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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



Update No: 315 - (29/03/07)

Ten years of peace
Tajikistan is a curious country, one of the most remote and enigmatic in the world. But it is a country of great interest.

The territories of Sogdiana and Bactria, which covered what is now Tajikistan and parts of modern Uzbekistan, were part of the Persian Empire until their conquest by Alexander the Great. In subsequent centuries the region was dominated by various nomadic confederations, until coming under Arabic control at the end of the seventh century. 

Under the Caliphate the Western Iranian branch of Farsi the Persian (Iranian) language came to dominate and within one century there had emerged a distinctive urban-based ethnic group known as the Tajiks. 

They were then taken over by the Russians, it is a toss-up who were the more benighted, the Tsarists or the Soviets. 

Independence from the USSR brought civil war between post-communists and Islamicists, which wound down by 1994, but was not formally ended until 1997, ten years ago (actually in December 1996). The anniversary is seeing new efforts to bridge divisions and establish a common identity.

Era of the "ov" is over, Tajik leader says
Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmonov says he wants to drop the Russian "-ov" from the end of his surname to become "Rahmon", following the lead of other Tajiks wanting to return to their Persian roots.

He made the announcement on March 21st during a meeting with scientists, writers and public figures. 

There has been a slow trend towards dropping such Russian-style endings, which were added by many people across the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia during Russian imperial rule and later under Soviet power. 

The trend, championed mainly by writers and intellectuals, has been accompanied by a gradual resurgence of local languages alongside Russian since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. A report on the Tajik-language version of the official www.president.tj Web site said: 

"During his meeting with the intelligentsia the leader of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmonov put forward an initiative saying he wanted his name to be Emomali Rahmon from now on."

Actually this is not such a strange development given domestic developments. Rahmon, as we should now call him, is the most decent man among the leaders of the FSU. He brought a civil war to an end in 1994, aware of the colossal disasters involved. He is keen to pre-empt another one. He thinks that the best way to do it is by making a compromise. 

For he now faces a new challenge. He is fortunately determined to do so peacefully.

Fortuitously, he seems to have someone of his moral calibre on the other side. It always takes two to tango.

Former Opposition Leader Urges Civil War Amnesty 
Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda is back in Tajikistan's political spotlight after making a controversial call for amnesty for some of the jailed people who fought in the country's civil war.

Some think that Turajonzoda -- the country's former spiritual leader and head of the Islamic opposition -- is signalling his intention to return to a leading role in Tajikistan's political scene.

When Tajikistan became independent in late 1991, Turajonzoda was the qazi qalon, the highest spiritual authority for Tajikistan's Muslims. He was 37 years old at the time.

Turajonzoda's coming forward now to publicize the amnesty proposal may be a sign that he is about to again take a more active role in the country's politics.

Return From Exile 
Within a year he was forced to flee the country after becoming an opposition leader. He only returned in February 1998.

On March 12, Turajonzoda -- who is now a senator -- made a controversial appeal to authorities, as he explained to RFE/RL's Tajik Service.

"Originally [the amnesty] was [Said Abdullo] Nuri's idea to mark the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the peace deal," he said. "The talk was of an amnesty for those people who are still in jail. I proposed to him that there should be a full amnesty and he accepted this wholeheartedly but added that we should also include the liquidation of those criminal cases still pending against all leaders of the opposition."

Nuri, who died last year, was the leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) that grouped both Islamic and democratic forces against the government of former Soviet Communist party officials that took control of the country after independence.

Nuri's second-in-command was Turajonzoda. The two led the UTO during Tajikistan's five-year civil war, a war that claimed up to 100,000 lives by some estimates and devastated the already poor country's economy and infrastructure.

Paid Their Dues 
Both sides committed atrocities during the war. A peace agreement was signed in June 1997 officially ending the war, although some on both sides refused to recognize that peace and its terms. An amnesty was declared, but not everyone qualified for it and many people, particularly opposition fighters, were later jailed. Turajonzoda said now it is time to let those people out of prison.

"The president of Tajikistan has the right to declare an amnesty in honour of the 10-year anniversary," he said. "That means former members of the opposition, some of whom probably were sentenced for serious crimes and some others who stopped fighting late [in the war]. If you remember, antigovernment activity by some continued after the peace deal was signed."

"These people have sat in jail for a long time," he continued. "Their families and children were left without providers. They appealed to us to help these [incarcerated] relatives. Those jailed have sent us letters from prison in which they say they regret their deeds and if released they will work honestly for the country. I sent those letters to the president also."

Turajonzoda said that many opposition supporters were convicted based on flimsy evidence and even some of those amnestied remain fearful that they, or their families, could still face problems from criminal files kept by the government.

"The criminal cases were made during that [the civil war] on the basis of war-time information and also without proper evidence," he said. "Therefore, despite the fact that by order of the president these cases were closed and leaders amnestied, these cases are kept on file. Optimistically, one hopes the state would not use these cases for political motives."

Falsely Imprisoned? 
"But we have a period of some 30 or 40 years, when maybe we won't even be alive, when these cases could be used against future generations for personal motives," he added. "Also, historians will reach conclusions about our roles in the war in Tajikistan and these conclusions won't be true because the cases are based on lies and unconfirmed information."

Shodi Shabdolov, the leader of the Communist Party, which backed the Tajik government during the civil war, agreed with Turajonzoda that the criminal cases are potentially harmful to the country's future harmony.

"I support [the argument] that these criminal cases could be used with political motives or against the children and families of those who participated in the war on both sides," Shabdolov said. 

It is unclear exactly how many people would benefit from the proposed amnesty.
"The letters we have received [from jailed opposition supporters] came from seven people; I sent these along to the president, but they said they wrote on behalf of 700 people [still in jail]," he said. "I personally cannot say how many opposition supporters are still in jail."

Seeking Government Support 
But some, like Abduqayum Yusufov, the chairman of Tajikistan's Independent Lawyers' Association, think that the government will not accept Turajonzoda's proposed amnesty, despite all of its good intentions.

"I hope and believe that all grudges will be gone from our hearts and everyone will truly forgive each other and live in peace and harmony," he said. "But I am far from believing that this proposal from the opposition will be fulfilled by the president and parliament."
The amnesty proposal may indeed find little support in the Tajik government, which is now almost entirely filled with supporters of President Emomali Rahmonov. But it is interesting that Turajonzoda is the person proposing the amnesty.

Turajonzoda received a government post (deputy prime minister) as part of the peace deal that ended the war and in 1999 surprisingly resigned from the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan just as it was about to select a presidential candidate.

Turajonzoda has remained in the government since then but has kept relatively quiet and was certainly not the government critic he was during most of the 1990s. His revelation that the amnesty was Nuri's idea indicates Turajonzoda has not severed all his ties to his old party. His coming forward now to publicize this proposal may be a sign that Turajonzoda is about to again take a more active role in the country's politics.

Rahmonov lays foundation for widespread co-operation with Baku 
On March 14 Tajikistan's parliament finally passed legislation updating the country's "Law on Combating Terrorism." According to Rano Qayumova, a member of the Assembly of Representatives, the legal reform was designed to comply with recent changes to the structure of central state bodies tasked with fighting terrorism. "The current law was adopted back in 1999. Several years have passed since then, and the country has signed a series of agreements on fighting terrorism with foreign countries and international organizations," Qayumova said.

Consequently, there are seven state bodies tasked with a counter-terrorist role in Tajikistan: the State Committee on National Security, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Defense Ministry, National Guard, anti-corruption agency, Drug Control Agency (DCA), and the state directorate for protection of state secrets. Coordinating these bodies and managing their use effectively places tremendous responsibility on the executive and raises issues relating to inter-agency cooperation. However, for the time being, the Tajik government can at least find solace in the legislative progress toward using these bodies in such a key role (Avesta, March 15).

The nexus among organized crime, terrorism, extremism, and drug trafficking has increased tension within the security agencies, which are too overstretched and inefficient to deal adequately with these threats. On March 9 Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmonov encouraged the country's security and law-enforcement bodies "to strengthen the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border, to improve its technical support, and to establish cooperation with law-enforcement agencies in border districts." During a working meeting with these state security bodies, the Tajik president expressed his concerns over the ineffective nature of Tajik efforts to stem the flow of illegal narcotics across the Tajik-Afghan border. International experts recently reported that the 2006 poppy harvest in Afghanistan reached record levels -- as much as 6,000 tons, and at least another ton was exported through the Tajik-Afghan border in the first quarter of 2007.

Rahmonov believes this can only be addressed through "increasing the effectiveness of interaction between all security and law-enforcement bodies and toughening personal responsibility. All those involved in the drugs business must be prosecuted, regardless of their posts and titles," he explained (Itar-Tass, March 9).

Rahmonov's plans to tackle these issues are unclear, but he will need support from within these structures as well as from abroad to strengthen such agencies. Traditionally close cooperation with Russia may not be the obvious source of help. Yet, Tajikistan relies heavily on the support offered by Russia, which takes various forms including humanitarian aid. Russia will provide $2 million in humanitarian aid to Tajikistan in 2007. The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry confirmed that this will take the form of foodstuffs and forms part of Russia's planned $11 million aid package to six countries (Armenia, Sudan, Kenya, Indonesia, Cuba, and Tajikistan) within the framework of the World Food Program (Avesta, March 9). However, Rahmonov has shown some unease with continued security reliance upon Russia and appears interested in developing stronger ties with countries in the South Caucasus as potential sources of security help.

In particular, Tajikistan has signalled interest in fostering close diplomatic ties with Azerbaijan. On March 15 Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev arrived in Dushanbe for the first Azeri state visit to the country since Tajikistan's independence. Eleven interstate and intergovernmental agreements were signed, ranging from transport to cultural ties and a treaty of friendship and cooperation. 

Rahmonov commented on the significance of the visit: "We laid down a solid contractual and legal basis today. We are opening our doors. We signed an agreement on visa-free trips, which will provide good prospects. We laid down a very firm contractual and legal basis, and reviewed the development of our relations in all spheres," he said.

Aliyev also favours good relations with Tajikistan. "We attach great importance to our bilateral relations. As a clear example of that I can say that Azerbaijan has decided to open its embassy in Tajikistan. I hope that the embassy will be opened in the near future. It is a striking confirmation of the seriousness of our intentions to strengthen our bilateral relations. There are very good prospects. We are linked by common culture and history, traditions, rich cultural heritage, the closeness of our nations, as well as the mutual support that has been felt by our countries and nations over all the years of independence," Aliyev noted. Diplomatic groundwork has been carried out, with Aliyev inviting Rahmonov to Azerbaijan later this year (Itar-Tass, Interfax, Tajik Television First Channel, March 15). One clear goal in improving bilateral Azeri-Tajik relations will be the exploration of security ties and how Baku could best help the security bodies in Tajikistan tasked with combating drug trafficking and terrorism.

Tajikistan is becoming increasingly important in anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan, with France deploying three more fighter jets to reinforce its small air force contingent deployed in Dushanbe. Moreover, Tajikistan recently hosted an exercise of the elite U.S. "Shadow Wolves" unit, consisting of Native Americans; the unit subsequently moved to Afghanistan to track Bin Laden (Itar-Tass, March 16). With a sense of renewed strategic importance, Tajikistan seems willing to capitalize on foreign interest in promoting its security.

Rahmonov understands that the security challenges presented by drug trafficking and terrorism demand an end to the corruption within Tajik security agencies and enhanced inter-agency coordination and communication. But in the regional arena, he is signaling his willingness to be flexible on the sources for helping him to demonstrate his credentials in this vital area. 

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The following is an analysis of a great potential trouble spot in Central Asia, the Ferghana Valley as it affects Tajikistan:- 
Friday, March 23, 2007, EURASIA INSIGHT 

Political discontent simmers in the Ferghana valley 
Political discontent is brewing throughout the Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek portions of the Ferghana Valley, as regional elites in all three states are unhappy with the behaviour of central officials. Discontent is perhaps most acute in Southern Kyrgyzstan. Members of the region's political elite are publicly complaining that the long-running political confrontation in Bishkek, pitting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev against members of the Kyrgyz parliament, is threatening stability in the regions. 

Observers suggest that members of presidential administration may have played a role in organizing the protest. In Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the source of local dissatisfaction is linked to a more common source - the heavy-handed behaviour of central officials. Following his re-election in late 2006, Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov carried out a far-reaching government reshuffle that included the removal of Kasim Kasymov as governor of the Sughd Region, which encompasses the Tajik portion of the Ferghana Valley. Local observers say the aim of the reshuffle was to strengthen Rahmonov's influence over the region's political apparatus. Tajik political analyst Daler Gufronov, writing for the Asia Inform news agency, characterized Kasymov's ouster as "thunder on a clear day." According to a report distributed by the Regnum news agency, Rahmonov offered the prime minister's portfolio to Kasymov, who "for unknown reasons" turned the offer down. The rebuff reportedly angered Rahmonov, and the ousted governor ended up with only a minor post within the ruling People's Democratic Party. Having been in charge of Sughd Province for seven years, Kasymov had forged powerful patronage networks. Thus, only weeks after Kasymov's departure from power, Rahmonov began a wide-ranging "cadre rotation" in municipal executive bodies throughout the region. In the Uzbek part of the valley, long-standing resentment toward the centre continues to grow. Human rights organizations documented that discontent with the central government's economic policies was a major factor in stoking the Andijan events of 2005. 

An entrepreneur who spoke to EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity complained that the purges have stoked corruption and exacerbated local economic difficulties. Prior to the political changes, local entrepreneurs were already buckling under what some described as confiscatory tax policies. Starting in early 2006, Uzbek authorities imposed a monthly fee that is not connected to sales revenue, requiring all entrepreneurs to pay the state the equivalent of 7.5 minimum monthly wages, or roughly US$85. For the average small businessman, who generates about US$200 per month in income, the tax rate comes out to over 40 per cent, and serves as a disincentive to stay in business. Concurrently with imposition of the flat tax, the government expanded efforts to collect excise taxes on some imported goods. The heightened collection effort has hit Ferghana Valley residents especially hard, given that many local entrepreneurs rely on cross-border trade. Inter-state issues are also playing a role in the Ferghana Valley's rising discontent. In September 2006, for example, Karimov and Bakiyev signed an agreement easing visa requirements for Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens. However, almost six months after the signing of the agreement, authorities have not fully implemented the visa-free travel regime. 

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ECONOMY

Budget surplus 0.4% of GDP in 2006


The Tajik state budget in 2006 had a surplus of 38.2 somoni or 0.4 per cent of GDP, a source in the State Statistics Committee said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Budget revenue including grants last year amounted to 1.66 billion somoni or 17.9 per cent of GDP (up 27.5 per cent from 2005). Budget expenditure reached 1.62 billion somoni or 17.5 per cent of GDP (up 14.7 per cent). The Lower House of the Tajik parliament approved the budget for 2006 in December 2005 with a deficit of 42 million somoni or 0.5 per cent of GDP. Budget expenditure was planned at 1.552 billion somoni, and revenue - 1.51 billion somoni. The Tajik budget deficit in 2005 amounted to 111.7 million somoni or 1.5 per cent of GDP.

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ENERGY

Financing agreement for Sangtuda plant 

Russia and Tajikistan have reached an agreement concerning the terms of financing for the jointly-built Sangtuda hydroelectric power plant in Tajikistan. According to the Interfax News Agency, the plant's construction is being part-financed by Russia's United Energy Systems (UES) and from Russia's state budget, with part of Russia's funding coming from the repayment of a Tajik state debt to Russia, which currently totals US$50 million. The Sangtuda Hydropower Plant-1 company has issued additional shares worth US$277 million, with investor stakes in the plant currently amounting to 52.6 per cent for the Russian government, 23.2 per cent for the Tajik state, and the remaining stakes owned by UES and other Russian and Tajik companies. The 670 mw plant will produce 2.7BkWh of electricity each year when completed. Electricity will be supplied to the Tajik grid and exported to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. The total project cost will be around US$500 million, with Russia providing about half this sum.

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FOOD & DRINK

Coca-Cola Icecek set up Tajikistan Company 

Coca-Cola Icecek, the Turkish unit of Coca Cola, has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Efes Invest Holland B.V will establish a company in Tajikistan. The new company would be named CC Trade Limited Liability Company (CC Trade LLC), Interfax News Agency reported. 
In a statement sent to the Istanbul Stock Exchange, Coca-Cola Icecek said that the capital of CC Trade LLC would be US$ one million. The move is in line with the company's growth strategy. It was reported that in February Coca Cola had secured a US$200 million loan from a consortium of international and local banks in order to finance several investments and capacity expansions in Turkey and in international markets.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Baku and Dushanbe to Create Economic Cooperation Commission 

Azerbaijan Preident, Ilham Aliyev, and Tajikistan Prime Minister, Akil Akilov, signed an agreement to expand their cooperation in the oil and gas sphere as well as in the mining industry with regards to the electricity. The meeting of the Azeri president and the Tajik premier took place within Aliyev's official visit to Tajikistan. Aliyev invited Akilov to collaborate in realizing projects such as constructing roads and bridges and the infrastructure and agriculture. It was decided to establish an Inter-Governmental Commission for Economic Co-operation and a working group to define the future positive co-operation areas. 
Aliyev had a meeting with Speaker of the Upper house of the Parliament, Mahmadsaid Ubaydullayev. It comes as the first official visit of the Azerbaijani President to Tajikistan during the independence. Eleven interstate and intergovernmental agreements, covering cooperation between Tajikistan and Azerbaijan in different spheres has been in Dushanbe, during Aliyev's official visit to this country, Interfax News Agnecy reported. 
All documents were signed in a large meeting with the participation of the two delegations, which began immediately after the meeting between Presidents of Tajikistan and Azerbaijan, Emomali Rahmonov and Aliyev. These are Agreements on Friendship and Cooperation, an Agreement on Non-Visa visits of the two countries, on mutual investments, on Trade and Economic Cooperation, on Cooperation in the sphere of culture and arts, in the sphere of tourism, on cooperation and mutual assistance in the custom field, on cooperation in the sphere of standardization, meteorology and accrediting. The two sides also inked an Agreement on Cooperation in the international automobile transport, in the sphere of railway transport and on air transportation.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

TT-Mobile starts working under Megafon brand

Tajikistan's TT-Mobile, a subsidiary of MegaFon, has started working under the MegaFon brand, the Tajik operator said in a press release, New Europe reported.
TT-Mobile, the third-biggest provider in subscriber numbers in the country, previously worked under the MLT brand, Interfax reported. "With the launch of the new brand, the company plans to expand its coverage zone and completely cover hard-to-reach regions in the country, as well as improve the quality of services," the release says. "The company will completely adopt all the standards of the Russian operator in becoming MegaFon," the release said. MegaFon owns 75 per cent of TT-Mobile and Tajik Telecom has 25 per cent. Somocom is the leading cellular provider in Tajikistan. MCT of the US and Tajik-US operator Vavilon-Mobile own Somocom. There are four GSM operators in Tajikistan. The country has a population of around seven million and the penetration level for cellular communications is estimated at 11-12 per cent.

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