Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 292 - (26/04/05)
The great event in Central Asia today is of course the Tulip
Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. But it is not likely to be replicated in neighbouring
Tajikistan, where very different conditions prevail.
In Tajikistan, people are simply too weary from a seven-year civil war that left
65,000 dead and made 500,000 people refugees. They would be disinclined to make
any moves that could re-ignite the conflict.
What is more, the prominent opposition cleric, Said Abdullah Nuri, who holds a
great deal of moral authority in the country, would rather compromise than
restart a conflict.
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmanov held a corruptly run referendum in 2003 that
gave him the right to stand for two more seven-year terms. That ballot
reinforced, were that possible, the certainty that Central Asia's rulers are
intent on keeping their positions and have little desire to do anything other
than to pretend to transform those countries into genuine democracies.
In all five former Soviet Central Asian states, the presidents have used
referendums either to extend their tenures, enhance the executive's powers,
protect themselves and their families from prosecution should they leave office,
or all of the above.
With the exception of Tajikistan and now Kyrgyzstan, all of the republics have
had the same leaders since independence from the Soviet Union, and the
activities of opposition parties have been curtailed since the mid-1990s. Since
the presidents have all been in office now for over a decade, absent only of
course the Kyrgyz leader, Akayev, ousted in March, and still have time left to
serve on their current terms, there is more than a possibility that some may
remain in power for life by manipulating their constitutional systems. Not only
that but seeking to be the founders of dynasties that keeps hold of power after
they depart the scene, as if in a family business.
The price for ending Tajikistan's civil war
Ironically, the Tajik referendum came about as a result of Rakhmanov becoming
more secure in his position. Of all the Central Asian presidents he had been
most constrained in his actions by being bound by a power-sharing agreement with
opposition parties as the price for ending the country's seven-year civil war.
In comparison to his neighbours in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Rakhmanov
actually had to contend with opposition in the legislature and government
ministries. Peace, however, served him well. Without a civil war acting as a
common denominator for the various opposition parties' interests, the former
United Tajik Opposition (UTO) that united various factions during the war, soon
fragmented. Even the largest single party, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP),
under the highly respected Said Abdulla Nuri, split with some claiming he made
too many concessions to Rakhmanov and others arguing that it was better to make
concessions than restart the fighting. This was allowing Rakhmanov to slowly
lure people to his side, while removing those opposed to him.
Rakhmanov would place his new allies in government posts, allowing him to claim
he was upholding the power-sharing agreement, while people who did not support
him found themselves out of jobs. As the citizenry is simply war weary, there is
a higher tolerance level for such actions and little desire for fighting against
Rakhmanov is perceived as seriously trying to tackle some issues, such as the
country's serious drug trafficking problem. Notwithstanding which this country
is an essential stepping-stone to the illegal drugs highway from Afghanistan
through the mountains to Kyrghzstan and onwards to Russia and the west. Since
Afghanistan produces most of the world's opiates, and that this a trade worth
billions of dollars, far bigger than the economy of Tajikistan, it is hard to
believe other than that different tiers of officials must be being paid off, not
to intercept the north-bound supplies. Recently there was a big spat with the
Russian troops about border duty with Afghanistan, which the Tajik troops
insisted should be their prerogative. Cynics suggested that this was really
about who would get the fat bribes to look the other way when consignments of
drugs were crossing the border.
Rakhmanov is generally considered preferable to some of the other Tajik
heavyweight politicians, such as the mayor of Dushanbe. He certainly seems to
have a sense of humour. When taken to task by western journalists about
malpractice in their recent elections, he is reported as saying that, "you
must remember - we ARE Asians!"
Thus, the growing acceptance of his authority and quiet removal of the
opposition created an environment allowing Rakhmanov to hold his referendum with
its incredible 96 per cent turnout and 93 per cent approval rating.
The Tajik criminal angle
While the leaders in all of the Central Asian republics are widely seen as
corrupt in dispensing favours and aggrandizing themselves and their families,
Tajikistan stands out as having a more sinister criminal element involved in
heroin trafficking from Afghanistan in its political structures.
That element is the one with the resources, and it could use those assets to
gain the presidency in the country if that post should open up in elections,
which for the reasons above must be highly unlikely. Tajiks might in such
circumstances prefer to see Rakhmanov stay in office, rather than have some of
the less savoury criminal elements at the helm to make it into a flat-out narco-state.
Tajikistan may supply power to Pakistan
Pakistani Federal Minister for Water and Power, Liaquat Ali Jatoi, met his Tajik
counterpart, Nurmahmadov Jurabek, and Tajik President, Emomli Rakhmonov, in
Dushanbe recently, New Europe reported.
After the meeting, Pakistan and Tajikistan signed a memorandum of understanding
for sale of electric power to Pakistan and mutually beneficial cooperation in
the field of hydro-power development with emphasis on cooperation in high
voltage transmission lines. During the talks, Jatoi stressed that Pakistan
wanted to purchase 1000 million watt electric power, restore air links and open
land routes between the two countries as desired by the president and prime
minister of Pakistan. In response, Rakhmonov assured full support to sell power
to Pakistan, restore air links and open land route between the two countries.
Tajikistan, UES set up Sangtuda hydropower plant
Tajikistan's Energy Ministry and Russia's Unified Energy System (UES) signed
agreements recently to launch OAO Sangtuda Hydroelectric Power Plant 1, Interfax
News Agency reported.
The document set the open joint-stock company's charter capital at 100,000 Euro
of which UES owns 75% and the remaining 25% is owned by Tajikistan. Russia would
provide funds for the final stage of the construction of Tajikistan's Sangtuda.
The agreement on building the power plant, which has designed capacity of 670
megawatts, was reached in 2004. There might be some changes in the parties'
shares in the charter capital as they continue to invest in the project.