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TAJIKISTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 1,303 1,208 1,100 148
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 190 180 180 197
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Tajikistan

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
143,100 

Population 
7,011,556

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Tajiks 62.3%
Uzbeks 23.5%
Russians 17.6%

Capital 
Dushanbe

Currency 
Tajik Somoni

President 
Emomali Rakhmonov



Update No: 310 - (26/10/06)

Incumbent President will be easily re-elected
Tajikistan's presidential election is due to take place on November 6th. There is little doubt of the outcome. 
Presidential terms run for seven years in Tajikistan and the presidency is all-powerful, as elsewhere in neighbouring Central Asia, except strife-torn Afghanistan, a law to itself. The incumbent president, Imomali Rahmonov, is a reasonable man, who tolerates a certain degree of opposition. Still, he does not believe in Tajikistan having too much of a good thing in that regard.
The Tajik Central Election Committee announced on October 4th that the president has already handed in the required number of signatures to be registered as a candidate in November's presidential election. According to election regulations, candidates must gather signatures from 5 percent of eligible voters in the country, meaning each presidential hopeful needs 160,000 signatures. Rahmonov reportedly had more than 510,000. 

Constitutional Help 
Ashurboy Imomov is the chairman of the Social Committee for Democratic Process and a law professor. He is also a former chairman of Tajikistan's Constitutional Court. He said legislation has been approved that helps Rahmonov stay in office.
Amendments to the constitution in 2003 gave Rahmonov the chance to run for two more terms in office, meaning he could be Tajikistan's president until 2020. But Imomov warned that the country could find it difficult to replace Rahmonov if circumstances arose that required a new leader. 
"Here I see one deficiency in democracy [in Tajikistan]," he said. "It is that when a society places a leader on a pedestal, this leader believes that there is no one else but him and that society cannot name another leader." 

A Foregone Conclusion? 
Only one other candidate of the five who intend to compete against Rahmonov has thus far gathered the necessary amount of signatures -- Olimjon Boboev of the Party of Economic Reform. 
The process of verifying those signatures continued until October 12, but some feel the effort is a waste of time for Rahmonov's opponents. One of them, Saimuddin Dustov, is the chairman of the Information Centre for Democracy and National Progress, who made the following comment during a roundtable discussion. "Analysis shows that today the opposition political parties of Tajikistan do not have the strength to compete for power in Tajikistan and the upcoming elections will lack much enthusiasm because it will be an obvious victory for Rahmonov," he said. 
Many analysts have pointed out the general weakness of Tajikistan's opposition parties. Independent Tajik political analyst Saidahmat Qalandar said Tajikistan's opposition parties have failed to use the seven years since the last presidential elections to strengthen their positions. 

Opposition Called Weak 
"These still young and inexperienced parties and movements have had opportunities during the last seven years to present figures equal to Rahmonov's, but this has not been done," he said. "Our society does not know its leaders." In addition, some potential opposition leaders such as Mahmadruzi Iskandarov, Ghaffor Mirzoev, and Yakub Salimov are currently serving jail terms under criminal charges that supporters describe as trumped up. 
Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRP), was extremely well known in Tajikistan. But Nuri died in August, leaving a leadership crisis in his party. The IRP announced in September that it would not field a candidate in this presidential election. 
IRP member Zarafo Rahmoni was at the roundtable and conceded that Rahmonov's popularity makes him practically unbeatable in the November election. 
"The president of Tajikistan...can count on his popularity in society," she said. "All the movement and progress that has been made is related to the president. [Rahmonov's] popularity lies in this." 

Forget a democratic outcome
There are also those who feel the upcoming election, like those before them, simply cannot be fair. One such person is Dodojon Atovullo, a veteran opposition figure who is the editor of the opposition newspaper "Charoghi Ruz." Atovullo's extremely vocal opposition to Rahmonov has forced him to live in self-imposed exile in Moscow for years, but he keeps in touch with events in Tajikistan and participated in the roundtable via telephone. Atovullo said there are currently no conditions in Tajikistan that would give any hope that there will be a free and fair election next month. 
"I don't believe that in Tajikistan it is possible to have free elections because we know how earlier elections were conducted under Rahmonov," he said. "And what kind of presidential election can we speak of in a country where there is no freedom, no freedom of speech; where political parties cannot work freely and where the people are not free?" 
Abdulloh Qodiri is the head of the Tajik president's centre for strategic research. Qodiri said one should not compare the upcoming election to polls held in Western democracies, but rather admit that democracy in Central Asia is unique. "In the countries of Central Asia they have their own democracy and mentality and every election in this region differs from what is happening in European countries," he said. "Therefore, the election in Tajikistan will be held according to Tajik standards." 
There have never been more than two candidates running in a Tajik presidential race, and the initial field of six was bound to be reduced during the verification of signatures and other registration formalities. That is bringing comments from the disqualified candidates and their parties, but it is not very likely to affect the outcome, which seems to be a foregone conclusion. 

Five oppositional websites closed ahead of poll
The regime is taking no chances, however. Tajikistan's five oppositional websites were closed on October 14th. An official of the country's largest provider service Tajiktelecom Technology confirmed this fact in an interview with Itar-Tass on terms of anonymity.
The access to these websites was blocked at the order of the communications regulation agency at the Tajik Communications Ministry, the official said. Such decision has been taken "in compliance with a national concept of information security developed in 2003," the agency said in a statement copied to Itar-Tass.
"At present, the access to confidential information may be found and propaganda and agitation, fomentation of social, national, racial and religious hatred and hostility may leak through Tajikistan's Internet segments," the document said. 
The agency's authorities deem it necessary "to filter and block access to websites aimed at disrupting the state policy via information resources, and create all conditions for harmonious development of the republic's information infrastructure." This excessive wordiness and telling use of the expression 'harmonious,' is to make it clear that all media will be state controlled, and that all news therefore will be propagandised. 
Earlier this year, Tajikistan imposed a ban on BBC's broadcasting as it said it violated the country's effective legislation on foreign mass media' s activities in Tajikistan. The printing of a weekly by the oppositional Democratic Party was also suspended. 

Tajikistan's ambitious energy projects cause tension with Uzbekistan
Tajikistan's efforts to develop its hydro-power sector and to boost aluminium production are causing a spike in tension with neighbouring Uzbekistan. 
Uzbek authorities have used punitive measures of late to express their displeasure with existing Tajik policies, as well as future plans. For example, Tashkent is continuing to prevent the delivery of Kyrgyz electricity to one of Tajikistan's major industrial concerns, the Tajik Aluminium Plant, located in the southwestern city of Tursunzade. 
On September 28th, Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov sent a letter to the Uzbek government seeking to resolve the supply issue. Uzbek authorities curtly informed Oqilov that a response would not be forthcoming before October 9th, the Avesta news agency reported. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan cut off natural gas supplies to Tajikistan in late September, and wouldn't re-open the pipeline until Dushanbe repaid almost half of its outstanding US$4.5 million debt for earlier gas deliveries. 
Adding to the bilateral acrimony was a late September incident involving Tajik and Uzbek border guards. Tashkent accused Tajik border guards of opening fire on Uzbek forces "without warning," supposedly to protect a group of Tajik civilians trying to cross the border illegally into Uzbek territory, the AVN-Interfax news agency reported. The Uzbek soldiers were reportedly trying to take the Tajik trespassers into custody when the shooting began near the Khavast border post. The deputy chief of Tajikistan's State Committee for the Protection of the State Border, Lt. Gen Safarali Sayfulloyev, dismissed the Uzbek allegation as "not corresponding to reality," Avesta reported. 
Earlier, Sayfulloyev said Tajik border guards took an Uzbek soldier captive while disrupting an Uzbek effort to unilaterally establish a security buffer zone in a disputed area of the frontier. "This sort of border incident happens very often," Sayfulloyev told Avesta. Only about one-third of the almost 1,000-mile-long Tajik-Uzbek frontier has been demarcated. 
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have had a contentious relationship for years, driven in large measure by perceptions in Tashkent that Tajik President Rahmonov's administration was not strong enough to deal adequately with Islamic radicalism, which emerged as a regional threat in the late 1990s. As Central Asia's most populous state, and possessing the region's largest army, Uzbekistan has routinely bullied Tajikistan. But some regional observers believe the dynamic governing bilateral relations could shift significantly if Tajikistan manages to implement its economic development vision. 

New Energy Superpower
Over the past two years, Rahmonov's administration has made a major push to attract foreign investment to the power-generating sector. Russia, as the new energy superpower, has so far shown the most interest in investment, as part of an overall effort to re-establish Moscow as Tajikistan's chief strategic partner. Russian financial assistance will enable completion of the Sangtuda-1 hydro-power station on the Vakhsh River. In addition, the Russian aluminum-making conglomerate, RUSAL, signed a US$2-billion investment deal in 2004, under which it will finish the Rogun power station. 
Iran, which shares strong cultural ties with Tajikistan, is also contributing substantial investment. During a visit by Rahmonov to Tehran in early 2006, Iranian officials agreed to provide financing for the construction of the Sangtuda-2 hydro-power station. 
Interest in the development of Tajikistan's hydropower sector stands to grow significantly, given that Tajik electricity-export potential plays a central role in a US plan to forge stronger ties between Central and South Asia. 
Tashkent tends to view Tajik development efforts as a threat to Uzbekistan's leadership role in Central Asia. Water politics has long been a source of regional discord. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan provide the overwhelming share of the region's water, while Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are major consumers. An enhanced ability to harness its water reserves would potentially give Tajikistan considerable negotiating leverage in its dealings with Uzbekistan. 
Uzbek officials appear especially concerned over RUSAL's investment in Tajikistan. After the Russian conglomerate announced plans to modernize the Tursunzade aluminum smelter, Uzbekistan initiated a massive media campaign, complaining that effluvia generated by the Tajik plant was causing widespread environmental damage to Uzbek agricultural lands. 
Tajik experts and policymakers believe Uzbekistan's present move to disrupt electricity supplies to the Tursunzade plant is connected with a desire to hinder the facility's modernization. Many in Dushanbe also say Uzbek officials are exerting pressure directly on RUSAL to scale back the company's investment plans. They suggest that Tashkent may be behind a disagreement between Tajikistan and RUSAL over the height and type of the Rogun dam. Immediately following a meeting between RUSAL chief Oleg Deripaska and Uzbek President Islam Karimov, the Russian company revised its dam plans, saying it wanted to build a 280-meter-tall dam, instead of one 335 meters tall as originally projected. 

                                         ******
The following is a suitable commentary on the state of democracy in Tajikistan:-

Good-Bye, Democrats! Islam Karimov's Lessons for President Rahmonov 
by Alexander Sadikov 
On September 29th, the Ministry of Justice registered Masud Sobirov as chairman of the Democratic Party (DPT), thus adding another page to the Tajik government's record of marginalizing the opposition.
The story began in April 2006, when Masud Sobirov established "Vatan" ("Motherland") faction within DPT. Although seen by the DPT mainstream as an illegitimate splinter, Masud Sobirov explained his efforts as an attempt to rebuild the party's influence. 
One of the oldest parties in the country, DPT has been in deep crisis since early 2005, when its leader and main sponsor Mahmadruzi Iskandarov was sentenced to 23 years in prison on various charges, including terrorism and embezzlement. 
Since Iskandarov's arrest, DPT's aging leadership has concentrated its efforts on attempts to release him. Meanwhile, the party's political influence declined rapidly. During the February 2005 parliamentary election, DPT failed to make it past the 5 per cent threshold needed for representation in the parliament. Growing dissatisfaction with the DPT's low performance that emerged from inside was actively fuelled by the government. 
The consequent split within the party in April 2006 was thus to be expected. Unexpected though was the newborn faction's focus on contesting the DPT mainstream.
On August 27, Sobirov's wing held what they called an "extraordinary congress" of the party. Announced illegitimate by the DPT presidium and conflicting with the party's constituent documents, the "congress" named Masud Sobirov the chairman of Democratic Party.
Decisions of the "congress", with their legitimacy questioned by experts and lawyers, sparked intensive debate in Tajikistan. The shocked democrats were quieted by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which announced that the only chairman of DPT recognized by the state was its jailed leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov.

An official in the ministry was quoted as saying:
Current situation around the Democratic Party of Tajikistan is an internal problem of its members. Ministry of Justice is not in a position to resolve this problem.
MoJ's decision of September 29th to register Sobirov as the chairman therefore filled the mainstream democrats with indignation. 
DPT Presidium accused the ministry of illegal interference in the party's internal affairs. The party's deputy chairman Rahmatullo Valiev suggested that the MoJ's decision was prompted by DPT's intention to boycott the upcoming presidential election:
Someone "on the top" did not like our decision to boycott the election. This "someone" decided to debar us from political struggle and make Masud Sobirov chairman of the Democratic Party.
Just a week before the controversial decision, DPT Presidium announced that they would not field a candidate in the upcoming election. They criticized the government for election manipulation and suggested that the upcoming ballot would be "illegitimate and unconstitutional." Masud Sobirov, on the contrary, suggested that "his Democratic Party" would actively participate in the vote.
While some experts argue that MoJ's verdict is a punishment for democrats' unwillingness to take part in the election, this action was perhaps only modest part of Imomali Rahmonov's wider strategy aimed at marginalizing opposition parties in the country.
President Rahmonov, who has been consolidating his power since the end of the civil war, is very sensitive towards any attempt to ease his grip on power. Opposition parties were always perceived by him as a threat. However, close attention of foreign donors and international watchdogs made him tolerate the presence of opposition and maintain a vision of democratic institutions in place.
This policy has recently begun to change. Confronted with the need to tolerate multiparty system, 
Imomali Rahmonov realized that the authoritarian regime of his Uzbek neighbour Islam Karimov has much to learn from.
International observers describe Uzbekistan as one of the most authoritarian post-Soviet states. Uzbek government is known for absolute intolerance of any sort of opposition. Yet Islam Karimov tries to maintain the visibility of multiparty democracy by having five state-funded political parties competing for representation in the parliament. The only problem here is that all five are so called "pocket" parties controlled by Karimov, while truly independent political parties have never been able to register.
Uzbekistan's approach to the multiparty system represented by "pocket" parties must have had a great appeal for Imomali Rahmonov and approved for realization in Tajikistan. In autumn 2005, just months ahead of parliamentary elections, the Ministry of Justice registered two parties -Agrarian Party and the Party of Economic Reforms. These parties have never had independent capacity. However, similarly to Uzbek parties, they claim to represent the interests of farmers and entrepreneurs. Neither opposition parties, nor political analysts have ever doubted governmental affiliation of the both parties.
Rahmonov's new policy aims not only to create new parties, but also to transform the older ones. In June 2004, government's awkward interference led by advisor to the president Qurbon Vosiev fueled schism in the Socialist Party (SPT). Qurbon Vosiev and Abduhalim Ghafforov, public servants expelled from SPT in 2000, summoned an "extraordinary congress" of the party, which dismissed SPT's then-chairman Mirhuseyn Narziev and appointed Abduhalim Ghafforov instead. Officially registered by MoJ, Ghafforov's Socialist Party joined the club of organizations loyal to the regime.
The club also includes the president's People's Democratic Party and Communist Party, whose loyalty is rewarded with minor representation in the parliament. The new DPT will soon join the club, thus bringing its membership to six of the eight registered parties in the country.
The only remaining opposition parties - Islamic Revival Party (IRP) and Social-Democratic Party (SDP) - will not be able to contend Rahmonov's grip of power. But their presence will be appreciated by Rahmonov, who needs them to complete the picture of multiparty Tajikistan for international consumption.
There is another party that Rahmonov will never be able to control- the ill-famed Khizb ut-Tahrir. Though its members are still few and its impact on Tajikistan's politics minor, this can change soon, not least due to the regime's policy. Imomali Rahmonov will repeat Islam Karimov's mistake unless he understands that in a country where the political opposition is not allowed to operate freely, radical Islamic groups remain the only outlet for public discontent. 

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ENERGY

Central Asia declares itself a nuclear weapons free zone 


The five countries of Central Asia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have signed a treaty creating a nuclear weapons free zone in their lands. Semipalatinsk, the former Soviet nuclear test site in eastern Kazakstan, was the scene for the treaty's historic signing on September 8th, New Europe reported.
Under the treaty, the five countries have committed themselves to ban the production, acquisition and deployment of nuclear weapons and their components. The treaty does not prohibit the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. "This is our contribution to global security," Kazakstan' Foreign Minister, Kasymzhomart Tokayev, said. "It will become an impetus for the coordinated efforts of the world community in non-proliferation and prevention of the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. It will undoubtedly become an important step in the development of peaceful nuclear energy."

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

Document to promote SCO integration signed in Dushanbe 

Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, was on a two day official visit to Tajikistan to attend the fifth Meeting of Prime Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The Chinese premier's visit to Tajikistan, the first in past 14 years, will exert significant impact on the neighbourly friendship between the two countries, officials with the Chinese delegation said, Interfax News Agency reported. 
In a written statement delivered at the airport, the Chinese premier said that relations between China and Tajikistan have maintained healthy and smooth development since the two countries forged diplomatic relations 14 years ago. He said that the two countries have supported each other on major issues and cooperate with each other on international and regional affairs.
During the visit, Wen held negotiations with Tajikistan President, Emomali Rahmonov, and Prime Minister, Akil Akilov, on bilateral ties and issues of common concern. During the visit, a series of cooperation documents was signed, Chinese official said. In Dushanbe, Wen also joined leaders on September 15th from other SCO member nations -- Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan in the fifth prime minister's meeting of the regional group. The meeting discussed the consensus reached by the heads of SCO members at the June summit in Shanghai.
The prime ministers of SCO member-countries have underscored the need to further push for integration processes aimed at simplifying and relaxing administrative and customs rules regulating international transit via the organisation's member-states.
The heads of government said in a communiqué signed after their session on September 15th that they consider it advisable to speed up the drafting of an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs issues and to hold a session of the SCO's customs service heads within the set timeframe. There is also a need to continue work on an agreement between the organisation's governments to encourage and mutually protect investment, based on the experience of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in this area.
The SCO prime ministers also ordered the task force on the fuel and energy sector to work rapidly, together with the SCO secretariat, to study the possibility of forming the organisation's Energy Club. "SCO is confidently proceeding along its integration path," Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told a news conference after the session. "The range of cooperation avenues is expanding," he said, adding that steps are being taken to translate these ideas into reality.
The China Development Bank will extend a 10 million Euro loan to Tajikistan for advancing agriculture, the Tajik presidential press service reports. Head of the Tajik National Bank Murodali Alimardonov and China Development Bank Governor Chen Yuan, who arrived in Dushanbe with the Chinese delegation for the meeting of SCO prime ministers signed a corresponding agreement on September 15th.
"The sides have discussed the prospects of cooperation between Tajikistan and China in advancing hydro power engineering, cotton processing and the extraction of minerals," the press service said.
"China and Tajikistan regard the interbank association of SCO member-states as an important factor in expanding economic relations. They voiced satisfaction with new opportunities for further cooperation in the framework of the SCO," he said. In the first eight months Chinese-Tajik trade turnover jumped 44.4 percent year-on-year, to 85 million Euro. Exports of Tajik commodities amounted to 6.4 million Euro and imports to 78.6 million Euro.

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