On June 27, Tajik leaders celebrated the Day of National Unity–the anniversary of the peace agreements signed by the government and the opposition on that date in 1997, which ended the hostilities in the civil war. The second anniversary of those agreements was clouded by the government’s failure to fulfill some key political commitments it had undertaken in those documents. That failure, which places the country’s prospects in doubt, lent the celebrations an air of unreality, compounded by their being confined to central Dushanbe and Kulob, just about the only areas in which the government can be certain of enforcing its writ.
Although United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leaders–including UTO chairman Saidabdullo Nuri and his first deputy, Akbar Turajonzoda–did participate in the official celebrations, Nuri warned in a parallel statement that he would quit as head of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) unless the government lives up to its political obligations under the 1997 agreements. The NRC is the government-opposition joint body mandated to oversee the implementation of those agreements. The UTO last month suspended its participation in the deadlocked NRC as “pointless,” but Nuri has since continued personal negotiations with President Imomali Rahmonov and wrung a few more deputy ministers’ posts for the UTO, which is entitled to a 30 percent quota of government posts under the peace agreements. On June 26, however, Nuri declared after a session with Rahmonov that the UTO has by now “lost hope” in the president’s ability to help resolve the accumulated problems.
The government’s as yet unfulfilled political commitments under the 1997 agreements include:
–Amnestying and releasing scores of UTO civilian supporters from political detention.
–Appointing a UTO nominee to head one of the “force” ministries–specifically, the Defense Ministry–while government nominees continue to head all the other military and security ministries and agencies. The government has for all intents and purposes repudiated its pledge to appoint UTO commander-in-chief Mirzo Zio as defense minister, but the UTO leadership insists on the fulfillment of that pledge.
–Allocating to the UTO its 30 percent quota of posts at the regional and local levels of government, ahead of the planned parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referendum. The UTO has drawn up a list of fourteen towns and administrative units in which it seeks the posts of local government heads for its nominees.
–Rescinding the ban on religious parties and replacing it with a stipulation that citizens have a right to join parties of their choice, “whether of an atheistic or a religious nature,” and lifting the ban on the opposition’s press.
While the government drags its feet or even backslides on its political commitments, the opposition is loath to accelerate the implementation of the military agreement which envisages the absorption of opposition units into government forces, which in turn find themselves under Russian control. A speedy completion of that absorption–as the government demands it–would deprive the UTO of its main bargaining lever before the government has even come close to delivering on the political side of the peace agreements (Hovar, Itar-Tass, AP, Reuters, June 21-27; see the Monitor, May 6, June 1-2).
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