London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr Adnan Pachachi has returned to London from Baghdad after participating in the extensive discussions held on the permanent Iraqi draft constitution. He described these discussions as detailed and diversified, indicating that the US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad participated in most meetings. He also talked about the most central outstanding issues. These include the implementation of the federal system of government in Iraq, particularly in the south.
Dr Pachachi said he participated in the draft Iraqi constitution discussions upon an invitation from President Jalal Talabani. He also participated in a meeting held by the heads of the political parties in his capacity as head of the Independent Iraqi Democrats. Jalal Talabani, Mas”ud Barzani, Iyad Allawi, Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim, and Majid Hamid Musa also attended the meetings.
Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat in London, Pachachi said: "I did not participate in my capacity as a Sunni Arab but as a representative of a secular liberal current that rejects sectarianism and ethnic division." He emphasised that US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad participated in most meetings "not with the purpose of putting pressure on any particular party but to bring views closer. He did not impose himself on our meetings, but we often called him in to act as a mediator between this and that party and help overcome difficulties and problems."
Pachachi added, "This does not mean that Khalilzad was completely neutral. He was interested in seeing the draft constitution done and sent to the National Assembly as soon as possible in order to prove that US policy has succeeded in Iraq. This is what he frankly said. He said the United States sacrificed many of its people and spent a great deal of money to liberate Iraq and establish a democratic system of government. Therefore, he said, we look forward to the success of this process. in all fairness, I must say that he did not impose himself on us."
According to Pachachi, "The draft constitution approved by the majority of the Constitution-Drafting Committee was presented to us. Bilateral talks were then held between the (Unified) Iraq Coalition (Shiite) and the Kurdish bloc to deal with some outstanding issues. We asked the Sunni Arabs (to participate). They were mostly represented by the Iraqi Islamic Party, the National Dialogue Council, and some individuals who introduced themselves as representing the Sunni Arabs."
On the points that needed much discussion, he said, "The issue of federalism. By this, I do not mean the federalism of the Kurds because they have their special status. Besides, there is a principle that has been approved by the Iraqi state since its inception. It says the Kurds have their special situation and must enjoy their rights because they belong to another nationality. In fact, they have been living separately from the state for 13 years. They have proven their efficiency in administering the Kurdistan region. Objections focused on the application of the federal system in the south and other parts of Iraq. This raised fears and problems. These are summed up in saying there is no need to discriminate between the governorates because all Iraqis in them are Arabs and no geographic, religious, or ethnic factors separate them. The majority prefer to apply the decentralized system after the Iraqis have suffered from the iron-fist hegemonic central system of government under the former regime."
Pachachi said "I believe that federalism unites disunited countries like what happened in the United States and Germany. This is the first time a united Iraq is exposed to division into federalisms. I repeat that I do not mean the federal system of the Kurds. The implementation of this system will be an element of division. This is what we fear, especially since the purpose of having federalism in the south is sectarian. The main problem is that a majority of the Iraqis feel that the Iranian influence is expanding in a serious manner, especially since some parties in power today have strong relations with Iran. There are fears that insistence on federalism in the south will give Iran a better chance to penetrate Iraq. It is important to note here that the Kurds have over the past 13 years gained political and administrative experience. Political figures emerged among them. They knew how to administer their region. This did not take place in the other parts of Iraq because everything was centered in Baghdad. If we apply the federal system in the southern governorates, a minority of unqualified people who cannot run the affairs of the country will assume power."
Pachachi added that, "The constitution is too wordy and there are more than 40 issues which need to be governed by laws. This means the form of the constitution will be decided in accordance with the laws which will be enacted and then discussed by the National Assembly before they are approved."
Pachachi stressed the importance of the next elections and stated that, "Whether this constitution is approved or rejected in the referendum, the elections will be held. The importance of applying the constitution will be defined by the implementation of laws that will be enacted by the new parliament (the House of Representatives). It will be a balanced parliament in which no faction can impose its opinion on the other factions as is happening now. Everything will be done on the basis of accord and resolution of sharp differences."
Pachachi pointed out that, "The meetings used to take hours and the leaders of the political parties and movements were careful to attend all these meetings. They included brother Mas”ud Barzani, who left his work in Kurdistan to participate in these meetings. Most of the meetings were held in his house in the Green Zone in Baghdad. He worked hard for the success of these meetings."
Pachachi indicated that the Kurds were more united and clearer in presenting and defending their demands than others. He added, "We have not heard them express different opinions, but there were differences in opinion between the Sunnis and Shiites."
He concluded by saying that, "The picture of the constitution will become clear when it is implemented in accordance with the laws that will be enacted. It will always be possible to amend the constitution as dictated by public interest. All constitutions in the world were amended at a certain point in time. The US Constitution, for example, was amended 26 times."