Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 28

Two weeks ago Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov admitted, for the first time, that Tajikistan has become the main channel for the Asian narcotics traffic to Russia and Europe. He issued a rhetorical appeal to battle the drug business and a warning to the accomplices of that business within Tajikistan’s security agencies and state apparatus in general (see the Monitor, January 31). State officials are now vying with one another to pour ashes over their heads and to promise corrective action. The official rhetoric occasionally allows real and important information to emerge.

A roundtable discussion, broadcast live on state radio and television, yielded some startling admissions from the participants: Internal Affairs Minister Khumdin Sharipov, Transport Prosecutor Saidkabir Saidamirov, Customs Committee Chairman Mirzokhuja Nizomov, Border Troops commander Saidanvar Kamolov and Drugs Control Agency Director Rustam Nazarov.

These officials made it clear that much of the drugs in transit through Tajikistan originate from Afghanistan’s northeastern and northern area, which are controlled by the anti-Taliban opposition or by no one. They also admitted that northern Afghan drug dealers from those areas are able to shuttle regularly and with seeming impunity across the Russian-guarded Tajik-Afghan border. Some of them take Tajik residents–mainly women and girls–to Afghanistan as hostages for debts owed by their relatives to those northern Afghan drug dealers. Russian and Tajik border troops are in some cases negotiating with those drug dealers for the release of hostages–a clear indication that the dealers are based in areas controlled by the Afghan opposition.

These officials admitted in the course of the round table that the Tajik authorities seize only about one-tenth of the total amounts of narcotics smuggled across Tajikistan, and acknowledged that officers of law enforcement and security agencies are personally involved in the drug business.

The ministries of defense and internal affairs and other agencies have in recent days held amply publicized conferences on combating the narcotics traffic. They resolved to step up checks and beef up patrols on transport arteries, but recognized at the same time that they lack trained personnel and technical equipment. On the whole, the antidrug campaign is marked by Soviet-era propaganda reflexes: “self-criticism” on the part of state officials, reassurances of loyalty to the head of state–who ordered this campaign in the first place–and a focus on the familiar method of raziasnitelnaya rabota [“explanatory work”] in the absence of real means or will to deal with the problem. In the same spirit, state media have been ordered to feature regular weekly reports on the evils of the drug business and drug addiction.

Meanwhile, Russian media continue documenting the activity of Tajik drug dealers and couriers across Russia. Just in the last three days, major consignments of drugs from Tajikistan have been seized in Russia’s Astrakhan Region, in St. Petersburg and at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. Corrupt and inefficient Russian authorities intercept only a fraction of the total traffic (Tajik Radio and Television, Hovar, February 1, 5; Itar-Tass, February 5-7; see the Monitor, December 22, 2000, January 9, 12, 23, 31).

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