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New Constitution a "Road Map" to Rebuild Afghanistan

(Washington, DC-August 15, 2003) The Constitution currently being written in Afghanistan must serve as the country's "road map for a road still being built," according to Amin Tarzi, an RFE/RL regional analyst for Afghanistan and Iraq who spoke at a recent briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office.

Tarzi said that the Constitutional Drafting Commission must maintain a balance between Afghanistan's culture and traditions on the one hand, and democratic values on the other. He underlined the need for Afghanistan to adopt a pluralistic and tolerant constitution, while noting that it is unrealistic to expect democracy to be the immediate result of such a document because of the country's deeply-held Islamic traditions and ethnic diversity. Tarzi noted that, as a result of the strong Islamic identity held by Afghans, Afghanistan will probably be known as an "Islamic" republic.

The Commission has yet to release a formal draft of the document for public discussion, Tarzi said, even though it is to be debated and voted on by a Constitutional Loya Jirga set to open in October. Tarzi noted that the low level of literacy in Afghanistan will work against ensuring democracy in Afghanistan and the broad, inclusive debate called for on the new Constitution in the December 2001 Bonn Agreement. In a situation where an estimated ninety two percent of the population is illiterate, Tarzi said, the concept of what a constitution is has yet to be explained to a majority of Afghans, who risk being left out of the Constitutional debate.

According to the Bonn Agreement, the Constitutional Drafting Commission and the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) are responsible for ensuring that a new Constitution is in place in time to allow a democratic Presidential election to occur in June 2004. The Bonn Agreement does not, however, provide direction on how to achieve these goals. Tarzi said that he strongly believes that the goal of having an adopted Constitution by the end of October will be met, but that the real challenge for the two organizations will be to make sure the people know about what happens during the Constitutional Loya Jirga and that the participants in the Constitutional Loya Jirga represent the people of Afghanistan -- not the warlords. To hear archived audio for this and other RFE/RL briefings and events, please visit our website at