Tajikistan: President to Head East as Battle for Badakhshan Control Continues | EurasiaNet.org

Posted: October 6, 2012 in Economy and Resources, Environment, Geography, History, International, Language, Law, Politics, Resources, Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s President Imomali Rahmon has promised he will soon visit Gorno-Badakhshan, the mountainous eastern region where government security forces carried out a secretive military operation this summer. If the trip goes off as planned, Rahmon will confront one the most stubborn political challenges of his tenure, trying to win over regional residents who have long relied on local strongmen more than on Dushanbe.

Officially, the deployment of thousands of heavily armed government troops to the regional capital, Khorog, came in response to the July 21 stabbing death of a local security official, Abdullo Nazarov. Officials asserted the killing was organized by an officer in the Tajik border guards, Tolib Ayombekov. He denied the charges and reportedly fought a government attempt to capture him together with three other influential local leaders, all former commanders during Tajikistan’s 1992-1997 civil war, and all suspected of involvement in narcotics trafficking. A battle between the military and local armed groups on July 24 left about 50 combatants and one civilian dead, officials say. At the time, critics assailed what they described as the disproportionate use of force in what should have been a standard police investigation.

In part, this year’s clash has roots in the country’s devastating civil war, which was fought largely along regional lines. During the Soviet era, Gorno-Badakhshan (known by its Russian acronym, GBAO) was an autonomous province receiving subsidies directly from Moscow rather than Dushanbe. Inhabitants of the region, who speak a group of languages distinct from Tajik, are generally known as Pamiris. Most are Ismaili Muslims and maintain strong networks of mutual social support. Towards the end of the war, local commanders accepted peace in exchange for government positions and relative autonomy. In the years following, Rahmon managed to consolidate power elsewhere in the country, but GBAO seemed to remain out of his reach.

Drawing clear distinctions between good and bad guys can be difficult in post-civil-war Tajikistan. Men characterized by the state as criminals sometimes hold government posts, while officials in good standing, such as Nazarov, have been suspected – by local residents, Western diplomats, and researchers – of involvement in illicit activity, especially the drug trade, which is estimated to account for 30 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP.

via Tajikistan: President to Head East as Battle for Badakhshan Control Continues | EurasiaNet.org.

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