Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 29

Tajik president Imomali Rahmonov yesterday dismissed Prime Minister Jamshid Karimov and appointed Yahio Azimov in his place. Azimov, 48, hails from Hojent in the northern Leninabad region and is billed as an ethnic Tajik. However, that region is largely populated by ethnic Uzbeks, who traditionally played a leadership role in Soviet Tajikistan. Many Uzbeks in the region were registered pro forma as ethnic Tajiks. The choice of Azimov appears designed to address the grievances of ethnic Uzbeks dissatisfied with the current predominance of the southern Kulyab clan in the country’s government. Those grievances were partly responsible for two recent warlord rebellions. Azimov is a textile engineer by training and has long been the director of Tajikistan’s largest carpet factory. In his inaugural statement, Azimov pledged to strengthen relations with Russia and other CIS countries and supported Tajikistan’s accession to the CIS customs union (currently comprised of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan). He also called for economic reforms with a focus on privatization, but at the same time sought a salary raise for state employees.

Russian president Boris Yeltsin spoke with Rahmonov by telephone yesterday and praised the Tajik leader’s ability to defuse the two recent rebellions through political compromise. Yeltsin promised to step up economic assistance and political support to the Tajik government; Rahmonov said Russia was the guarantor of peace and stability in Tajikistan, the region, and the entire world.

Meanwhile, in the mountainous Tavildar district, resistance detachments favored by winter weather continued to advance against government forces. The resistance units are said to be led by field commanders Mullo Jangi and Mirzo Zieyev. Their forces have in the last two days captured several more villages — up to 20, according to Dushanbe military officials — and have also cut the sole highway connecting Dushanbe with the Badahshan regional capital of Horog, where other resistance units are entrenched. Tajikistan’s first deputy defense minister Nikolai Shcherbatov acknowledged that his Tajik forces were sustaining losses and that the opposition was "prevailing." (16)