ALRN Roundtable explores the prospects for constitutionalism and adjudication in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

Contributors to the Afghanistan Legal Research Network (ALRN) offered analysis and new perspectives on constitutional adjudication in a changed country.

On 14 December 2022, the Max Planck Foundation hosted its latest ALRN event, bringing together an interdisciplinary set of Afghan and international scholars. The proceedings served to investigate the standards, approaches and practices of adjudicating higher norms by Taliban justices. A second panel of scholars questioned the potential of present practices of review and whether these might transmute into constitutional adjudication that will come to limit the rulers’ unchecked powers.

The first panel critically examined the purported stringency of Islamic review under which the laws of the defunct Islamic Republic, many of which are vocally opposed or dismissed by the new rulers, shall be scrutinised for their compliance with Islamic law. Present practices reveal that review is of little coherence and a long way removed from the proclaimed overhaul of Afghanistan’s legal order, leaving in its wake legal vacuums and a diminished sense of legal certainty.

The speakers of the second panel moved one step further with a discussion of the norms relating to the exercise of public power which are so broadly shared in Afghan society that their violation would be invariably detrimental to the rulers’ legitimacy. Discussants questioned but ultimately affirmed the possibility of an effective consensus; yet, the argument was made that amidst the legacy of decades of violent confrontation and group marginalization, broad-based investment in a new normative compact could only be won if it were accompanied by more tangible manifestations such as quotas and power-sharing arrangements.

The proceedings were part of a series hosted by the Afghanistan Legal Research Network at the Max Planck Foundation.