom and sovereignty for Afghanistan and that it is necessary to prevent terrorism. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND AFGHAN PAPER SAYS INCREASED VIOLENCE ILLUSTRATES NEED FOR DISARMAMENT."Once there was an urgent need to possess weapons," according to a commentary in the daily Kabul Pashto newspaper "Hewad" on 14 April. The Soviet invasion and then civil war, which continued through the Taliban era, it said, gave rise to rapid and widespread armament in the country. Now, however, "This has deteriorated security and discipline and has become a major problem for the central government in many regions of Afghanistan." The paper called for the formation of an army that can "implement security and peace...and also disarm such irresponsible armed people." Reconstruction in Afghanistan is being hampered by the prevalent possession of guns, according to the paper, and the increase in violent incidents all over the country is proof "that the absence of [a] national army and police and the continuation of the gun culture pose a threat to public security, peace, and stability." (Kimberly McCloud)
REGIONAL COMMANDERS AGREE TO SUPPORT FORMATION OF AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY...After a two-day meeting in Kabul that ended on 21 April, the heads of armed groups in Afghanistan agreed to support the formation of a national military force to replace the multitude of militia forces and factional warriors in the country, Radio Afghanistan reported. In the first national military meeting since the collapse of the Taliban government in December 2001, the regional commanders pledged that they will work "closely" with the Defense Ministry and will take direction from the central government in Kabul, the BBC reported on 22 April. The BBC questioned the Afghan warlords' pledge, asking, "Will the rhetoric become reality?" Curbing the power of the warlords, or regional leaders -- as they are labeled in official Afghan reports -- is the Afghan Transitional Administration's main hurdle as it begins to extend its rule and maintain security throughout the country. The pledge made in Kabul could be used as a tool by the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition to confront those commanders who break it. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS RIVAL NORTHERN WARLORDS MEET.The 20-21 April meeting was attended by both Deputy Defense Minister General Dostum and Army Corps No. 7 commander General Ata Mohammad. The fact that the two rival military commanders were meeting in Kabul is an illustration of national unity, according to a Balkh Television report prior to the meeting. Forces loyal to Jamiyat-e Islami under the command of Ata Mohammad most recently clashed with Dostum's Junbish-e Islami forces in Faryab Province on 8 April. The fighting stopped after a cease-fire was agreed on 11 April through the mediation of the United Nations. (Amin Tarzi)
KABUL DAILY CALLS FOR END OF WARLORDISM.In a 20 April commentary about the need for the Afghan Transitional Administration to curb the power of the warlords, the "Kabul Times" wrote that "every Tom, Dick, and Harry" gradually gained wealth and power through association to one of the mujahedin parties, "shed more blood" to rise to "stardom," and carved up their own fiefdoms in Afghanistan. Concentrating on northern Afghanistan, the Kabul daily added that many commanders there have violated human rights and have usurped the lands of helpless people to increase their power. The "Kabul Times" concluded that if the warlords were only killing each other it would be not so terrible; however, civilians are "the only casualties" of their feuds. (Amin Tarzi)
NATO TO TAKE OVER COMMAND OF PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN AFGHANISTAN.NATO will take over command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in August, international news agencies reported on 17 April. "Neither ISAF's name nor ISAF's mission will change," ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Loebbering said, AFP reported. "The mission will continue to operate under the United Nations mandate and the ISAF banner and [NATO] will continue to welcome non-NATO members of ISAF." The Atlantic alliance on 16 April announced its offer to take command of the UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, AP reported. All 19 NATO members approved the requests made by Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands that NATO play a role in running the ISAF, according to NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur on 16 April. He said NATO's offer was prompted by its perception that the mission could benefit from consistency, considering the problems that have occurred stemming from the rotating six-month command of the ISAF. Nasir Ahmad Zaiei, head of the Ideological Department of the Afghan Defense Ministry, said on 24 April that Afghanistan will decide if NATO can take over command of ISAF, the Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari-language service reported (for more on NATO's possible role in Afghanistan, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 December 2002). (Kimberly McCloud, Amin Tarzi)
100 KILLED, 500 INJURED BY LAND MINES EVERY MONTH IN AFGHANISTAN.The head of the Department of Anti-Personnel Mines in Afghanistan, Mohammad Shahab Hakimi, said on 15 April that 7,500 demining personnel -- primarily Afghans -- are working in Afghanistan to clear mines, which he said kill 100 and injure another 500 people every month in the country, Iranian state radio reported. This, according to AP the same day, is approximately half the amount of casualties that was occurring previously, and is a result of the intense demining campaign that has been supported by international funders. Hakimi also said that approximately 850 square kilometers of land was mined in 1,585 villages, and experts contend that there are upward of 10 million mines in the country -- most of them laid by Soviet troops. The International Red Cross has estimated that 200,000 Afghans have been killed or maimed by mines in the last 20 years. (Kimberly McCloud)
SOME 200 HOMES DESTROYED IN EARTHQUAKE IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN.An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.6 on the Richter scale shook the Namakab District of Takhar Province in the Hindukosh Mountains of northeastern Afghanistan on 10 April, Reuters reported the next day. The earthquake caused an unknown number of casualties and flattened approximately 200 homes in the village of Yakabagh and its surroundings, Afghanistan Television reported on 11 April. A landslide unleashed by the tremor might have contributed to some casualties as well as the destruction of the homes, Reuters reported. Afghan authorities and humanitarian organizations launched an emergency relief effort on 11 April to assist the families affected, AFP reported on 13 April. (Kimberly McCloud)
FEDERALISM REJECTED AT MAZAR-E SHARIF SEMINAR.In a one-day seminar on 21 April, Rafi Bedar, director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission satellite office in Mazar-e Sharif, said the future Afghan constitution should accept the rights of all nationalities residing in the country, but added that Afghan society is not ready for a federal system, Hindukosh news agency reported on 22 April. Ayyub Yosufzai, a professor of law at Balkh University, also rejected the idea of a federal system for Afghanistan, the report added (for more see feature above). The idea of a federal system for Afghanistan has been supported by northern Afghan regional leader and Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum, who organized a seminar in Mazar-e Sharif in February in which participants supported the idea of a federal system for Afghanistan (for analysis and information on Afghan constitutional process see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January, 3 and 10 April 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHANISTAN APPLIES TO JOIN WTO.The World Trade Organization (WTO) has received Afghanistan's application to join the organization, AFP reported on 22 April. Afghan Commerce Minister Sayyed Mustafa Kazemi sent the application by letter. The WTO's Ruling General Council is expected to consider Afghanistan's application at its next meeting on 15 May. (Amin Tarzi)
FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES AFGHANISTAN SEEKING TIES WITH ISRAEL.At a press conference in Kabul on 16 April, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah denied claims that Afghanistan is seeking relations with Israel, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. "The officials at Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs have not contacted any official, and have not held any secret contacts, or talks with the Israeli officials in that regard," Abdullah said. Rumors that Afghanistan was seeking ties with Israel surfaced when the Afghan Embassy in Paris sent a fax to many countries, including Israel, trying to rally support for Afghanistan's application to join the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), according to Abdullah. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Ron Prosor announced on 14 April that Afghanistan was seeking "the establishment of political relations" with Israel, AP reported on 17 April. "Afghanistan has so far not recognized Israel as a legitimate state, and [has] taken no step toward the establishment of ties with it either," Abdullah responded.
When asked by the "Financial Times" on 23 April if Afghanistan had any plans to recognize the state of Israel, Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai responded, "No no no, we have no such plans." (Kimberly McCloud, Amin Tarzi)
THIS WEEK IN AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY11 April 1966 -- "Khalq," a pro-Soviet newspaper published by Nur Mohammad Taraki, puts out first issue. On 22 May 1966, Afghan parliament passes a resolution asking the government to take action against the paper for not following the values of the 1964 constitution. In 1978, Taraki became the first communist president of Afghanistan.
17 April 1978 -- Mir Akbar Khaibar, one of the founders of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, is assassinated in Kabul. Three days later, thousands of leftist Afghans turn Khaibar's funeral into an antigovernment demonstration that became the prelude to the communist coup.
15 April 1992 -- General Abdul Rashid Dostum, turning against the government he had supported, takes control of Kabul airport, signaling the end of communist control in Afghanistan.
(Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan" by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997).