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January 7, 2004
AFGHANISTAN'S NEW CONSTITUTION: 'A STEP FORWARD'

January 7, 2004

AFGHANISTAN'S NEW CONSTITUTION: 'A STEP FORWARD'

KEY FINDINGS

** The Afghan constitution marks a "new era" for the war-torn country.

** While some issues remain unsettled, the agreement paves the way for free elections.

** The "bumpy" road ahead means "foreign aid and troops" will still be needed for a long time.

MAJOR THEMES

'Foundation for a new Afghanistan'-- Commentators called the adoption of a new constitution for Afghanistan a "milestone" that marked a "symbolic end" to the country's sad past while providing "a new opportunity" in the country's reconstruction. Writers praised the Loya Jirga representatives for tackling the "most complicated" job of combining "archaic tribal rules, Islamic values and Western ideas of democracy." Germany's left-of-center Sueddeutsche Zeitung termed the event "the birth of a new Afghanistan and a reason to celebrate" after 25 "chaotic, war-like, bloody years." A conservative Canadian broadsheet praised the "patient negotiation and compromise" that "gave us all a lesson in 'big-tent' politics at its best." Afghanistan's Dari-language Mojahed, however, complained about "bullies" imposing their views on the Loya Jirga representatives and "scandalous" censorship of committee discussions.

An 'imprecise' but 'workable' document-- Editorialists agreed that the constitution is not "a perfect document," leaving some "language and minority issues" unaddressed; one European observer termed it "fragile." The foreign editor of Britain's conservative Times, though conceding many of the compromises made in its writing were "sensible," identified "serious weaknesses," including insufficient protection for the "rights" it recognizes. Such shortcomings could lead to the constitution's being ignored or "bent out of recognition." A liberal Pakistani outlet admitted that the constitution "is unlikely to change the hue of forces" in the land, but termed it a "necessary...condition to move Afghanistan forward." Some Western dailies worried about the "problematic" article providing that laws should not conflict with Islam; Canada's liberal Le Devoir went as far as branding the new Afghan state "a theocracy."

'A return to chaos is still possible'-- Observers agreed that despite the constitutional "leap of faith," the future of the nation is "still uncertain." Further "setbacks" caused by warlords along with "the growing activities of the ousted Taliban and al-Qaida in the southeast" remained problems that should "not be underestimated." There is much "uphill work" to be done on the way to elections, according to the UAE's English-language Gulf News, and "getting the message of democracy across will not be easy." Other papers judged that success for the "charismatic" President Karzai "will ride in part on his ability to project authority and the rule of law beyond the capital Kabul." In addition to "the Afghans themselves," further stabilization will depend on the efforts of the international community and in particular the U.S., which "has a great responsibility...to rebuild that country on a democratic basis."

EDITOR: Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 31 reports from 17 countries, January 3-7, 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "Afghan Spirit of Compromise Fails Four Tests of Strength"

Foreign Editor Bronwen Maddox commented in the conservative Times (Internet version, 1/7): "The bomb in Kandahar yesterday shows why the new constitution of Afghanistan, hailed with such fanfare on Sunday, will not easily glue the country together.... It is moving to see a country try to write down the principles by which it wants to run itself. Indeed, it was an achievement to have produced any agreement at all from the 502 delegates cooped up for three weeks in vast tents in Kabul.... On the whole, the compromises that were made were sensible and many of the deals struck in the final days improved the document enormously, but it is not churlish to say that the constitution has at least four serious weaknesses, which could still lead it to be jettisoned, ignored or bent out of recognition--the fate of the past nine constitutions. First, President Karzai has done so well by the deal, as has his sponsor, the United States, that it has inflamed ethnic divisions. Second, there has been little attempt to spell out the relationship between Kabul and the provinces. Third, the Supreme Court, heavily influenced by religious hardliners, will interpret the constitution. Fourth, the much-lauded 'rights' can be overridden by laws.... Those are the theoretical problems. There are practical ones, security above all. Warlords are still unchecked and an estimated 100,000 fighters roam the country. It is hard to see how credible elections can be held by the target of June."

"Constituting A State"

The independent Financial Times editorialized (1/6): "It is a minor triumph that Afghans have reached agreement in their traditional loya jirga, or grand assembly, on a constitution for a presidential form of government in an Islamic republic--but one with equal rights for women.... The prospect of free and fair presidential elections being held as planned this June--with parliamentary elections following within a year--look rather dim. Clearly, Afghanistan will continue to need foreign aid and troops. By contrast, Iraq still lacks the crucial advantage of legitimacy that Afghanistan has had.... The U.S. is due to hand over civil power to a transitional government this summer but Washington and Iraqi leaders have still not agreed how this body should emerge. Even then, Iraqis will still have before them the sort of constitutional decisions the Afghans have just settled."

GERMANY: "Constitution"

Manfred Pantfoerder wrote in center-right Die Welt (1/5): "The contract of Kabul is a milestone toward the new Afghanistan that was envisaged at the Petersberg conference in December 2001. It also ennobles the continuing engagement of the west, two years after the ousting of the Taliban regime. If the military action were to turn into permanent peace, Afghanistan would be a fortunate case. The Afghans have made a great contribution. They made the most complicated attempt to combine archaic tribal rules, Islamic values and western ideas of democracy in a new constitution. Here, the implementation of essential issues, like equal rights for women, is of great importance. If the Afghans keep going, they could reckon with a peace dividend. Aid money and military backing by ISAF is ready, which will be a condition for a successful transformation of the Afghan civil war community in the years to come. Further setbacks caused by warlords like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar can be expected, and the growing activities of the ousted Taliban and al-Qaida in the southeast of the country remain a problem that should not be underestimated. We have got the breakthrough of Kabul, but it has to be secured."

"Birth Of A New Afghanistan"

Peter Muench observed in the center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung (1/5): "This is the birth of a new Afghanistan and a reason to celebrate. After 25 chaotic, war-like, bloody years, a new opportunity has opened up for Afghanistan. Whether it will take it is not only dependent on foreign support, but particularly on Afghans themselves. There will only be a better future if they can put the past to rest.... Hamid Karzai has succeeded in his call for a strong position of the president, a copy of the American system. That is good for the country; mainly because the charismatic Karzai is good for the country. As a strong president the ethnic Pashtun could reconcile the skeptic Pashtu majority with the state. He could extend the power of a central government to the provinces to prevent the disruption of the country. He could set up a powerful national army, fight drug growing, and distribute billions of international aid fairly. He could do that if they let him. But a strong president is a horror particularly for the leaders of the Tajik northern alliance, who have been dominating Kabul ever since they assisted U.S. troops in the war against the Taliban. They tried to limit the power of the president with all means in the constitutional assembly. What they did not achieve on paper, they will try in practice. Fighting will continue after the accord of the Loya Jirga. The approval of the constitution is a milestone.... But the way remains bumpy and a return to chaos is still possible. One should not expect more than what was achieved. The next milestone will be set with the election of the president this summer."

"A State But Not Yet A Nation"

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine judged (1/5): "Afghanistan is a state. Whether it can become a nation has to be seen. But the delegates of the Loya Jirga took a great step in that direction on Sunday. Until the last moment, one could see how difficult agreement was for them. Failure was likely on Saturday. But the representatives of the United Nations and those of the United States, who both had great interest in an agreement, finally succeeded in 'convincing' those who were resisting. But exactly this is the weak spot of the agreement. After the approval the delegates will return to their regions, where they will be under different influence. And there is no guarantee that everybody who was ready to find a compromise in Kabul will have the stamina to stand by the vote.... The acid test comes when the head of state, Karzai, has to push through his new written rights against individual interests. For the time being, a Pashtun has more problems with the idea of turning down his ethnic origin for an abstract 'Afghanism'. The same is true for the other ethnic groups of the country. Afghanistan will only have reached its goal when ethnic differences are taken to the podium and are not fought out in trenches anymore."

"Now The Spotlight Is On Karzai"

Elke Windisch remarked in centrist Der Tagesspiegel (1/5): "This agreement is fragile, like the power of the not democratically legitimated interim government, whose power ends at the borders of Kabul. Many sections of the constitution are not precise and free for interpretation in order not to endanger the delicate national reconciliation. Afghanistan is defined as an Islamic Republic, whose laws should not clash with the Koran and Sharia. In reality this can be problematic not only concerning the equality of women, for which the 100 female delegates of the Loya Jirga fought like lions. That is one of the points where the new constitution falls short compared to the one of the 1964 constitutional monarchy. But an insufficient constitution is better than no constitution. This is especially true for Afghanistan where, after 30 years of war against a Soviet occupier and civil war, an entire generation grew up that only knows the rule of force and how to push through its claims with the help of Kalashnikovs. Above all, it paves the way for democratic elections that will give Afghanistan its first legitimate government in 30 years."

ITALY: "'In The Name Of Allah' A Constitution That Erases The Taliban"

Mimmo Candito held in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (1/5): "Yesterday a new Afghanistan was born.... The adoption of the constitution that yesterday erased the past 'in the name of Allah' is a political event which is destined to open the road to institutional and cultural changes that will inevitably affect the future history of this country.... If we recall what Afghanistan has been in all these centuries, with religion and ethnicity becoming absolute fanaticisms, the bet on a democracy is venturesome. But the Americans are in Afghanistan today, and they don't intend to take away their presence, because Afghanistan is too important for their control of the pipelines and of China's competitive threat.... Yesterday in Kabul a model was defined, maybe unrealistic, but certainly workable; and now there will be the attempt to export this model to the Baghdad quagmire."

AUSTRIA: "The Anti-Terror Medication Worked For Afghanistan"

Foreign affairs editor Gnter Lehofer opined in mass-circulation provincial daily Kleine Zeitung (1/7): "Afghanistan was the first big step in the global fight against terrorism. The country was ruled by Usama bin Laden and a Mullah named Omar, who has meanwhile sunk into oblivion. Despite all the risks, Afghanistan and its tortured people merited a large-scale effort by the rest of the world. We only need to think of the violence, the hunger, and the oppression of women under the Taliban regime to realize that, despite all the difficulties, massive progress for the people has been achieved in the Afghanistan of 2004. In Afghanistan, the positive results of the anti-terror drug by far override its side effects."

BULGARIA: "Is Afghanistan A Success Story For The Bush Administration?"

Center-left daily Sega commented (1/4): "Washington praised as a great success the adoption of Afghanistan's new constitution as a balancing act between Islam and democracy. However, enforcing this constitution will be a far more difficult task than its adoption.... To a large extent Afghanistan's success is now in NATO's hands. The Alliance must speed up the deployment of peacekeeping forces outside the capital in order to allow the humanitarian organizations to resume their work there. The peacekeeping forces deployment will also put an end to the armed clashes and will guarantee peaceful elections. NATO should also realize that it is in Afghanistan for the long haul."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Constitution--Beginning Of Afghanistan"

Milan Slezak observed in the leading business Hospodarske noviny (1/6): "The new constitution passed in Afghanistan on Sunday can be seen as a symbolic end of an unhappy period and a promise for the future. It is important that representatives of various ethnic and religious groups, which till now fought against each other, have been able to agree on a document that certifies that Afghanistan will be an Islamic republic and that none of its laws may be in contradiction to Islam. Most importantly, there is no mention of Sharia, the strict Islamic Law, and men and women have the same rights and obligations.... In the battles over the constitution, it was clear that overcoming the age-old discords between different nationalities is no easy matter. The Sunday success was facilitated mainly by the pressure exerted by the U.S. and UN. It would certainly have been better if such a strong drive to reach an agreement had been exhibited by the Afghanis themselves.... Nevertheless, the constitution is a step in the right direction; welcome, but not salvageable in itself."

"Constitution And Kalashnikovs"

Petra Prochazkova opined in the center-right daily Lidove noviny (1/5): "The Western-type constitution, which eighty percent of Afghanis, including many delegates of Loya Jirga, cannot read because of their illiteracy, will only have a limited practical impact. More important than the constitution's content is that the Americans and Afghani leader Hamid Karzai managed to push it through in spite of powerful [mujahedin] enemies.... However, even the strong president must not forget that several million Afghanis continue to carry weapons. And not only carry them."

PORTUGAL: "Some Promising News"

Influential moderate left daily Pblico editor-in-chief Jos Manuel Fernandes noted (1/7): "The evolution [exemplified in the loya jirga] was gigantic.... For the first time in the history of the country the government listened to the people and considered the proposed alterations to the project it was presenting."

SPAIN: "Democracy Step By Step"

Conservative ABC remarked (1/6): "The new Afghan constitution is important not only for its content...but also because it closes a transitory period riddled with questions about the future coexistence of the main ethnic groups of the country.... The Constitution is also important...because it serves as an example in other cases of national reconstruction, including Iraq after Saddam. First, it shows how national...teams, supported by the international community, can carry out the task of providing themselves with a new institutional framework. Secondly, it proves that the task requires time.... Democracy can not be quick or hasty."

MIDDLE EAST

SAUDI ARABIA: "Rebuilding Afghanistan"

Jeddah's English-language daily Arab News said (1/7): "Now that the constitution is in place, it is crucial that the international community deliver on those brave promises of aid and funds that flowed after the Bonn talks three years ago. There are of course severe security problems in Afghanistan, but they are nothing compared to those faced by the occupation forces in Iraq. Yet the campaign to rebuild Iraq is in full swing. Why is the same thing not happening in Afghanistan? Why are development funds not pouring into the country? Why are poor Afghan farmers returning to their traditional opium growing when they should be receiving help to grow and market proper crops? The world must not turn its back on the Afghans now that the Taliban and al-Qaida have gone. The success of the Loya Jirga must be reinforced by substantial international support, to allow these promising but delicate seeds of peace and stability to grow."

"The Constitution in Afghanistan"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina wrote (1/6): "There is no doubt that announcing the re-birth of the constitution in Afghanistan would give President Bush a positive push in his re-election campaign. Especially when opinion polls have passed the 50% mark in his favor, with this announcement the percentage is expected to go up. However, keeping reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan within the specified timeline remains a heavy burden on the shoulders of the United States of America. The U.S. has a great responsibility and a greater commitment to rebuild that country on a democratic basis. For only this will make going back to the past impossible."

"And Now The Hard Part"

Jeddah's English-language daily Arab News commented (1/6): "Hopefully, Afghans have learned a thing or two about cooperation, tolerance, patience and compromise from the last 30 miserable years. Nobody gets everything they want. But everybody gets something. That's what self-government is all about. It's hard work, but it is the only way we know of to real peace and prosperity."

UAE: "The Talk Is Over, The Work Begins"

The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf News editorialized (Internet version, 1/6): "Afghanistan now has its first post-Taliban constitution and congratulations are pouring in to President Hamid Karzai. The Loya Jirga...took more than twice as long as expected. But historically, a Loya Jirga does not disband until a consensus is achieved. And that was eventually obtained after 22 days of sometimes acrimonious discussion and much bitter ethnic rivalry.... Now that the constitution is 'out of the way' the path can be cleared for democratic elections later in the year. There is much uphill work to be done in this direction, since it is apparent that many Afghanis do not fully understand the concept of democratic elections. Equally, Afghans are known to quickly change allegiance for their advantage. With warlords and ethnic tribes forcefully contesting each other in the provinces, getting the message of democracy across will not be easy. However, first there must be some semblance of law and order throughout the country, with less internecine strife and a dramatic reduction in the expanding production of opium, something that the Taliban were able to reduce. But until then, nations that promised aid and grants to re-establish Afghanistan will be reluctant to come forward with vast sums of money, which could rapidly disappear through corruption. The western nations, especially America, are honor-bound to carry on with the work in assisting Afghanistan to recover. Their record for staying the course in Afghanistan has not been good. "

"Popular Rule"

The Dubai-based English-language Khaleej Times remarked (Internet version, 1/6): "If Afghans succeeded in charting a constitution for their country after painstaking efforts, then those who devoted themselves to the task now need to show rationalism and wisdom and avoid fanaticism to have it properly implemented. After the final approval of the constitution, a call will be made for holding the first democratic elections in the country. Subsequently the first elected government since the overthrow of the Taliban regime will be formed. For sure the success of the next steps require the Afghans to stand up against warmongers, whose interests are inherent in the continuation of fighting and ethnic clashes throughout the country. If the tribal council (loya jirga) has succeeded in its first assignment, it should exert big efforts thereafter. According to the constitution document, a presidential system in the country was approved, which means wiping out the idea of the return of monarchy. The document also approved the appointment of two vice-presidents. This will provide the opportunity to a large number of representatives of ethnic groups to assume important posts in the country. Two official languages have been approved for the country, which are Dari and Pushtu. Languages of other minorities will be considered in the areas where they are spoken. This is seen as a solution both satisfactory and acceptable to the different parties concerned."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

JAPAN: "New Afghan Constitution"

The top-circulation, moderate-conservative Yomiuri editorialized (1/6): "The adoption of a new, post-Taliban constitution by the Loya Jirga (Grand Council) has marked a new era for the war-torn country's transition toward national unity and reconstruction. The new constitution will also open the way for holding presidential and parliamentary elections led by a powerful U.S.-type president, which are a necessary political procedure for the inauguration of a full-fledged government in Afghanistan. The world community needs to continue additional assistance in promoting Afghanistan's political and economic stabilization."

"Foundation Laid For Afghan Reconstruction"

The liberal Asahi observed (1/6): "We are hopeful that under the new constitution, ethnically diverse Afghan forces will join hands to steer their nation toward national unity and reconstruction. Noteworthy is the strong authority that President Karzai will have to appoint cabinet ministers and command armed forces. Although Afghanistan's adoption of the constitution has opened the way for national reconstruction, the future of this war-torn nation is still uncertain. U.S. troops continue mopping-up operations against Taliban and al-Qaida remnants in the southeastern countryside, while the Karzai leadership relies on international peacekeepers to maintain security in and around Kabul. Afghan warlords continue to rule much of the countryside."

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

AFGHANISTAN: "Bullying Is Not Impartiality"

Kabul's Dari-language Mojahed commented (1/4): "Followers of the democracy-based systems claim that democratic rule should be impartial in order to guarantee free press and expression of views.... This is not how the bullies see it. During the Loya Jirga session, we witnessed that the bullies were trying to impose their views on the representatives. The representatives had to opt for silence or to comply with the decisions already made for them. We all know where all these decisions were made. To refresh the minds, the New York Times newspaper...reported that the United States was in favor of a presidential system...in order to strengthen Mr. Karzai's positions against his opponents. When the government's open interference in the Loya Jirga affairs peaked, Karzai, in a news conference, announced that only the presidential system would remedy all of the pains of the nation and he therefore was in favor of it and will not succumb to any compromise.... Karzai expressed his views with anger and threatening language.... Censorship applied on the views expressed in the committees during the Loya Jirga sessions were so open and scandalous that it even forced the Loya Jirga leadership to confess to such a reality.... The authorities who in the past two years complained that the rule-of-gun had barred normal political life in the country, have themselves opted for similar rule now.... Democratic rule can only be attributed to the government or any other institution if it refrains from resorting to force in order to restrict the social and political atmosphere, avoid causing divisions among the people, under various titles, and avoid resorting to illegitimate measures.... Otherwise, domination of the bullies will not leave much room for democracy to be experimented here. It is strange that the institutions who observe democracy and human rights here prefer to remain as the silent observers of this scenario."

INDIA: "Afghanistan Sits Down"

The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (1/3): "Afghanistan's loya jirga...was meant to unlock the doors to democracy.... While the key issues continue to be debated, it appears a final constitutional document that emerges would have a better chance as a blueprint for the future if it was informed by consensus rather than be pushed through with the means of a vote in the grand assembly which has a Pushtun majority. The consensus method may allow for greater political and social negotiations among the various ethnic groups."

PAKISTAN: "Afghanistan's Constitution Is A Good Beginning"

Lahore-based liberal English Daily Times editorialized (1/6): "While the Jirga may have sapped the energies of all concerned, it is but a small step towards the rebuilding of Afghanistan.... The constitution itself is unlikely to change the hue of forces in Afghanistan. But it was a necessary, though not sufficient, condition to move Afghanistan forward. That's where its significance lies."

"Passage Of The Afghan Constitution"

The Lahore-based populist Urdu daily Khabrain remarked (1/6): "Agreement on the draft constitution of our neighboring country Afghanistan--a country beset by external attacks and civil strife for the last two decades--is indeed a positive development. This would not only provide stability to Afghanistan, but would help improve its relations with the neighboring states."

"Afghan Constitution"

The centrist national English daily, The News observed (1/6): "Sadly, democracy does not provide instant linctuses to such crises. It functions with its slow plodding movement to gradually work out a solution rather than produce quick answers that are needed. But, then a powerful presidency is even worse placed. It will be unfortunate if Pakistan's dismal experience of the sixties with the concept of a strong center and strong president is repeated in Afghanistan."

"New Afghan Constitution"

An editorial in the Karachi-based center-left independent national English daily, Dawn took this view (1/6): "A constitution is a sacred document and reflects the desire of a nation to charter its destiny within the framework of the Basic Law. One hopes the elections due later this year will be held peacefully and the Afghans will be able to work the new constitution successfully and leave the era of war and fratricide behind."

SRI LANKA: "New Beginning For Afghanistan"

The government-owned English-language Daily News commented (1/6): "Afghanistan's Grand Assembly on Sunday adopted the country's first post-Taliban constitution with the majority of the 502 delegates approving a presidential system for the Islamic republic. The region, and indeed the world, welcomes this development in the earnest hope that democracy and stability would return to Afghanistan, which lost all democratic institutions and structures during the harsh Taliban rule.... The constitution aims for a clear break from the Taliban era, with religious freedom, free education for both boys and girls and government-sponsored health care. Women will have equal rights, including the right to work, which the Talibans denied. It does not appear to be a perfect document--some language and minority issues have not been resolved--but a start has been made.... Worryingly, sporadic terrorist attacks still take place in Afghanistan. The new constitution will hopefully unify all Afghans under one banner to counter such threats to democracy and enable Afghans to govern themselves without any outside help."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "Afghan Leap Of Faith"

The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (Internet version, 1/6): "In Afghanistan, nothing is easy. The Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, convened to draft a constitution for the war-weary country soon became a Loya Jagr, or Grand Slugfest, as fierce ethnic and religious disputes erupted during its deliberations. But the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has made its leap of faith, and President Hamid Karzai--who hails from the dominant Pashtun ethnic group--can now begin to sell the deal to 27 million fellow citizens. Karzai's success will ride in part on his ability to project authority and the rule of law beyond the capital Kabul. He must suppress a terror campaign by Taliban diehards and disarm ethnic warlords and drug barons who rule the countryside. He deserves Canada's political, military and economic support. Foreign donors have pledged barely a third of the $5 billion a year he needs to get a central government and army up and running. Yet no one will benefit if the place slides back into the anarchy that let the Taliban seize power and befriend al-Qaida terrorists. Afghanistan's new basic law provides for a strong presidency, and for presidential elections in June for the first time in 25 years. It also protects minority rights and the rule of law. These are welcome changes in an ethnically splintered land where warlords have held sway for ages. While Karzai got the strong presidential powers he sought, parliament can veto his ministerial candidates, impeach them and has a say in 'fundamental policies' and fiscal matters. This is a check on autocracy. Pashto and Dari become the official 'national languages,' reflecting the large Pashtun and Tajik ethnic minorities. But the Uzbek, Turkmen and Nuristani languages will be recognized where people speak them, easing tensions. And for the first time women have equal rights, including a quarter of the seats in the elected lower house. All this invites Afghans to pull together, after futile decades of pulling apart. And it invites us to help."

"Afghans' 'Big Tent' Produces Constitution"

The conservative Montreal Gazette commented (1/6): "That a bitter dispute over minority language rights almost derailed Afghanistan's attempt to write itself a constitution is something that will probably resonate with most Canadians. That patient negotiation and compromise ultimately triumphed, however, should resonate even more. Against all odds, this dusty, divided and war-scarred nation has taken an important step toward political stability and democracy, after 30 years of civil strife and warlordism.... In the end, the delegates' display of compromise and concession gave us all a lesson in ''big-tent' politics at its best. The meeting finessed the ticklish squabble over language rights... skated neatly around the religious issue by declaring Afghanistan would, indeed, have a civil law but that none of its measures would contradict the Koran...[and] addressed the grievances of such traditionally oppressed communities as the Uzbeks, Hazaras and Turkmen--and even settled some of them. That's not to say the constitution is without flaws. Women, unfortunately, still have a long way to go before they get back even the status they enjoyed before the rise of the warlords and the triumph of the Taliban. But they have regained some ground.... Not perfect by any means, but if the constitution gives Afghans a stable, democratic government, there will be plenty of time to make improvements. At the end of the day, however, a constitution isn't worth the paper it's written on if there's no political will to enforce it, or worse, if it's just a bit of fancy window dressing to impress outsiders. But there are reasons to be optimistic about this effort. To begin with, it does seem to be the product of serious, good-faith negotiations among a wide cross section of Afghans. And then interim president Hamid Karzai has shown himself to be a flexible leader with a strong commitment to constitutional rule. Still, Afghanistan will need help from abroad to develop viable democratic institutions, and Canada should be ready to do its part. After all, we have some experience in accommodating a multi-cultural society. And in the end, helping the Afghans would be a good investment. A stable, democratic Afghanistan is in everyone's interest."

"The Afghan Farce"

Editorialist Serge Truffaut wrote in the liberal Le Devoir (1/6): "Despite being kicked out only two years ago, the Taliban...were able to mold the first three articles of this Constitution conceived in chaos around the Koran. Just like Iran, Afghanistan will be a theocracy.... [Article Three] says that 'in Afghanistan no law can go against the beliefs and the regulations of the sacred religion of Islam.' Thanks to this article, militants with a strict interpretation of the Koran will have total latitude to conform new laws with the Sharia. Worst of all, this [constitutional] exercise was conducted under the aegis of the United Nations and more precisely of Lakhdar Brahimi, the special envoy chosen by Kofi Annan.... This means the UN supports the burqua and all its consequences. The Pashtuns have retaken many of the powers they had lost following the U.S. army-led offensive of December 2001. This return has been harshly criticized by all the ethnic groups that formed the Northern Alliance. The Tadjiks, Uzbeks and others have promised in barely veiled words that they would never allow the Pashtuns, Hamid Karzai's group, to spread their tentacles. In short, confrontations are to be expected. The history which began with the overthrow of the Taliban ended with a farce."

BRAZIL: "Afghan Law"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (1/7): "The two terrorist attacks in Kandahar yesterday are a gloomy demonstration of the challenges that still remain in Afghanistan. Before Afghanistan becomes the democracy some have hastily depicted, it will have to resolve the profound divisions that make the central administration little more than a political fiction. The problem is not only the Taliban.... The disagreements are at the very core of the President Hamid Karzai's government.... Despite the difficulties, it would be unfair not to recognize the new constitution as an advance.... The contrast is very strong when one considers the situation under the Taliban regime.... But there is a long way to go until what is on paper is put into practice, if such will truly be possible some day."

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