Thursday, November 8, 2018

Tajik Region Bordering Afghanistan Descends Further into Chaos and Violence

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 7 – The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, the last region of Tajikistan over which Dushanbe has yet to establish full control and which is a major conduit for the flow of drugs and other contraband from Afghanistan into the rest of the country, has continued its descent into chaos and violence.

            The authorities have been trying to take control of the region since mid-September when Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon visited the area and demanded that the authorities suppress the illegal flow of drugs and arms. He began replacing officials and forced the seven most important informal gang leaders to sign an agreement to subordinate themselves.

            But instead of ending tensions, the situation has deteriorated over the last few days, with reports of gunfire by members of the population and a better documented account that the police fired into a crowd of some 200 demonstrators (таджикистан-акция-протеста-в-бадахшане-повышает-ставки-в-противостоянии-с-правительством).

            Two were wounded and that prompted relatives to complain that they had no one to complain to when the militia acted so violently. Officials responded that the population was to blame, having fired shots earlier and then having attacked a militia car.  Because of the region’s isolation, it is difficult to determine with certainty who is correct.

            But one thing is clear: Dushanbe now faces a situation in which the population is very much against it, and the authorities will either have to apply even more force than they have up to now, likely leading to deaths, or give up on any hope they may have to establish full control there.

            In either case, it appears likely that radicals in Afghanistan just over the border will be watching and likely will try to exploit the situation, moves that could affect not only this highland region and Tajikistan but Central Asia more generally.  That is because this region is the gateway not just to Dushanbe but to the other countries in the region as well.

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