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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 14:34 GMT
Afghans to have Islamic republic
A draft Afghan constitution has been unveiled, setting out a new political system and defining Islam's role in the country.
Man praying in Kabul
Man prays in Kabul: Islam will have an important role

It calls for the creation of an Islamic republic, with a presidential system, and where citizens have equal rights.

The draft will be debated by a loya jirga grand assembly next month, paving the way for possible elections in 2004.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said Afghanistan needed stability and the new constitution was made with "the next 100, 200 years" in mind.

The ceremony came as a delegation from the UN Security Council toured the country to examine post-war reconstruction efforts.

The draft is based on Islamic principles and recognises that no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam
Commission statement

The delegation is the first of its kind to visit the country since the Taleban were ousted in 2001.

The UN envoys headed to the western town of Herat on Monday to meet Governor Ismail Khan who is often accused of ignoring central authority.

Islamic republic

The Constitutional Committee had been due to present the draft in September, but it was delayed for technical reasons.

The draft was handed over at a formal ceremony with Mr Karzai, former King Mohammed Zaher Shah and foreign diplomats at Kabul's Presidential Palace on Monday.

The 88-year-old ex-monarch said he hoped the new constitution "will direct people towards peace, security and democracy".

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul says, under the constitution, the country would be called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

There would be a presidential form of government, with a vice-president and a parliament with upper and lower houses.

Afghans would have equal rights, and there would be a drive to promote the education of women following their experiences under the Taleban.


"The draft is based on Islamic principles and recognises that no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam," the commission said in a statement.

Members of UN delegation with Hamid Karzai
Karzai (right) met the UN delegation on Sunday

Our correspondent says the draft makes no mention of sharia law.

The unveiling has been long-awaited by ordinary Afghans, lawyers and experts who have been debating the constitution's likely provisions over the last few months.

Hardliners have sought assurance that the constitution will not turn the country into a secular state. Others were pressing for the adoption of civil laws but in conformity with Islamic principles.

The international community wanted to see that basic human rights were guaranteed and the rights of women protected.

The constitution was drafted by the 35-member commission, which started work more than a year ago.

Hundreds of thousands of questionnaires were sent to communities around the country asking for their views on a new constitution for the country. Those who could not read or write recorded their thoughts on tape.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder
"It was the day Afghans had been waiting for"

Q&A: Democracy in Afghanistan
03 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Afghan draft constitution: Key points
03 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Analysis: Disarming Afghan militias
24 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Afghan women face 'daily danger'
06 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Profile: Hamid Karzai
24 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Afghans prepare new constitution
25 Apr 03  |  South Asia
Country profile: Afghanistan
22 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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