Staunton, October 4 – Tashkent has always insisted that there are no serious political problems in Karakalpakistan, the impoverished autonomous region in western Uzbekistan that continues to suffer because of the death of the Aral Sea, once was part of Kazakhstan, and now is attracting interest because of the discovery of oil on its territory.
But the Uzbek government’s insistence that all is well frequently has been undercut by its actions -- as has just been the case with the installation of a new head of the republic. Sixty-three days after the death of longtime autonomy head Musa Yerniyazov earlier this summer, Tashkent finally installed a replacement, senior security officer Murat Kalmazov.
Kalmazov’s installation was not unexpected. Indeed, it had been rumored that he would get the nod even before Yerniyazov died. But both the length of time before he was named and the way in which the process not only violated the law which requires a new head in 10 days and public notice suggest the situation there may be deteriorating further.
Worse, a day before the parliament voted to install Kalmazov, 65 and the son of a man who ran Karakalpakistan for 20 years in Soviet times, officials said they had no information about when the election would occur, another violation of the law which requires announcing such events beforehand (centrasia.org/news.php?st=1601802180
UPDATE: Tashkent removed from the Uzbekistan news agency the article on which this Window is based (hook.report/2020/10/privet-cenzura/). Fortunately, CentrAsia picked it up and posted it before that happened)
That Tashkent should want a security office as head of this restive region is no surprise, but the delay in arranging for that is. There are three possible reasons: the Karakalpak national movement is becoming more active, Russia and Kazakhstan are eying access to oil discovered in that republic, and Moscow wants leverage over an increasingly independent-minded Tashkent.
How things will play out is very unclear, but it is almost certain that repression in Karakalpakistan is going to increase, yet another development that calls into question Tashkent’s suggestions that all is well and that it is committed to democratic reforms throughout Uzbekistan and that Russia and Kazakhstan will be watching closely and acting as well.