Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 298 - (27/10/05)
Condi comes to town
The situation in central Asia is very tense what with parliamentary elections in
Afghanistan coming after events in Uzbekistan in May of a horrific nature.
Tajikistan lies right next to them both.
The US responded to the massacre of hundreds of people on May 13th in Adijon by
helping refugees who had fled to Kyrgyzstan to be flown to Romania and asylum.
Tashkent promptly requested Washington to remove its forces from the base in
Karsi-Khanabad it had been leasing since the Afghan War, vital to its
prosecution just across the border.
Tajikistan becomes even more valuable as an ally, allowing the Americans
military landing rights at Dushanbe Airport. Condi Rice came to Dushanbe in
mid-October to confirm this, with the Tajiks readily acquiescing. She went along
with the idea that recent and coming elections are for real. But what after all
can the US Secretary of State do otherwise. US leverage was never great in this
remote part of the world.
Opposition under pressure in Tajikistan
The reality is that government pressure on opposition leaders and independent
media outlets is continuing as Tajikistan prepares for presidential elections in
President Imomali Rakhmonov has tightened his grip on power in recent months - a
fact underscored by the landslide victory by the president's People's Democratic
Party in parliamentary elections in February. When opposition leaders cried foul
over the vote, Rakhmonov simply brushed their complaints aside.
Critics of the president say Rakhmonov is intent on securing another seven-year
presidential term, and is thus acting to eliminate potential presidential
rivals, and ensure that major mass media outlets stay largely under
administration control. Administration officials dismiss such complaints.
Human rights activists and many political experts in Dushanbe believe the
ongoing trial of Mahmadruzi Iskandarov -- the head of the Tajik Democratic Party
and the former head of the state gas company, Tojikgaz -- is politically
motivated. Iskandarov, whose trial began August 2, faces eight criminal charges,
including abuse of power, embezzlement and forgery. He also alleged to have
acted as a warlord, amassing arms and a small private security force that
supposedly engaged in criminal activity.
On September 12, Tajikistan's Supreme Court granted a motion by Iskandarov, to
call additional witnesses. Among those Iskandarov's defence team now intends to
call are Gen. Saidamir Zukhurov, MP Khojiakbar Turajonzoda and Chairman of the
Tourism Committee, Salamsho Mukhabbatov.
In presenting the motion, Iskandarov claimed that prosecutors were trying to
suppress the presentation of evidence that could help him secure an acquittal.
"The witnesses who could help the defence are not taking part in the
trial," Iskandarov told the court, according to a September 12 report
distributed by the Avesta News Agency. Iskandarov maintains that Tajik
authorities kidnapped him in Russia and brought him back to Dushanbe to stand
trial. Iskandarov was originally taken into custody by Russian officials on an
international arrest warrant, but he was later released on April 3. About a week
later he disappeared, only to resurface in Tajik official custody. Supporters
have demanded an official explanation as to how the Democratic Party leader
ended up in a Dushanbe jail. Authorities have not provided a detailed account of
the circumstances surrounding his arrest.
Meanwhile, the late August conviction of Mukhtar Bokizoda, editor of the
opposition newspaper Nerui Sukhan, has had a chilling effect on independent
journalists in Tajikistan, rights activists suggest. Bokizoda received a
two-year sentence for supposedly illegally diverting electricity to keep the
newspaper operating. Nerui Sukhan has not been published since early 2005, when
authorities closed down the independently-operated Kaiho Publishing House for
alleged tax evasion. Bokizoda insists that the charge against him was fabricated
with the intention of putting the newspaper out of business.
The crackdown on independent media outlets in Tajikistan has caught the
international community's attention. In early September, Miklos Haraszti, the
OSCE's representative on media freedom, called on the Tajik government to
"urgently reverse the [current media] situation." He noted that in
addition to Nerui Sukhan, three other independent newspapers had been forced to
cease operations, along with two publishing houses. Haraszti also voiced a
desire for Rakhmonov's administration to issue new broadcast licenses.
RusAl starts Rogun hydro project in Tajikistan
Russia's biggest aluminium company, Russian Aluminium (RusAl), started
completing the Rogun hydroelectric dam in Tajikistan the Tajik president's press
office said, Interfax News Agency reported.
RusAl representative Leosh Tomichev told a press conference that this will be
Central Asia's second biggest hydro-plant after the Nurek dam. The dam will be
330 metres high.
Construction began in March 1981 and was suspended in 1993 because of a lack of
funds and social and political problems in Tajikistan. About US$802 million had
been invested in the project by that time and the total cost of the project was
estimated at US$2 billion. Tajikistan signed a deal with RusAl a year ago to
finance the completion of the 3,600-megawatt Rogun dam.
The dam will have six 600-megawatt generators. RusAl estimates the costs at US$1
billion. The Rogun plant, on the Vakhsh River, will generate 23.3 billion
kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Investments will take 5.5 years to
recoup and the first stage, will consist of a 180-metre dam and capacity for
4.5-5 billion kWh per year. It will be complete by 2010.
Russia to invest 2.3bn Euro in Tajikistan
Russia will invest some 2.3 billion Euro in Tajikistan, over the next few years,
primarily in its power industry, Russian ambassador, Ramazan Abdulatipov, said,
Interfax News Agency reported.
"The Russian government and UES, the Russian electricity monopoly Unified
Energy System are investing over 500 million Euro in the construction of the
Sangtuda and reconstruction of the Rogun hydropower plants. Major Russian
companies such as RusAl and Basic Element are also planning to invest some one
billion Euro here," Abdulatipov said. Russia is also planning to invest in
the reconstruction of the Tajik aluminium plant and build a similar facility, he
said. "I am sure that all these projects will be implemented. Russian
businesses might also engage in housing construction, the development of major
gold and silver mines, and projects in the agricultural sector in
Tajikistan," Abdulatipov said.
Russia eyes military, energy cooperation with Tajikistan
Russia wants to improve its bilateral relations with Tajikistan by developing
military and energy cooperation, Interfax News Agency reported recently.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mikhail Kamynin, said, "The development
of military cooperation is one of the priorities for Russia in Tajikistan in
connection with the resumed work of the former Russian 201st motor rifle
division base in Tajikistan and bilateral cooperation in protecting the
He also stressed the importance of developing cooperation in the energy sphere.
Kamyin told Interfax that great attention was paid to issues concerning Russia's
participation in the expansion of Tajik energy potential under the projects of
joint construction of the Sangtudin and Rogun hydroelectric power plants.
Russian-Tajik trade turnover growth in 2004 totalled 30.3 per cent and in the
first seven months of the year, trade turnover grew 13.6 per cent year-on-year
to 151 million Euro.