Staunton, September 25 – Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, which adjoins Afghanistan, is descending into chaos, with Dushanbe’s demand that the population turn in its weapons leading to clashes between the estimated 7500 Tajik soldiers there and the local population.
This region has long been among the most restive in that Central Asian republic, but the situation has deteriorated over the last two weeks following a visit to Khorog, the oblast’s capital, by the country’s president, Emomali Rakhmon, who denounced local officials for failing to put things in order (fergananews.com/articles/10192).
He threatened to purge the local officials if they did not disarm the population, a purge that has already begun, and said he would send in the army to do so if the officials did not. He also denounced the local establishment for allowing the free flow of drugs through the region and for failing to counter the spread of alcoholism.
Shodikhon Dzhamshid, the head of the autonomy, said that everything would be put in order over the next month; but officials are not likely to act until the CIS summit in Dushanbe concludes two days from now lest Rakhmon be embarrassed. But after that, the situation could really get out of hand.
Khorog was a center of resistance to the central government during the civil war in the 1990s, and twice in recent years, in 2012 and 2014, Dushanbe has sought to bring its population to heel by sending in troops. But both geography – the mountains and neighboring Afghanistan – extreme poverty alleviated only by crime have prevented that from happening.
Tensions and fears have been growing in recent months, the Fergana news agency reports; and it says that “there have already been clashes between the military and the local population” which fears the army will try to take away its weapons. “The slightest occasion could provoke a major conflict,” the agency says.
If one occurs, the Tajik military might not be able to control the situation; and in that event, Dushanbe might ask Russian forces already in Tajikistan to help lest this border region explode and open the way for the spread of violence from Afghanistan into Tajikistan and beyond.
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