Karzai calls for consensus after boycott

KABUL: President Hamid Karzai yesterday called on hundreds of delegates who have boycotted a vote on the country's first constitution to work towards consensus, in a move aimed at dampening bitter ethnic rivalries. 

“The purpose is to have a constitution that reflects the views and considerations and interests of all the people of Afghanistan. 

“Therefore, it is important to have a constitution that comes with near consensus, if not total consensus,” Karzai told reporters at the presidential palace. 

“That's why we delayed the meeting yesterday so that we find out what's going on, why are some people refusing to vote, how can we resolve that in order to find a solution that is acceptable to all and a constitution that reflects the whole of this country,” he said. 

Karzai said progress had been made in discussions with delegates, some of whom on Friday met with United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. 

“A lot of solutions have been found, there is one little thing that they are working on this morning,” Karzai said. 

After nearly three weeks of heated debate, just around 259 of the 502 delegates took part in a vote Thursday on five contentious articles in the draft constitution. 

The boycott forced an adjournment of the loya jirga, or grand assembly, which has been dubbed the “loya jagra” (“big fight”) by some Afghans. 

Delegates from the Uzbek, Tajik, Hazara and Turkmen minorities refused to vote, worried they would be sidelined under the proposed constitution, which has been largely supported by the Pashtuns who account for around 40% of the country's multi-ethnic population. 

They also said the amended draft had been altered and did not reflect the findings of a delegates' committee that finished work on the draft last weekend and was supposed to have reconciled the views of supporters of the proposed presidential system and those who want a strong parliament. 

Uzbeks and Turkmens have called for their languages to be given official status alongside Dari and Pashtu and want articles on the national anthem and official languages to be agreed by consensus rather than put to a vote. 

They and other delegates, including members of powerful mujahidin (anti-Soviet fighter) factions who favour a parliamentary system, have also called for provincial councils to be given more authority in the face of a powerful central government. – AFP  

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