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January 4, 2004
A Giant Step For Freedom

After teetering on the brink of collapse, the loya jirga in Afghanistan has almost miraculously reached agreement on a new constitution, giving men and women equal rights and striking a balance between a strong presidency and Parliamentary oversight:

Just a day after warning that the meeting, or loya jirga, was heading toward a humiliating failure, chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddedi announced that last-ditch diplomacy had secured a deal. ... The charter was amended to grant official status to northern minority languages where they are most commonly spoken, an issue which had brought the meeting close to collapse. ... After the new draft was circulated, the 502 delegates gathered under a giant tent in the Afghan capital rose from their chairs, standing in silence for about 30 seconds to signal their support for the new charter.

Is it perfect? Not really; Islamist factions insisted and received provisions for Afghanistan to be an Islamic republic and also got a ban on alcohol, but there will be no mullahs passing supreme judgment on government and no Shari'a. It's a good start, and especially since all 502 delegates in the end voted to support the result. That certainly bodes well for a country divided along tribal, religious, and ethnic lines for centuries. Most importantly, it appears to respect these demographic components and allow everyone to have a voice in a representative democracy, a far cry indeed from the days of the Taliban or the corrupt governments that preceded it.

A lot of work remains to be done in Afghanistan, but there is no doubting that the Afghanis can rise to the occasion. The ludicrous notion that this region is not ready for responsible self-government can be laid to rest in the near future and, afterwards, maybe President Bush can finally get some credit for freeing tens of millions of Afghanis from the brutal, oppressive rule of the Taliban and the exploitation of al-Qaeda.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 4, 2004 11:51 AM

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