Religion and modernization have beencontrastingly woven in and out of Afghan political yarn, through the last century. What has been upended at each twist of the braid, has been the state’s relation with religion and its people. This question will be foundational in determining the success of the Afghan peace process as both sides sit down to share the same loom. Afghanistan underwent its first centralization process under Amir Abdurrahman (reigned 1880-1901) – a brutal campaign to bring the different ethnic and religious entities together under a state run justice system. In a first, since the Ottomansattempted such a modernistic move, Hanafi interpretation of Islamic sharia was codified to serve as the official Law of the land. The ulema, or Muslim clergy, were provided standardized state authorized laws and procedures to curb their independent authority and some laws to protect woman were passed. However, jihad against the British imperialists was proclaimed – an act which granted tremendous political power to religious groups, just as it would do a century later, against another aggressor. In the period 1919-1929, the monarch, King Amanullah, embarked upon an overly ambitious secularization programinspired by Mustafa Kamal. Islam remained the official religion of the country but all references to Hanafi fiqhwere eliminated from the Constitution. All citizens were declared equals before the law and the first Afghanistan’s Criminal Law was laid out, taking the matter away from the hands of the clergy. Woman’s emancipation went beyond just legal reform:in a cultural shift, woman in Kabul attired indistinguishably from their western counterparts and went to school even in rural areas. For the first time in history, Shia jurisprudence is recognized and all citizens are declared equal before law, irrespective of religion, gender or ethnicity Amanullah was deeply swayed by the westernized and liberal philosophy of his foreign minister, Mahmud Tarzi, and the love of his wife, Queen Suraya, Tarzi’s daughter. However, in a society deeply entrenched in traditionalism, the culturally intrusive and authoritarian revolution caused widespread outrage which the rural mullahs channeled into a revolt against the monarchy. Amanullah had to abdicate and seek refuge abroad with his family. The next regime, in the 1930s, gave the mullah a foot in the door:theJamiat-al Ulema, a council of the clergy, was setup to oversee government affairs and legislation. Sufi networks too gained proximity to power throughplacements on governmental posts. Criminal and civil cases started being adjudicated in sharia laws while administrative and business matters were dealt through statutory laws. Despite Kabul University giving out degrees in both western secular law and sharia law separately, a degree from a governmental madrassa equally qualified one to become a judge. The liberal strandwound its way upagain in the 1960s. The 1964 Constitution only resorted to Hanafi fiqh where the statutory law left gaps and that too while remaining with in constitutional ambits.Also, an independent Supreme Court was giventhe power to review all lower court decisions as well as administrative authority over them. This effectively made Afghanistan a secular state, even while paying lip service to Islam. Secular education was promulgated, women were given voting rights, judiciary appointments were largely graduates of secular law and the cabinet was made accountable to an elected parliament. Modernization reforms have always backfired when introduced coercively instead of gradually. The gradual interlacing of progressive threads into the Afghan yarn had led to women working in public administration, judiciary and education, albeit rarely in high positions.But in late 1970s, the soviet influencedDaod Khan regime (1973 -1978) undertook an aggressive socialist revolution encompassing land reforms, compulsory education and womans emancipation; when officials in Kunar Province faced resistance to an educational program, binding on all women, hundreds of people were slaughtered in one night. Daod Khan had declared Afghanistan a democratic people’s republic and introduced a modernistic Civil Code, that banned child marriages, forced marriages and the traditional practices of Baad and Badal. The fact that almost 40 years later, in the post-Taliban era a similar law couldn’t garner parliamentary support and had to be passed through a presidential decree, shows the extent ofoutrage it must have engendered, back then too. The uprising of religious groups,who called themselves mujahedeen, against Daod Khan,continued during the successive socialist regimes of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) as well. They were spurred on by anti-Soviet international sponsors. During the PDPA rule, reforms focused on material empowerment of woman by improving their work place conditions and education accessibility and courts refrained from moral policing. The 1979 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan became a vehicle for the militant religious groups to finally be able toimplement their ideological systems. In the wake of the invasion, came massive foreign aid to the mujahedeen, to fight the Soviets. In case of Saudi Arabia, the aid was packaged with conservative Wahabeism. When the Soviets withdrew in 1992, the mujahedeen overthrew thereconciliation government under Najeebullahand declared Afghanistan an Islamic republic for the first time in history. Their leader, Burhan Uddin Rabbani applauded the uprooting of the ‘atheist’ regime and the imposition of veil restrictions on woman. The ‘debauchery’ of schools and work places of all kinds was decried and for the first time Supreme Court decree to prosecute ‘run away’ women introduced(women leaving house without a direct male relative), a practice that continues today. The cultural upheaval continuedinthe Taliban regime as well, till its fall in 2001. Although the Taliban barely touched the constitution, statutory law and Penal Code were relegated to insignificance in judicial proceedings, which were governed by the judge’s personal knowledge of sharia. Woman lived in complete curfew and HadoodOrdinance of public flogging and hangings exercised, unprecedented in Afghan history. The Taliban did uphold woman’s right to inheritance and imposed strict punishments for assault. In the post-Taliban era, Afghanistan has emerged as a democratic country.The 2004 constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan declares human liberty, freedom of expression and dignity as inviolable. For the first time in history, Shia jurisprudence is recognized and all citizens are declared equal before law, irrespective of religion, gender or ethnicity. However vestiges of past Islamization attempts and threads of conservatism meander onwards: the EVAW Law, meant to safeguard woman against traditional Afghan practices, failed to find traction with the Parliament; the Supreme Court remains a bastion of conservatism: its first Chief Justice, FazalHadiShinwari, had no more than a madrassa education to accredit him, and had close ties with jihadi elements. Theulema council, established during his tenure with in the Supreme Court, issued fatwas that horrified human rights advocates. Political expedience, back in 2001, led to the integration of former military commanders and warlords into the government. As the current peace process unfolds, the likelihood of emergence of a similargovernmental setup precipitates fears regarding its trustworthiness insafeguarding the civil liberties of the Afghans and enforcing a fair and humane justice system. The Afghans today show a propensity for both the socialist and Islamic pasts of the country: a democratic setup, albeit one based on Islamic principles, which overlooks the establishment of social justice and provides equal economic opportunities to all. This is the mandate for the two negotiating sides if they wish to give sustainable peace a chance. Whatever may be their outcome, the talks would make for an interesting study of religious and liberal braiding. The writer is a researcher at South Asian Institute of Strategic Studies (SASSI) University, Islamabad.