Thursday, November 13, 2003

CONSTITUTION BRIEFING: What follows is a transcript of a press briefing by Dr. Farooq Wardak, Director of the Constitutional Commission Secretariat, in Kabul last Sunday. It might be of interest to some of you.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to be with you. Thank you all for attending this meeting and thank you to UNAMA for arranging this facility which is one of the best to inform the international community about different important programmes, including the Constitution making process.

The draft Constitution was released on 3 November. So far, we have produced 7,000 official copies, of which 5,500 were distributed to the post office yesterday to be sent to all the provinces and districts. Each province will get 30 copies and each district will get 10 copies. Another 15,000 copies of our official publication, Asasi Qanoon, which contains both the draft and the report, will be sent out. Five thousand of these will go to regional and provincial offices and the remaining 10,000 will be distributed to embassies, ministries and different institutions. Another 100,000 copies are being printed which are in two sizes, a book size and a passport size. Out of this, 40,000 will be distributed by Killeed and Mursal, while the remaining 60,000 will be distributed by our own regional offices and the regional offices of UNAMA.

We have devised a comprehensive public education programme involving the offices of the Secretariat and the Commission. The Commission has assigned four committees, which are made up of members of the Commission. The first committee is media monitoring. This monitors all aspects of media reporting, collects information on the constitution, and briefs the Commission. The second is the rapid response unit, which explains the points that are under question or which need more clarity. The third is the writing of a book on the Constitution to orient the members of the Constitutional Loya Jirga.

The fourth committee, consisting of eight members, is responsible for going to the regional offices to educate voters during the election stage. Registration, which is the pre-requisite for the election, was completed on 5 November in all 32 provinces. This started on 21 September. So far, we have 73.2 percent of the voters registered and registration is taking place in our own offices and will go on up to five days before the election begins. This percentage that I have given you does not include data on Nangarhar, Kabul and Kandahar. It will be added later today to the percentage, which may then go up to 75 percent. Elections in two provinces, Badakhshan and Ghor, were already conducted and they went very well. Elections for special categories are going according to the timetable. Elections for women were completed yesterday for 15 provinces and in the remaining provinces it is on going. For the other four categories, such as refugees, internally displaced people, nomads and minorities, the election is going on in four different stages. The first is the composition of a national advisory committee, which is completed for all categories. The second is the identification of election zones for each of the categories as per the population of these people. Then there are phase one elections and phase two elections. A phase one election is an election for electors, and phase two is for the candidates. For all five categories, the first three stages have been completed, which means establishment of the advisory committees, identification of election zones and first phase elections. For some of the categories, the second phase of the election has been completed.

We have been faced with some problems, some intimidation and some security problems. I am sure you have been informed that in the Ghor election, a deputy minister of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was elected. We did not know that he was sitting and a functioning deputy minister. After it was noted, we had to cancel his election and the re-election took place the day before yesterday in a successful way. There were other security incidents, which have been tackled in
adequate ways by the office of the Secretariat.

If there are any questions, I would be more than happy to respond.

Question: What has been the most frequent question on the draft constitution so far?

Dr. Wardak: We have been getting two types of comments. One type of comment that we have been getting from the majority of the people is praise for the Constitution, saying that it is really balanced and takes into account the hopes and needs of Afghanistan today and in the future. And of course we are getting some negative views from different parts as you may know. From some parts of the country we are getting, for example, questions as to why Pashtu is not the
national language. And from some parts they want a restoration of the monarchy. And some other places they were going for federalism. These are the three major types of comments that we are getting.

Question: You mentioned the security problems in Ghor when the election had to be redone but I understand there was a more serious security problem in Badakhshan with physical threats against the candidates? Do you know anything about that?

Dr. Wardak: Nothing of that nature has been reported to us by the international observers provided by UNAMA and the non-governmental organizations. No one has formally reported any serious intimidation in Badakhshan. Rather everyone has been speaking about it very well and that it took place in a very peaceful environment.

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