Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 164

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov opened festively on September 7 the first section of a broad-gauge railway, intended to link southwestern Tajikistan with the international Karakorum highway that runs to the east of the country. The Tajik railway’s first section runs from Kurgonteppe to Kulob. According to Rakhmonov, in his broadcast inaugural address, the rail-and-highway route will ultimately provide Tajikistan access to both China and the Indian Ocean. (Radio Dushanbe, September 7)

Meanwhile, the rail segment seems more likely intended to benefit Rakhmonov’s native Kulob-Kurgonteppe region, whose representatives control the central government in Dushanbe. In another pork barrel project, the government seeks international funding to build both an international airport and a highway in the backward Kulob area. Such expensive projects of questionable economic utility belie the Kulob clan’s claim, in its capacity as a ruling force in Dushanbe, to be transcending regionalism. The regional factor is key to Tajik politics. All contending groups, including the one currently controlling the central government, capitalize on that factor.–VS

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