Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 314 - (22/02/07)
Reporters Sans Frontieres, (Reporters Without Borders), is an
outstanding organization that has done commendable work in five continents, like
its admirable counterpart, Medicins Sans Frontieres. It has issued its annual
report on Tajikistan.
RSF Annual report 2007
"No country in the world comes up to all the standards of the OSCE,"
was President Emomali Rahmonov's retort to critical OSCE observers after he won
a third term of office at elections on 6th November 2006 with 76.4% of the vote.
The run-up to the election weighed on the issue of press freedom throughout the
OSCE observers said the election had not met democratic standards, despite a
decree in September that each candidate would be given 30 minutes on national TV
(the country's main source of news) and the president's statement on 20th
October that all candidates should have equal opportunities during the campaign.
In reality, the five other candidates were only allowed between five and 15
minutes air-time each.
Two journalists were briefly arrested in the southern town of Qorghan-Teppa on
18th September after investigating forced labour by students in cotton fields.
They were Radio Free Europe correspondent Nosir Mamurzoda, who is not allowed to
broadcast in the country, and a reporter of the Avesta news agency. They were
freed after being ordered not to investigate matters that "could
destabilise the country."
A dispute between the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the state
broadcasting commission Tajikteleradiocom dragged on during the year after a new
law in September 2005 required media outlets to re-register with the
authorities. The BBC had been told on 20 December 2005 that it must file the
necessary documents before 10th January 2006 even though some of them would take
six months to get. On the deadline, the relay of BBC programmes on FM (the only
way to reach much of the population, in Dushanbe and northern town Khujand) was
suspended. The justice ministry eventually allowed the BBC office in Dushanbe to
reopen on 26 June. In July, the station applied for an FM operating licence to
the state broadcasting commission, which refused it on 2 August on grounds that
there was no agreement between Britain and Tajikistan.
Less than a month after the presidential election, several independent news
websites were illegally shut down, including that of opposition figure Dodojon
Atovulloyev, Tajikistantimes.ru, founded in March 2003 and one of the few
criticising the government.
A managed liberal democracy
Actually, by the standards of Central Asia, Tajikistan is quite a liberal
place for all that, with far fewer political prisoners than in the other 'stans'
and a certain tolerance for the opposition ever since an accord that ended a
brutal war in the 1990s.
The war was between the former communists and the reborn Islamicists, which the
former predictably won. There were over 20,000 Russian troops helping them to do
so by guarding the Afghan border amongst other things, depriving the latter of
support from the mujaheddin.
The Islamicists are by no means all fundamentalists, which has facilitated an
important mutation in the opposition leadership. The occasion was the death of
the founder of the main opposition party, the Islamic Revival Party of
Tajikistan, Said Abdullo Nuri, a highly revered cleric, last year.
Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan Outlines New Strategy
There is now a new prospect for a revival of the Islamicist cause. The
Islamic Revival Party has managed to overcome internal disputes and is preparing
for a tougher political struggle. IRPT's chairman Muhiddin Kabiri has outlined a
new party strategy.
Addressing a meeting of party activists on January 16th, Mr. Kabiri spoke much
longer and on a much wider scope of issues than an ordinary opening speech might
require. It was obvious to most participants of the meeting that his words were
no less than a new plan of action and an outline of IRPT's new programme.
Muhiddin Kabiri, who has led the party since the death of Nuri, said that the
year 2006 was decisive for IRPT. It indeed was. Mr. Nuri died without appointing
a successor. After his death, an internal power struggle divided the party into
two camps: fundamentalists and moderates. The latter took over the party with
Mr. Kabiri becoming the new chairman. He had to heal the wounds of division to
strengthen the party. And he did.
Mr. Kabiri said IRPT is facing a new stage. Explaining how the new party
strategy would differ from the old one, he announced that IRPT would take a
tougher stand on major political issues. IRPT chairman knows only too well that
it is not safe to be very oppositional in Tajikistan. He made it clear that the
party will continue to support the government in policies that run "in line
with the interests of the state." However, he also mentioned that postwar
security considerations will no longer stop the party from criticizing the
Kabiri also announced IRPT's new voter outreach strategy. The party that in the
past focused exclusively on attracting individuals from religious backgrounds
will now seek to recruit new members from among intellectuals and students. In
general, Kabiri promised to bring in more young members having modern education
Muhiddin Kabiri promised to make the party younger and more critical of the
government. But what stands behind this new strategy?
First of all, the Islamic Revival Party actually needs to become "more
oppositional" to retain what has left of its popularity over the last few
years. The recent government reshuffles saw the last members of the former
United Tajik Opposition lose their posts in the government which had been
previously awarded to them as part of the 30 per cent quota after the civil war.
Besides, the party has been steadily losing popular support because of its
support of the government. Now the party needs to change this to retain the
status of the leading opposition party.
Second, Muhiddin Kabiri knows that long-bearded Islamic scholars will not find
support among the population in Tajikistan. Therefore, he focuses on younger
people to strengthen the party and build up its support base for the future
The innovations are wise, although they came much later than they should have
come. After the last elections when IRPT did not even field a candidate,
Rahmonov received a mandate to stay in power until 2020. He also enjoys a total
control over the parliament through its pocket People's Democratic Party. In
this situation, IRPT's promise to be more critical of the government will only
play into the hands of the regime. Rahmonov will continue pointing at IRPT every
time when the country is pressured for not allowing opposition parties to
Also as long as IRPT remains the country's major opposition party, Rahmonov has
a good argument that the only alternative to his regime is an Islamic regime.
This is a very strong argument indeed since for major external powers in Central
Asia an Islamic regime is not an alternative at all.
A modern populist
Kabiri has a received Soviet-time education and is now a successful
businessman that also requires a lot of modern knowledge and skills. He could
have a great role to play in Tajik politics.
His task now is to moderate the IRPT and turn it into a real political party,
not just an association of Muslims having certain views on political matters.
Kabiri has a real chance of shifting the focus of his party's platform from
religion to specific issues that will provide a real alternative to the ruling
party and the regime.
At the end of the day, Kabiri could also unite the Tajik opposition parties into
a single force. That might destroy the incumbent's unchallenged position and
lead to liberalization of the country's political system.
Moscow remains Dushanbe's main economic partner
Russia remains Tajikistan's leading strategic partner and main economic
investor, Tajik First Deputy Foreign Minister Saymumin Yatimov said on January
19, Interfax reported. "The most important aspect of bilateral relations is
economic cooperation, which last year was characterised by a consistent
practical implementation of agreements," Yatimov said at a press conference
According to the Tajikistan's National Statistics Committee, trade turnover
between the two countries in 2006 grew by 44.1 per cent to 489.1 million Euro.
Exports from Tajikistan to Russia totalled 65.4 million Euro, and imports of
Russian goods to Tajikistan reached 423.7 million Euro. "In the short term,
Russian investment in the Tajik economy will reach two billion Euro,"
Yatimov said. Meanwhile, Tajikistan's premier has asked his Russian counterpart
to set the quota for Tajik migrant workers at 800,000 in the wake of Moscow's
decision to restrict foreign workforce in some sectors, Tajikistan's Labour
Minister Shukurdzhon Zukhurov said on January 23, RIA Novosti reported. Russia,
which is experiencing a population decline, reduced the number of foreigners
allowed to work in outdoor clothes and food markets to 40 percent of the overall
workforce from January 15. Beginning April 1, 2007, they will be barred
entirely, a move designed to bring order to the sector and curb a wave of
ethnically motivated crimes in the country.
Some experts say Russia's restrictions are discriminatory. They could affect
relations with CIS countries, which provide Russia with most of its foreign
National bank of Tajikistan expects 7.5% GDP growth, 7% inflation
The National Bank of Tajikistan is expecting GDP growth of 7.5 percent and
inflation of seven percent in 2007. "We think GDP will grow 7.5 percent and
that inflation will be seven percent, not taking external factors like higher
oil and grain prices into consideration," Murodali Alimardonov, the bank's
chairman, told a press conference, Interfax reported. GDP grew seven percent to
9.27 billion somoni (2.81 billion Euro) in 2006. Inflation rose to 12.5 percent
from 7.1 percent in 2005."The reasons for such high inflation were price
growth for petroleum products, imports of which rose 40.3 percent to 300 million
Euro," Alimardonov said. Tajikistan harvested 912,200 tonnes of grain in
2006 - less than the 1.2 million tonnes the country needs. "The 26 percent
price growth for grain in 2006 also influenced inflation," Alimardonov
said. "We'll be trying in 2007 to keep our market filled with our own goods
in a bid to reduce imports as rapid import growth also accelerates
inflation," he said. He also said the national bank's gold and
foreign-exchange reserves did not alter last year and totalled 180 million Euro
at the start of 2007. "We did not increase the reserves last year in order
to avoid another wave of inflation," he said. "The reserves are steady
in volume and total 180 million Euro," he said. Foreign debt fell both in
absolute terms and as a share of GDP last year, Alimardonov said. The debt stood
at 866.3 million Euro or 30.8 percent of GDP at the start of this year. It had
fallen 3.2 percent last year, from 894.9 million Euro (38.7 percent of GDP) on
January 1, 2006.Imports grew 29.5 percent overall in 2006 to more than 1.7
billion Euro. Tajikistan had a trade deficit of 323.6 million Euro. Grain and
flour imports came to 77 million Euro. Tajikistan imported wheat and flour
mainly from Kazakstan. Alimardonov said Uzbekistan, which supplies nearly all of
Tajikistan's gas, had raised its prices to 100 Euro per thousand cubic metres
from the 55 Euro that Tajikistan paid in 2006.
Russia to complete Tajik Rogun hydro plant
Ambassador Russia will finish building the Rogun hydroelectric dam in Tajikistan
and considers that only Russia and Tajikistan are capable of handling this huge
project, Ramazan Abdulatipov, Russia's ambassador to Tajikistan, told a press
conference in Dushanbe, Interfax reported on January 30. "The Rogun project
is crucial to our partnership, but it has regrettably become a hostage to
technical and technological disputes between specialists and experts,"
Abdulatipov said. "Endless insinuations and idle speculation about this
issue serve no purpose and are damaging to our relations," he said.
"We need to come to terms and start implementing the project. This is what
the Russian president and government want and a new inter-governmental agreement
on the Rogun plant's construction is being drafted," Abdulatipov said,
adding that the agreement should be signed as early as the first half of 2007.
Abdulatipov did not say whether Russian aluminium giant RusAl or a different
Russian company would be finishing the plant. Tajikistan is to invest 50 million
somoni, or US$14.5 million, of budget funds in the project to build the Rogun
plant in 2007, Tajik Energy and Industry Minister Sherali Gulov said week before
last. RusAl and the Tajik government signed an agreement in October 2004,
pledging to cooperate in the energy sector and aluminium production. The Russian
company said it would invest US$2.2 billion in efforts to complete the
construction of the Rogun facility, to build a new aluminium plant and to
rebuild the Tursunzade Aluminium Smelter. Tajik authorities and RusAl have been
divided over the height and type of the dam and the volume of unfinished work
since September 2005, when the construction of the hydroelectric power plant,
which should eventually be capable of generating 13 billion kilowatt-hours of
electricity per year, officially resumed. Tajikistan estimates that the Rogun
plant is currently valued at around US$804 million and that the full bare
construction cost is an estimated US$two billion. Work on the dam began back in
1976. However, it was frozen due to financial constraints. When complete, the
dam will turn Tajikistan into the region's biggest electricity exporter. RusAl
said in June 2006 that efforts to restore infrastructure in the district were
well under way and that the company planned to invest US$50 million. RusAl and
the Tajik government have brought in an independent appraiser, selected by the
World Bank, to determine the type and height of the Rogun dam. The appraisal has
been completed, but the results are not yet known.
Parliament approves power plant construction by Iran
The Tajik Parliament recently approved a memorandum of understanding between
Iran and Tajikistan on the construction of a power plant, Interfax reported. The
head of the International Affairs Committee of the Tajik Parliament, Hessameddin
Saeedov, recently announced that Tajik Parliament approved a memorandum of
understanding between Iran and Tajikistan on the construction of a Sangtoudeh II
power plant. Saeedov added that the agreement on the joint venture on investment
and construction of the power plant in cooperation with Iran was signed on June
1, 2005. The final agreement which was approved by the Tajik Parliament included
specifying a timetable and payment of Tajikistan's 40 million Euro share in the
project, he added. Legal guarantees by the Tajik government to exempt customs
duties on all equipment for the aforementioned power plant as well as taxes on
the utilisation of the plant for a 12.5 year period are also included in the
supplementary sections of the document. After signing the MoU, another agreement
was signed between Tajikistan's Electricity Company and Iranian Sangab Company
last year to boost the legal status in the implementation of Sangtoudeh II
project, he added. Iran and Tajikistan will invest 180 million Euro and 40
million Euro in the project respectively.
Dushanbe, Beijing sign cooperation treaty
Following talks between Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmonov and his Chinese
counterpart Hu Jintao, a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation and a package of
trade and economic cooperation agreements were signed in Beijing on January 15.
Rakhmonov arrived in Beijing on an official visit, Interfax reported. The Tajik
president highly praised cooperation with China, saying that Tajikistan would
like the level of political relations, cooperation in trade, in the financial
sector, in the mining industry and in electricity sales to increase. Hu
responded by saying that high-level contacts between the two countries should
continue and trade and economic cooperation given priority and its quality
improved, with particular emphasis on transportation, electricity,
communications, mining and agriculture. The Chinese leader also emphasized the
importance of cooperation in security and said that efforts must be combined in
fighting terrorism, extremism, separatism and trans-border crime. He said the
two countries must coordinate their activities in international organisations,
including the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
China provides loan for Tajik hydropower plant
The Chinese government has granted a preferential loan of 200 million Euro for
the construction of the Zeravshan hydropower plant in Tajikistan, a press
release by the Barki Tochik (Tajikistan Energy) Company read.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov concluded the deal during a visit to China,
Interfax reported. The loan will be for 25 years with an annual interest of one
percent, the press release says. China's Sinohydro will build the hydropower
plant. The power plant will have the capacity of 150 megawatt. Construction will
take three years and the plant will belong to Tajikistan. It will annually
generate 600 million kilowatt/hours of electricity and fully meet the demand of
Penjikent and the adjoining districts.
Zeravshan is the fourth hydropower plant under construction in Tajikistan. Inter
RAO UES is building the First Sangtudin hydropower plant, with a capacity of 670
megawatt and annual output of 2.7 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity. The
project will cost 534 million Euro.
Iranian investors are building the Second Sangtudin hydropower plant with a
capacity of 220 megawatt.
Russian Aluminium (RusAl) plans to build the Rogun hydropower plant with a
capacity of 3,600 megawatt. The project has yet to begin because of differences
between the company and the Tajik government. Plans are to settle the
differences by the end of this year.