Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 301 - (30/01/06)
Russia is back
The US rapidly became interested in the back-of-beyond republic of Tajikistan
when it became clear that it was the key Central Asian state to assist in its
Afghan operations after 9:11. Dushanbe airport granted the US air force landing
and take-off rights, vital for provisioning forward troop deployment in
But Russia has never accepted that it should fall out of its sphere of
influence. Russia has announced an agreement under which Russian and Indian
troops would share an air base in Tajikistan. The base, located at Aini
(sometimes written as Ayni) outside the capital Dushanbe, gives Russia a second
military facility in Tajikistan, in addition to over 5,000 border guards based
Moscow has also announced that it is establishing a supply facility in
Tajikistan to make sure that its weapons sales to China are quickly serviced.
Post 9:11 success story
Things are looking up in Tajikistan, a rare occurrence in its part of the world.
The country sprang into prominence after 9:11 as in the frontline against
terrorism. The Taleban have been a godsend for the Tajiks, whose ethnic brethren
comprise the backbone of the Northern Alliance, the US's main ally in
There are still restrictions on political freedom, but compared with its Central
Asian neighbours it is showing a modest level of political maturity. Tajikistan
is trying to open its borders to serve as a new route for north-south trade,
while allowing Islamists and Communists to sit in Parliament.
This is the more remarkable in that the republic was torn by civil strife in the
immediate aftermath of independence. In 1997 the United Nations brokered a peace
deal to end a four-year civil war that had claimed 50,000 of Tajikistan's six
million people. Western promises of substantial aid to help the country recover
never materialized. Grinding poverty and economic decline followed, with 600,000
Tajiks leaving to seek work in Russia. The local drugs mafia traded heroin
freely with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Economic recovery in full spate
All that is now in the past, and Dushanbe, the capital, is showing signs of
prosperity. For the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union, people are
actually smiling, despite the shortage of electricity and the biting cold.
Tajikistan's economy is growing at the rate of 8 per cent a year, workers are
returning from Russia, foreign investment in the mining industry is up and,
since 9/11, so is Western aid.
Even though at least 100 tons of heroin still cross the Afghan-Tajik border
annually, destined for Europe, the government has sponsored a popular campaign
among mothers and teenagers to combat drug abuse - the first of its kind in
Central Asia. The United Nations has helped establish an antinarcotics unit in
the government, which is the least corrupt in the region. And the European
Union, the United States, Russia and China are helping to fund and arm a new
Tajik force on the Afghan border to keep drugs out.
Toleration of Islamicist opposition
Like other Central Asian autocrats, President Emamoli Rahmonov, up for
re-election this year (which is a certainty), has been castigated for unfair
elections and harassment of those who do not toe the government line, but he
tolerates a token opposition that includes members of the Islamic Renaissance
Party who fought in the civil war against him.
The Islamic Renaissance Party has two seats in Parliament and its deputy
chairman, Moheyuddin Kabiri, speaks of an evolution toward a more Islamic
society, rather than a revolution, and sympathizes with the difficult balancing
act that Rahmonov has to manage. The other Central Asian states, especially
Uzbekistan, are livid that Tajikistan's president allows Islamists to sit in
Parliament - they are of course moderates.
"What is really making the rest of the world sit up and take notice, from
Brussels to Beijing, is Tajikistan's swiftly changing geopolitical
situation," reports Ahmed Rashid, the author of ''Jihad: The Rise of
Militant Islam in Central Asia,'' in The International Herald Tribune of January
"Tajikistan is landlocked, with China and Afghanistan to the south and east
and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to the north. For a long time Uzbekistan offered
the only trade route out to Russia and the West, but the Uzbeks have ruthlessly
mined the border, ostensibly to stop Islamic extremists but in reality to put
the pressure on Tajikistan to toe the Uzbek line.
"Now China has built a new road linking Xinjiang, its westernmost province,
with Tajikistan. That means a new trade outlet for Tajikistan. In addition, the
Americans are building a bridge across the Amu Darya River, which divides
Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
"Once the bridge is completed, China's new road will allow China and
Tajikistan to send goods through Afghanistan to Pakistan's southern ports.
Imports into Central Asia can also travel this new route. From Dushanbe they can
be distributed to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan and China.
"Tajikistan also stands to gain if regional trade increases. A new report
by the UN Development Program says that Central Asia could double its regional
trade by reducing artificial trade barriers and loss-making protectionism. That
would also help to lower the smuggling and drugs trade that accounts for 40 per
cent of Central Asia's economies.
"Meanwhile, the United States, Russia and China are vying for military
bases in Tajikistan. Rahmonov is playing his hand adroitly. The Russians have an
air base, and so does France, under the auspices of NATO.
"Tajikistan is still weak and poor, however, and will not be able to
progress further unless the political habits of other Central Asian leaders
change and the West is willing to be more liberal with its aid."
Work underway on bridge over Amu River
One instance of successful Western help is under way already. Work has been
started on a key bridge worth US$30m over the Amu (Oxus) River, linking
Tajikistan to Afghanistan, which should do a great deal to stimulate trade.
About 200 Afghan and foreign engineers are busy installing the bridge that will
connect Sher Khan Port on the Afghan side to Nizhiniy Pyanzh. It will serve as a
pivotal link between Central Asia and Southern Asia.
The 630-metre-long bridge, the biggest transit route between Afghanistan and its
Central Asian neighbours, will be built with US funds.
Mohammad Hasan Mustaqim, a senior official in Sher Khan Port, told Pajhwok
Afghan News that installation of the pillars in the middle of the river has
started and that work from the Port side would commence soon. The part of the
bridge from the Tajik side was near to completion, but the engineers on the
Afghan side were waiting for material, he added.
Security conference in Dushanbe
Tajikistan's rising importance in Central Asia was evident at the Forum for
Conflict Prevention in Central Asia, which opened on December 14th in Dushanbe,
with UN representative Vladimir Goryaev focusing delegates' attention on the
agenda, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported on December 15th. "As you
know we brought to the agenda very delicate and extremely important
issues," he said. "The issues related to coordination of international
cooperation with the Central Asian governments in combating extremism,
international terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime."
Yet two days seemed hardly enough to discuss such key issues among not only from
the region's five governments, but also from Afghanistan, the United Nations,
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO, and the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Sirojiddin Komilov, the deputy director of Tajikistan's Institute for Strategic
Studies, said cooperation among the region's countries was the key to resolving
security problems. "The creation of an effective mechanism of cooperation
for the peoples of Central Asia is of vitally important significance. And the
future of the region depends on this cooperation successfully becoming an
organic part of the region itself," Komilov said.
All speakers agreed that a mechanism for greater cooperation was essential to
security in the region. Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Haidar Rizo said
the problems under discussion had nearly destroyed his country.
"The one country that has suffered the most as a result of terrorism and
extremism and drug trafficking is Afghanistan. Afghanistan was hit at the very
base, destroying its lifeline, its infrastructure, economy, human resources and
its identity and place among the international community," Rizo said.
Kazakstan's ambassador to Tajikistan, Yerbol Shohimardonov, agreed that
terrorism, narcotics, and organized crime were the biggest threats to security.
But he said the vehicle for spreading these plagues was often illegal migration.
"Illegal immigration aids the spread of the narcotics business, the illegal
transportation of weapons and other forms of organized crime. Unfortunately, the
norms and national legislation of Central Asian governments are not harmonized
to take needed steps against illegal immigration," Shohimardonov said.
Uzbekistan, meanwhile, has recently been criticized for its tactics in fighting
terrorism that are perceived by many as excessive. But Uzbekistan's ambassador
to Tajikistan, Shoqosim Shoislomov, said one of the main obstacles between the
region's countries and the international community was the latter's failure to
fully understand the Central Asian region. "There are several international
organizations that do not always fully or deeply grasp the situation in the
region. They view our history, traditions, our customs and our respect for our
roots as being backwards, or representing a lack of desire to travel along the
path of civilization and embrace democracy," Shoislomov said.
Some of the delegates, notably Turkmen First Deputy Foreign Minister Iklimberdy
Paromov, used their speeches to tout their country's progress in eliminating the
problems being discussed at the forum.
At the close of the forum, Komilov, the director of Tajikistan's Institute for
Strategic Studies, proposed setting up a regional centre for coordinating
activities against terrorism. Afghan representative Muhammad Ibrohim Ghafuri
agreed with the idea and made a suggestion of his own. "The
countries-participants should prepare a list of terrorist and extremist
organizations active in their countries," he said. Ghafuri said such a list
would help regional governments identify potential threats not only to
themselves but neighbouring states as well.
But UN representative Goryaev said that by discussing such key issues, the
region is effectively taking steps toward resolving its security problems.
(Salimjon Aioub and Mirzonabi Kholiqzod of RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to
Dushanbe, Tehran study expansion of mutual ties
Visiting Tajik Parliament Speaker, Saidullo Khairullayev, conferred in Iran on
December 25th with Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, on expansion of mutual
relations as well as regional cooperation, IRNA reported.
According to the Iranian Information and Press Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, at the meeting, Mottaki expressed satisfaction over the peaceful
solution to Tajikistan's internal disputes which led to the termination of civil
war and said the two countries enjoy common interests and concerns.
Iran and Tajikistan have adopted a joint stance on many international issues, he
pointed out. Given the historical and cultural commonalties, he said as stated
by the president, the Iranian government is to study and remove existing
barriers to expansion of mutual relations. Highlighting the importance of
regional cooperation on the basis of ECO agreements, he said expansion of mutual
cooperation under ECO could lead to further expansion of economic relations
resulting in the restoration of stability in the region. Anzab tunnel, which is
scheduled to be inaugurated in the next Iranian year (starts March 2006), is
among the joint ventures between Iran and Tajikistan, he said and informed Tajik
parliament speaker of the latest stands taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran on
peaceful use of nuclear technology. Referring to the rights and duties of NPT's
signatories, he described their observance of obligations while being deprived
of their legitimate rights as "apartheid." Tajik parliament speaker,
for his part, lauded Iran's move for further expansion of all-out relations
between the two countries and said, "We are to benefit from Iran's
experiences in parliamentary affairs."
Iran to make more investment in Tajikistan
On January 4th a meeting was held between Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov and
Iranian Ambassador to Dushanbe, Nasser Sarmadi-Parsa. During the talks, Rahmonov
said that Iran has the potential to further invest in Tajikistan. At the meeting
he said that Iranian partners in Tajikistan are given priority. He urged Iran to
accelerate the projects currently underway in Tajikistan and its participation
in economic projects. For his part, Sarmadi-Parsa submitted the official
invitation of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Rahmonov for a visit to Iran.
After the meeting, he said Rahmonov was invited by his Iranian counterpart to
attend the second tripartite summit of the three Persian speaking countries of
Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan scheduled to be held in Tehran on January 17,
2006. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamid Karzai from Iran's eastern neighbour
Afghanistan and Rahmonov will focus on "boosting and elevating trilateral
ties" and "inaugurate the road link between the three nations,"
the source said. Iran and Afghanistan share a 945 kilometres common border,
while Tajikistan borders Afghanistan to the north. Sarmadi-Parsa said,
"While accepting Ahmadinejad's invitation, the Tajik president said that
his country is prepared to sign new economic agreements with Iran," added
Sarmadi-Parsa. He stressed that other items on the agenda included further
collaboration and more agreements in economic fields, in particular
construction, road building, setting up power plants and raising trade
exchanges. The last official visit of Tajikistan's president to Iran took place
in late spring of 2003, New Europe reported.
FOREIGN TRADE AGREEMENT
Tajikistan, Pakistan to sign trade agreement
Pakistan and Tajikistan will enter a preferential trade agreement (PTA) soon
and Islamabad has already sent proposals to Dushanbe, sources said recently. The
sources said that Pakistan had asked Tajikistan to finalise a draft PTA soon and
Pakistan is waiting for a response from Tajikistan, Irinnews reported.
Both countries believe that the agreement will boost the existing volume of
trade between the two countries. Both countries will hold talks to finalise the
PTA after Islamabad receives a response from Tajikistan. An analyst said that
increased trade relations between the two countries would allow the South Asian
nation to establish itself as a gateway for Central Asian trade and commerce.
Pakistan predicted that the trade relations with Tajikistan would be a source
for increased revenue and would also provide opportunities for central Asian
states especially Tajikistan to boost cheaper exports. Both countries have
announced the formation of working groups on countering regional terrorism and
The countries have also agreed to focus on visa facilitation, avoiding double
taxation, combating drug trafficking, improving education, judiciary, tourism
and cooperation between official news agencies.
The Pak-Tajik Joint Economic Commission has identified infrastructure,
manufacturing, textiles, cement, banking, oil and gas, capital markets,
scientific technology, tourism, mining, energy, irrigation and agriculture as
areas where the two countries can boost economic ties.
Pakistan will help Tajikistan to develop hydropower and irrigation and
Tajikistan is interested in cooperating in cement, cotton production,
agriculture and establishment of air links.
Pakistan and Tajikistan have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for
sale of electricity to Pakistan and mutual cooperation in the field of hydro
power development, particularly high voltage transmission lines. Pakistan will
buy a thousand megawatts of electric power and expressed interest to open air
and land routes between the two countries as desired by the president, Pervez
Musharraf, and PM, Shaukat Aziz.
Vimpelcom acquires 60% of Tacom for 12m Euro
VimpelCom (RTS: VIMP), Russia's second leading cellular operator in subscriber
numbers, has acquired 60 per cent of Tajik mobile operator Tacom for 12 million
Euro, VimpelCom said, New Europe reported.
Tacom owns national licences to provide GSM-900/1800, UMTS, CDMA-450 and AMPS
services. VimpelCom has concluded a shareholders' agreement with the owners of
the remaining 40 per cent of the company after it acquired its 60 per cent
stake. One of the shareholders is the owner and head of Orienbank, the largest
bank in Tajikistan. The shareholders' agreement also gives VimpelCom the option
to buy up to 100 per cent of the company from the remaining shareholders under
specific conditions that will allow VimpelCom to become the sole shareholder in
The price of using the option corresponds to the figure in the agreement, the
release said. Alexander Izosimov, chief executive officer of VimpelCom, said
"We are pleased that we are starting operations in Tajikistan. We will
develop and integrate Tacom into the Beeline network and use our unified
business approach. Given the latest economic performance of the country and
penetration rate of only four per cent we see good growth opportunities in
Tajikistan." VimpelCom has been expanding overseas recently in an effort to
diversify beyond Russia, where the mobile penetration rate is over 80 per cent.
It provides mobile services in Kazakstan and in November bought a small mobile
firm in Ukraine in a deal that was strongly opposed by Norway's Telenor, one of
VimpelCom's key shareholders. The VimpelCom Group's licence portfolio covers
approximately 200 million people. Geographically it covers 78 regions in Russia
(with 136.5 million people, representing 94 per cent of Russia's population) as
well as the entire territory of Kazakstan and Ukraine. VimpelCom was the first
Russian company to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange.