Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 19th, 2021

Amendments to Constitution – A Bone of Contention in Peace Talks

All in all, the peace process is thorny with many ifs and buts. The Taliban are likely to put amendment to the Constitution at the table in the latest round of talks as they will discuss the formation of the future system. But Afghan officials believe that opposing to the Constitution meant to cause the collapse of the system.
Afghan officials, political figures, and peace negotiators are said to have agreed over preserving the Islamic republic system and persisting on ceasefire agreement despite having diverse views on some issues. The Taliban seem ambivalent about declaration of ceasefire since there is disagreement between their leadership and military commanders and willing to start discussion with “division of power” and Afghanistan’s future administration. Hence, there will be tough confrontation and bargaining.
Afghan Constitution had been approved with the participation of all segments of the society, including prominent clerics. The people of Afghanistan and the international community support the Constitution, which forbids racial, sexual, and religious discrimination, ensures women’s rights and freedoms, and recognizes the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Referring to Article 3, which says, “No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan,” Afghan clerics confirm that the Constitution was approved based on Islamic tenets. In other words, the current Constitution contains Islamic tenets which are in reconciliation with democratic principles and human rights discourse. It will be possible only on the basis of moderate interpretation of Islam.
Protecting and respecting the rights and freedoms of women are supported by both Islamic tenets and international instruments.
It is important to note that bringing amendment to human rights issues will be permitted only to improve them, based on the Constitution, and no individuals or parties have the permission to amend the constitutional human rights and freedoms in a bid to restrict them. Article 149 stipulates, “The principles of adherence to the tenets of the Holy religion of Islam as well as Islamic Republicanism shall not be amended. Amending fundamental rights of the people shall be permitted only to improve them….” 
Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, a member of the Afghanistan negotiating team, said that the Taliban refused to present for a debate or discussions on media about religious beliefs and Islamic tenets. He said the Taliban have capitalized on religious terminology as they pursue their political objectives, masked in religious narratives and sentiments. With this in mind, it is predicted that the Taliban group will propose amendments to the Constitution to portray that it has Islamized the system, once the amendments are made. Personally speaking, the Taliban seek to sell their statements that the current system of Afghanistan is not Islamic, as they have claimed, and amendments, whether minor, to the Constitution will tell their militant fighters that the Taliban reformed the system/Constitution and reconciled it with their ideology, for which they fought for years. That is, the Taliban leadership is likely to relay a message to their military commanders and rank and file that it would sign an agreement with the government, which was in reconciliation with the Taliban’s ideology after “Islamization” and their “jihad” bore the desired result. In short, the Taliban leadership used its military commanders and rank and file as pawn in battlefields for years and now fear that if it does not persuade them to support the leadership in its decision, they may turn their guns against their leaders. 
Many believe that it will be hard for the Taliban leadership to deal with multiple pressures. Afghan people and international community call on them to declare ceasefire, Afghan clerics and Ulema Council and some Islamic institutions from around the region condemn the Taliban’s acts of violence and bloodshed, and their military commanders do not show willing in declaration of ceasefire. With this in mind, if the Taliban leadership does not manage to deal with these issues, peace talks are likely to be deadlocked.
It is self-explanatory that the Taliban have to declare ceasefire so that the peace process could move forward. The negotiating sides need to bring down their expectations and find common grounds.
Afghans also expect the Taliban to moderate their views so that they could reconcile with current values and traditions of the society as well as Constitution’s fundamental principles. That is, radical ideology and discriminatory worldviews will be neither acceptable to people nor in harmony with national laws. If the Taliban believe they represent Afghan people, as they claim, and want the society’s progress, they have to agree with conducting referendum about the kind of political system people want and support. In another item, if the Taliban do not seek to monopolize power, they have facilitate the public participation through referendum in social and political activities. To conclude, signing an agreement without the public consent or seeking to impose one’s will on the society will not be acceptable and likely to result in further turmoil and instability.