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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)

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Update No: 323 - (26/11/07)

Bombing kills a security guard near presidential palace
A strong blast shook a conference centre near Tajikistan's presidential palace on November 14, killing a security guard and scattering debris, just as a European Union-run conference was due to start.

The blast, described as a terrorist act by the prosecutor general, occurred at the centre only 350 metres from President Emomali Rakhmon's palace. Observers said it may have been timed to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Rakhmon becoming head of this Central Asian ex-Soviet state. The president had left Dushanbe a few minutes earlier for anniversary ceremonies in the north of the country.

Police said the dead man was a guard who picked up the device concealed in a plastic bag while inspecting the site. Ironically, the conference, which was organised by the European Union, was to be devoted to disaster preparedness!

The EU's ambassador in the region, Adriaan van der Meer, said there was no reason to believe the blast was aimed at the EU. "There is no indication whatsoever that it was against the EU.... We are waiting for exact news, and expect a thorough investigation," he told AFP.

Several hundred people were believed to be in the building as the blast struck, blowing out the building's windows. The dead man's body could be seen lying on the ground under a white sheet. The conference was to be attended by Tajik Prime Minister Akil Akilov; however after the blast the opening was delayed.

This mountainous republic of seven million people lies to the north of turbulent Afghanistan and also borders China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It was torn apart by a civil war in the 1990s that pitted secular and Islamist factions against each other.

Rakhmon has since pursued an authoritarian secular course, keeping a tight control on Islamic activism and winning praise from the West, which has poured aid money into the impoverished nation. But domestic critics accuse him of increasing interference in family and religious life.

Analysts suggested that the blast was evidence of discontented elements left over from the civil war, which ended with a 1997 peace treaty. Tajikistan still experiences periodic attacks, a previous blast having been aimed at the supreme court on June 16, although no one was killed. "This isn't connected to the EU conference, which wasn't to do with big politics," said independent analyst Abdugani Mamadazimov, explaining that certain forces wanted to disrupt the anniversary of Rakhmon's rise to power.

Another analyst, Khikmatullo Saifullozoda, said the blast could however be seen as a warning to the international community. "The alarming fact is that in Tajikistan there are certain forces that by such methods declare their presence and their opinion. This is their signal to international organisations and embassies," he said. However, the fact is that if no one claims responsibility it is currently mere speculation, blaming "the ogre of choice". 

Opposition fears a new crackdown
Tajikistan's opposition expects a further clampdown on civil liberties by the government which is worried by what it regards as growing Islamist militancy.

No one has claimed responsibility for this explosion in a building where the Tajik prime minister had been due to attend a conference, nor for a blast in June at the Supreme Court building. One person died in this most recent November 14 blast.

These attacks at government buildings in Dushanbe were a result of growing popular discontent, the opposition says, as they would. This has been fuelled by little tangible improvement in living standards since a 1997 peace accord between pro-Russian forces and an alliance of Islamists and liberals. A civil war in the 1990s killed more than 100,000 people in Tajikistan.

"I fear that after these explosions, the government will get yet another excuse to step up pressure on the media and political opponents under the guise of a fight for stability," said Rakhmatullo Valiyev from the opposition Democratic party.

The government has singled out Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, both banned across Central Asia, as the main source of instability in Tajikistan.

"The explosion was organised by a small group of people unhappy with the fact that Tajikistan has returned to peace and is moving towards prosperity," was the favoured theory of Jurakhon Buriyev of the main pro-presidential party - but many will wonder about the "prosperity". Stability in the impoverished Muslim state bordering Afghanistan is key to its Central Asian neighbours.

A disturbed economy and society
The Tajik economy remains in tatters and companies are reluctant to invest due to red tape and business climate concerns. President Imomali Rakhmon, in power since 1992, tolerates little dissent and the media never criticise him.

He has vowed to stave off any attempt to destabilise the nation. He has urged clergy to ban all political debate in mosques across Tajikistan. Two opposition newspapers have been closed and the BBC FM radio service was suspended in 2006.

"People are still very poor and expect the government to do something about it," said Shamsiddin Saidov, a senior official from the Islamic Revival party of Tajikistan. "Voices of discontent are rising across society."

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