Afghanistan is looking for a new national anthem that the government hopes will bring harmony to the country after nearly three decades of conflict.

A panel of poets, writers and musicians tasked with writing a new anthem after seeking the views of all ethnic groups released a draft this week for public comment.

The current anthem -- a jaunty, martial tune -- is sung in Dari, the language of the Tajiks who made up the bulk of the Mujahideen government that came to power after the fall of the Moscow-backed regime in 1992.

But many Afghans feel the lyrics -- which praise the Mujahideen for defeating the Soviet Red Army -- are now outdated, and they want something more broadly nationalistic that would bring together the country's varied ethnic groups.

Afghanistan had no national anthem from 1996 to 2001 under the Taliban, who banned all forms of music as un-Islamic.

The subject of a new anthem caused heated debate and deadlock at a Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, in early 2004 which drew hundreds of delegates from diverse ethnic groups to approve a new constitution.

Government officials say the language of the new anthem, as outlined by the constitution, should be Pashtu -- the language spoken by the largest ethnic group and the country's traditional rulers.

The new draft anthem includes names of more than a dozen ethnic groups living in the deeply conservative Islamic country and the words "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest).

"This country is home to everyone," one line says.

Law professor Nasrullah Stanekzai at Kabul University said a final draft would require government approval.

"Any proposed alteration on the content of the anthem would be presented to the cabinet for deliberation and changes will appear if they are fair," he said.


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