At a three-day session ending on May 23, the Tajik parliament banned all religious parties and political organizations. Ostensibly aimed at combating “fundamentalism,” the ban forms part of the new law on the operation of political parties. It leaves in place the interdiction imposed in 1994 on the Islamic Revival Movement, backbone of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), after the current regime had seized power by force of arms. The new law also bans “regionalist” parties, a provision that would affect UTO’s component Lali Badakhshon party, which represents the population of Badakhshon Autonomous Region. The same provision also appears to target the secular National Revival Bloc, which represents the interests of Leninabad region, the country’s most populous and developed.
The law contravenes the 1997 inter-Tajik peace agreements, which stipulate the legalization of the political parties banned in 1994, specifically including the Islamic Revival Movement and Lali Badakhshon. It also, in effect, nullifies the government’s acceptance of free elections under those agreements.
In a simultaneous step, President Imomali Rahmonov officially demanded that the UTO leadership arrest and hand over forty-five “terrorists” wanted by Uzbek President Islam Karimov. The group is said to consist of Uzbek citizens involved in last December’s “fundamentalist” unrest in Namangan (eastern Uzbekistan) and of these Uzbeks’ alleged “instructors” in Tajik opposition “training camps.” Karimov’s demand appears calculated to create conflict between Rahmonov and UTO and within UTO.
The UTO leadership has appealed to the UN and the guarantor countries to persuade Dushanbe to rescind the new law on political parties. The UTO also replied to Rahmonov that it has no Uzbek “terrorists” in its ranks, and that several Uzbeks who fought on the side of the opposition during the Tajik civil war have since left Tajikistan.
In a related statement, the UTO traced the government’s moves to the creation of the Russian-Uzbek-Tajik “troika.” It remarked that under the pretense of combating Islamic “extremism” and “fundamentalism,” the troika is interested in thwarting the peace settlement in Tajikistan. Continuing instability and disorder would enable “certain countries” to maintain their military presence and political influence in the country, the UTO leadership said in an allusion to Russia. It urged the Russian, Uzbek, and Tajik leaders to refrain from steps that can only fan the flames of conflict in Tajik society. (Russian and international agencies, May 23 through 26) Rahmonov had last week thrown the political settlement into question through a fiery speech in which he attempted to delegitimize the opposition altogether (see the Monitor, May 18). — VS
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