Crossroads Asia

Tajikistan: Bailouts, Depots and Bad Neighbors

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Crossroads Asia

Tajikistan: Bailouts, Depots and Bad Neighbors

Recommended regional reads on Dushanbe’s financial troubles, quest to quash opposition, and poor neighborly relations.

Tajikistan: Bailouts, Depots and Bad Neighbors
Credit: Public Domain

Weekend reads:

Bailout Money for Tajikistan? This week Jack Farchy broke news for the Financial Times that Tajikistan might be fishing for a bailout package from the IMF to the tune of $500 million. The deputy head of Tajikistan’s central bank, Jamoliddin Nuraliev, told FT “We are in a dialogue with the fund.” A team from the IMF recently paid a visit to Central Asia’s poorest state (and the world’s most remittance-dependent), but alongside its pledge to stand ready to assist in such trying economic times a caveat was included: that “early and substantial policy actions” on the part of the government were necessary. Farchy’s report seems to support that conclusion, he cites “People briefed on Tajikistan’s talks with the IMF” as indicating that the Tajik government must make a number of reform steps on their own.

The Long Arm of the Despot: Edward Lemon has a piece up on Open Democracy which catalogues Tajikistan’s wide-ranging effort to silence opposition at home and abroad. “Intimidation, beatings and murder — this is Central Asia’s authoritarianism without borders.” The overall bent of the piece will be familiar to frequent readers of Crossroads Asia, but Lemon brings the blanket nature of Dushanbe’s efforts into sharp focus:

Each of these groups pursues a different agenda. Whereas Group 24 has called for the overthrow of the Rahmon regime, Tablighi Jamoat focuses on Islamising society and the IRPT follows a moderate Islamist agenda, consistently stating its support for the secular state.

Nevertheless, the Tajik government has labelled all of these groups “extremist,” adding them to a list that includes Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. By tarring these disparate Islamic and secular groups with the same brush, the regime aims to discredit them and legitimise measures against their members.

There was, however a bit of good news this week: Shabnam Khudoydodova, a Group 24 member who fled from Russia to Belarus when she heard the Tajikistan was going to seek her extradition. She was detained after being denied entry into Poland last summer but this week was finally released and granted refugee status. Her was one of the cases highlighted recently by Human Rights Watch, which urges governments in Europe and the United States to press Tajik officials on cases like hers.

The Uzbek Railroad to Isolation: Uzbekistan recently completed construction on a stretch of tracks from Tashkent to the Uzbek portion of the Fergana Valley. But as Bruce Pannier at RFE/RL points out, the reasoning is a little strange: it’s not that there wasn’t rail service between Tashkent and the valley, but that it had to pass through Tajikistan–the Soviets built it that way. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are a perfect example of how bad inter-regional relations can be. All the rail lines into Tajikistan pass through Uzbek territory, and Tashkent’s need to pass through Dushanbe’s territory to reach Fergana by rail mandated a small amount of continued cooperation–cutting each other off would incur a cost. Tajikistan has no leverage now and last I checked, Uzbekistan still hated Tajikistan’s dam projects.

That’s not all though. While there have been several loudly-discussed rail ventures around the region–none of them really try to link the region together:

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran just launched a railway (North-South Transport Corridor) linking the three countries in December 2014. But that is the only railway line built in post-Soviet Central Asia that actually connects two Central Asian countries. All the other railways built since late 1991 were built to other countries (Kazakhstan-China, Turkmenistan-Iran, and Uzbekistan-Afghanistan) or to avoid having to transit a neighbor’s territory.