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Afghanistan's draft constitution comes under fire

By ANWAR IQBAL

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- An Afghan commission charged with drawing up a new constitution for Afghanistan completed Saturday the first draft of the document designed to bring stability to the fractured country.

The constitution was aimed at helping resolve rivalries between Muslim fundamentalist rebels who succeeded in forcing out Afghanistan's communist government earlier this year, but then began fighting each other.

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But hard-line mujahideen groups in Kabul quickly attacked the draft constitution, saying it favored the Jamiyat-I-Islami party and turned the prime minister post into a mere 'rubber stamp.'

According to Afghan sources based in Pakistan, the draft constitution, drawn up by a commission headed by Maulavi Ameer Hamza of interim President Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiyat-I-Islami party, aims to concentrate power in the presidency rather than the office of prime minister.

'We want a constitution which creates a balance of power between the president and the prime minister and not one that gives all the power to the president,' said a spokesman for Gulbadin Hekmatyar's hard-line opposition Hizbe Islami party.

Under the April Peshawar Accord, which set up the framework for mujahideen rule in Afghanistan following 14 years of civil war, the presidency went to the Jamiyat-I-Islami party and the office of prime minister to the Hizbe Islami party.

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Hizbe Islami wants its nominated prime minister Abdus Saboor Fareed to be able to select his own ministers -- under the new constitution this right would fall to the president.

While the prime minister would be able to review the list, it could only change the executive line up after consultation with the leadership council which is now dominated by the Jamiyat-I-Islami.

'What power does a prime minister have when he can't nominate his own cabinet,' said a Hizbe Islami spokesman.

Jamiyat-I-Islami, however, said that if Hizbe Islami was given the right to select ministers, it would have an undue advantage over other parties.

Moderate mujahideen have suggested taking executive power away from both the president and the prime minister and giving it to a joint meeting of all mujahideen groups.

They said their scheme was the only way to avoid a possible clash over the new constitution.

Nevertheless, Hizbe Islami said the distribution of power was the only hurdle to the new constitution being approved. 'There is no difference over other issues,' a Hizbe spokesman said.

He said all 10 major mujahideen parties had expressed their desire to create an Islamic democratic government in Afghanistan, as proposed in the constitution.

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They also approved the proposal to create an Islamic society in Afghanistan, which was ruled for 14 years by a Soviet-installed Marxist government.

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