Tajikistan is tightly controlled by President Emomali Rahmon and a complex system of patronage and political repression are the hallmarks of his rule. The government’s elimination of moderate Islamic opposition risks creating an opening for violent jihadists and the country faces growing instability along its southern border with conflict-plagued Afghanistan. Through field research, analytical reports and advocacy, Crisis Group aims to mitigate Tajikistan’s internal and external threats and inform national and regional stakeholders about the risk of political instability and radicalisation in the face of government policies.
Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Incumbent President Rahmon announced bid for fifth presidential term ahead of Oct poll. Ruling People’s Democratic Party 3 Sept nominated Rahmon, in power since 1992, to run for fifth term in presidential elections scheduled for 11 Oct, ending speculation he would step down to make way for his son, Rustam Emomali. Lawyer and Gorno-Badakhshan provincial council member, Faromuz Irgashev, same day announced intention to run in elections to fight “injustice being meted out by law enforcement officers against ordinary people”; State Committee for National Security officers next day visited and questioned Irgashev at his home. After 11 Sept candidate registration deadline, Central Election Commission 14 Sept announced total of five presidential candidates, excluding Irgashev who reportedly failed to collect enough voter signatures; candidates next day launched electoral campaigns. Nationwide internet outage 16 Sept coincided with online address by exiled Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri, speaking from Washington DC, U.S.; Kabiri accused govt of preventing opposition from participating in elections. State Communications Service representative next day said 30-minute internet shutdown occurred for “unknown reasons”. Group 24 opposition movement, which govt proscribed as extremist group in 2014, 2 Sept said Russian authorities detained activist and member Shobuddin Badalov in Nizhny Novgorod city in Russia; Group 24 alleged involvement of Tajik officials. Meanwhile, U.S. defence dept 1 Sept said China may be planning to set up new military bases in Tajikistan “to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure”. Afghan FM Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Tajik counterpart Sirojiddin Muhriddin 17 Sept met in capital Dushanbe, reportedly to discuss range of issues including resumption of electric supply from Tajikistan to Afghanistan; Afghan MFA same day announced plans for strategic partnership agreement with Tajikistan.
The prevailing calm in Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan's remote east does not rule out the prospect of a clash between local powerbrokers and Dushanbe authorities. To mitigate the risks of a local flare-up and regional power rivalry, China and Russia should communicate with each other and nudge President Rahmon toward a smooth transition of power.
With his seven-year term set to end in 2020, uncertainty is growing over whether Tajikistan’s long-time ruler President Rahmon will handpick a successor or continue his reign. Growing troubles at home and abroad ensure both scenarios are fraught with risk and must be managed prudently, lest the country become another source of regional disorder.
Plagued by violence, corruption and economic hardship, and exposed to a long, insecure border with Afghanistan, Tajikistan is under dangerous stress. President Rahmon’s autocratic undermining of the 1997 peace agreement is fostering Islamic radicalisation. As Tajikistan’s growing fragility impacts a brittle region, the country must become a conflict-prevention priority.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
Tajikistan, Central Asia’s poorest state and a key logistical link for international forces in Afghanistan, faces a growing security threat from both local and external rebels.
Originally published in Internationale Politik
Originally published in New Eastern Europe
Originally published in Esglobal