Friday, November 14, 2003

ALL HAIL THE NY TIMES: A standing ovation for the New York Times, please. The paper has been notably absent on the Afghan front and they haven't been the only one. In Saturday's edition we find an excellent op-ed by Nicholas Kristof. I was ready to fisk it, but Kristof got everything right. The second op-ed focuses on the draft of the new constitution. It addresses " troubling aspects" and I tend to agree with some of the points.

[I]t says the members of the Supreme Court should be educated in either civil law or Islamic law, a provision that raises the possibility of more judges who base their rulings on the Koran rather than civil law. Finally, although women would become part of the government, there is no separate acknowledgment of rights for women, a basic need for a country with Afghanistan's painful history.
I already touched upon the Supreme Court, not because it bases rulings on the Qu'ran but since it has the ability to interpret the laws coming out of the Parliament.

The previous Afghan constitutions have basically said the same thing about women rights as this draft--nothing. They all speak of the rights of the "people;" not male or female. So I'm not quite sure if it would be feasible to be inserted in the final version.

One other thing I what bothered me was the degree of power that has been given to the provinces and districts. Numbers of provinces or districts have not been decided. The draft establishes 'Provincial Councils' headed by a chairman. It is not clear whether this chairman is to take up administrative tasks of the provincial government or serves as a head of the legislature. For example, if he is given executive powers then he is practically the governor of the province. In this case he would be wearing two hats, which is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. If Provincial Councils are legislatures, then the document should say so and expound on their responsibilities. It should then define the executive power for the province as well. A better system of distribution of power would have been giving the provinces the right to elect their own executives and the Provincial Councils to serve as local legislative assemblies.


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