Sheesha: One of the dangers in Afghan society in a very prominent way is that the country’s political geography is at risk. It is the last linkage point in Afghanistan. That is, we have moved so far on a path that we no longer have a common culture, we do not have a common language, and we do not have a common national identity. All do not share national interests, and all do not share a national destiny. There is only one shared geography left. And the current situation created by the Taliban’s violence may also threaten this geography. One day we may reach a point where this geography will break, and you will face disintegration. How probable do you think this risk is in Afghanistan? If this danger becomes serious, how can we prevent it with a nonviolent civil approach, civil compromise, or creating links of human connection at the macro level?
Ahmadi: Well, first, I must say that if the war continues, it will intensify the danger you mentioned. Two things have caused the severity of this situation: A) the policy of the Taliban; and B) the intensification of war and armed conflicts.
Personally, before the Taliban came to power and ruled, I was not well aware of the feeling you expressed. I used to see most of the people of Afghanistan as one unit, and I said that these people could not disintegrate. The geography of Afghanistan could sustain. People are intertwined and have a lot in common in their lives. But the Taliban’s policies have emotionally, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically divided the Afghan people.
Let’s note that the wrong policy in governance scatters and disperses the people. It is the wrong policy that exacerbates the crisis. The conflict I mentioned has intensified as a result of the Taliban government. Hence, the policies of the Taliban will intensify this conflict, and if war breaks out, this conflict will intensify even more. We must unanimously say that there should not be a war in Afghanistan. But this desire and our ideal are not necessarily realized in the reality. We must choose the civil and nonviolent struggle so that war does not happen. Now, anyway, the war has happened on a specific scale.
Let me repeat that the issue you mentioned has two aggravating factors: Firstly, the policies of the Taliban, and secondly, the intensification of war and armed conflicts. These two factors lead Afghanistan to the same danger you mentioned. Nevertheless, I suggest we reconsider our views and behavior as soon as possible. In particular, the Pashtun elites need a deep and honest revision. I mean the elites who are Pashtuns, but they disagree with the Pashtun policies of the Taliban and consider it harmful to Afghanistan. The Taliban, who make mistakes or walk in the wrong directions, should be left aside. I am addressing the Pashtun elites outside the Taliban’s sphere of power. They should reconsider and agree with the Afghanistan people, with the country’s political elites, and join the political movements on national discourse and a shared national axis point. They should abandon all the traditional policies of the past. If they agree to a discussion on the axis of justice and fairness, comply with a fair scientific study and conform to a common national axis point, I am sure that Afghanistan will find its way out. In that case, the sense of solidarity and belonging will increase, the literature that reinforces this process will grow in society, and the notion of solidarity will come into existence. This approach and policy become an alternative to what the Taliban say and do. I hope the Taliban will also join in this process one day.
Sheesha: Doctor, for the moment, we have a semi-agreed-upon document, though symbolically, called the Constitution of Afghanistan. This document can probably be the ground rule which will help us reproduce a new social contract in the country or to connect these disjointed fabrics in one place. For a mutual ground to stand on, we need a central or mother document, the Constitution of Afghanistan. This document contains some fundamental civil and democratic values. For example, a government that can have an inclusive structure, have democratic exercises, and give room to mechanisms to monitor power and ensure the check and balance in the system, or at least provide the grounds for power distribution. You were once a member of the Independent Commission for Monitoring the Implementation of the Constitution. In the past twenty years, because of your official and practical positions and roles, you might have noticed some gaps in this legal document which finally turned the government into the most corrupt or inefficient administration. After twenty years, the government and people fell into the grip of indiscriminate violence, which was more severe than the violence of the pre-law period. If you wanted to list some of the most critical loopholes in the Constitution that made this law ineffective and the political system ineffective, what were these loopholes, and how would you classify them?
Ahmadi: Before I state the loopholes of the Constitution, I want to say another point as a preface. Unfortunately, Afghanistan’s economic, cultural and political infrastructure is insufficient to create a successful system in the country. Even if we wish to have the best Constitution, it is still unclear whether it can succeed with these political and cultural infrastructures. I say this because we do not have an institution that can manage the processes and have acted poorly in creating such an institution.
For example, the Independent Election Commission is an institution that monitors and leads a process. Similarly, the independent judicial system effectively monitors and reviews the proceedings. We have a problem in creating these institutions. We have a problem constructing political parties that organize people on the axis of thoughts, ideas, and programs. When we have problems in these areas, no matter how well our Constitution is in writing, it was not clear that it would succeed in these twenty years.
The most important thing is the lack of that sense of ownership that I mentioned earlier. When people do not have a sense of ownership towards the system or this sense is weak in them, the problem increases. The ordinary people of Afghanistan do not understand the difference between a democratic and a non-democratic system.
Considering these problems and claiming that if our Constitution were so and so, we would have succeeded makes our claim a little groundless. Based on these points, I would like to point out where the shortcomings of the Afghan Constitution were.
The first defect is in the presidential system, especially with the very high power of the president and the concentration of power in the presidential office. This concentrated power caused people to say in the last months of the government that it was a three-member Republic.
Another shortcoming is that there is no independent judicial process in our Constitution that guarantees the observance and implementation of the Constitution. There was no independent judiciary and process to ensure the performance of the Constitution. The Supreme Court had a weak power in monitoring the laws, which could not create a judicial guarantee for implementing the Constitution. We needed to form a Supreme Constitutional Court. There is a constitutional court in Indonesia and Turkey at the level of Islamic countries and in Germany as one of the western countries. These courts ensure a robust judicial process to enforce the Constitution.
The third shortcoming is that we do not have local governments in our Constitution that are responsible and accountable to the local people. Instead of representing the people and being accountable to the people, the local administrations were representatives of the president in the Palace. For this reason, we need a transparent, responsible, representative local government. There was no such thing in our Constitution.
In my view, the fourth shortcoming is in the definition of national symbols. Afghanistan’s Constitution has defined the national identity based on the same doctrine I mentioned earlier as the postcolonial nationalist ideology. The Constitution is out of balance in this area and has not relied on a comprehensive national identity. In particular, we have a problem in this field that was unnecessary. For example, the Constitution says that every person in Afghanistan is an Afghan. It was not necessary to highlight a title with ethnic roots and descent. In practice, it became the source of creating problems for us and weakened our cohesion. We could write that everybody who has the Afghanistan nationality who is the citizen of Afghanistan.
Regarding language issues, we have maintained the superiority of the Pashto language in the Constitution, which manifested the same policy adopted during Zahir Shah’s dynasty based on ethnic nationalism. We should have removed these defects in the new Constitution. But we kept them, which also created a problem and needs a fundamental change in the future. Persian is an interethnic language and should return to the same place it had during Amanullah Khan and Nader Khan until to 1964. The Persian language has a rich literary history and is the cultural pride of Afghanistan. It should have its place in the Constitution. We should also strengthen other languages and take coherent and scientific programs for their development. By amending these defects in the Constitution, we will find more coherence.
Sheesha: In your words, you emphasized individuality. The civil democratic system lies in individual rights. The individual’s rights are the same as the human rights we are discussing now. Human rights are the rights of a human being, which are indivisible. In your opinion, were there any gaps and deficiencies in the Afghan Constitution in providing human rights? Or do you think the Constitution has any flaws in this regard?
Ahmadi: Regarding human rights, the Constitution has been drafted well and has worked well. With the current cultural situation in Afghanistan, there is no problem with the provision of individual rights in the Constitution. However, as I said before, in protecting individual rights, we need a judicial system that creates a kind of judicial guarantee to observe, safeguard and secure these rights. This point is significant, and we, unfortunately, face the lack of this in Afghanistan.
Guaranteeing individual rights within the framework of institutions is achieved in two ways:
A) through the Constitutional Court. If you want to defend the fundamental rights of citizens at the constitutional level, the Constitutional Court can play this role. Courts and tribunals do not use articles of the Constitution directly. They usually use ordinary law instead and create judicial guarantees to enforce ordinary laws. Still, the fundamental rights of citizens, stipulated in the Constitution, can be defended at two levels: at a level where they appear within the framework of ordinary laws. In other words, for those rights to enjoy some guarantee and to be observed and implemented, we will enact and enforce the relevant laws in line with the implementation of those fundamental rights and create a kind of judicial guarantee, which is a way to secure people’s rights.
B) The second way is to create institutional guarantees for the implementation of the fundamental rights of citizens. for example, when the government ignores them in its practice, when lawmakers ignore them from their legislative authority or enact a kind of law that violates the fundamental rights, or when someone violates them in the implementation stage, we need the Constitutional Court to protect the constitutional rights. Citizens should defend themselves at that level, and every citizen has the right to protect their rights before that court. The constitutional court must have broad power to provide every citizen with due protection. We see such courts in Indonesia and Turkey and in Germany. We need this kind of judicial system in Afghanistan too. We should be judicially strong. Judicial independence must also exist, and our judges must know people’s fundamental rights. The legislature must enact laws to ensure citizens’ fundamental rights. We have been weak in all these areas in the last twenty years. Our judges did not have a strong understanding of the fundamental rights and could not interpret and apply the laws in this direction. We did not have a constitutional court. For this reason, we did not have a judicial system that could defend the fundamental rights of citizens.
There was an idea that it had to be completed and could be modified. After all, this was our weakness for the last twenty years.
Sheesha: Doctor, we have reached the end of this conversation. Suppose there is a movement in the society that adopts the theory of nonviolent civil struggle as an alternative option against the traditional and common approaches in the community. If the organizers of the movement are those who pledge to carry out the same course and work to realize it in society, where do you see the place of Dr. Amin Ahmadi in this movement? And what commitment do you take to manage, promote and strengthen this movement?
Ahmadi: I am just an ordinary member of this society. I try to be a writer and a teacher in this field. I wish to be a teacher to help this perspective be well understood, scientifically and practically, with its various dimensions.
Let’s put our honesty and goodwill towards everyone, the Taliban and non-Taliban, at the forefront of our activities and plans.
One of the characters whose book I translated, named Michael N. Nagler, narrates a hadith from the Prophet of Islam. This person is a Christian but has acquired Buddhist/Hindu tendencies. In some places, he has said that I am a Hindu, but I was not born in a Hindu family. This person is immensely interested in Eastern religions and has studied these religions. Islam and its rules are vital to him. I could not find the hadith he narrated in Islamic sources. The hadith he narrates is that the Companions asked the Prophet whether they should help everyone. The Prophet replied: Yes, help everyone, even the oppressor. Companions once again asked how they could help the oppressor. A tyrant who is a tyrant, and if they help him, will it not be an evil act? The Prophet said no, help the oppressor to prevent his oppression. When you stop the tyranny of the oppressor, you have helped him.
We should try to make it a dominant view that everyone is human and changeable. No one is a demon. If this view becomes a common belief, there may be a change in the Taliban’s perspective too. They may also understand that no one is a demon and that we can all live together and have common ideals. I hope that they will also reach this conclusion.
Sheesha: How optimistic are you that the Taliban will respond positively to your voice? Do you believe that someday they will conclude that when someone is ready to accept them as a reality of the country, they should also admit him as a reality and enter into an equal conversation with him? I want to know how optimistic you are about the Taliban.
Ahmadi: Based on the fact that humans are fundamentally changeable and the possibility that the all-encompassing spirituality in the world will permeate the mindset of the Taliban, I am not very pessimistic. Because the Taliban are religious people, and if the religious motive in their perspective changes positively, their attitude and behavior will also change. For now, this motive is in their mindset in its destructive form. Does that shift in their motivation take place? I hope so. But this change requires social pressure. The realistic point of view is that no fundamental change has come about without the power of the people, without the balancing force that the people create. The power of balance created by people can cause the inner layers of Taliban to change as well.
Sheesha: Thank you, Dr. Ahmadi, for your time.
Ahmadi: Thank you, and I send gratitude to the souls of all those who died in the cause of equality and freedom in Afghanistan, especially the oppressed soldiers of Afghanistan in the last twenty years.