Another cellophane-wrapped gift for Emomali Rakhmon in Dushanbe
Another explosion in the capital of Tajikistan (and not the first one this year) reminded general public of the series of similar explosions in Tashkent on the eve of parliamentary and presidential elections there in 1999. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan organized those explosions in front of the presidential palace, parliament, and Embassy of the Russian Federation. It was a message to official Tashkent from Namangan, an indication that gunmen there were no longer content with the Ferghana Valley alone and reckoned themselves ready to challenge the hateful regime of Islam Karimov.
The Tajik situation bears but a remote resemblance to what happened in Uzbekistan eight years ago. The Tajik authorities do not identify the political force that could arrange the explosions in Dushanbe - and do not appear to be particularly anxious to do so. Why bother, indeed? Whoever is seeking an answer to this question will be probably treated to long-winded elaborations on international terrorism that recognizes no state borders and on "certain forces determined to compromise stability" in the republic under Emomali Rakhmon. That will be all by way of explanations. Meanwhile, nearly identical explosions in front of the Supreme Court in Dushanbe took place five months ago. How come the authorities never identified the terrorists - or at least got a clue as to who could arrange the explosions? How come no effort was made to introduce the new enemy to Tajik society living in comparative stability since the civil war of the 1990s? Small explosive devices regularly go off but whoever sets them off remains unanimous. In fact, regarding what happens in Dushanbe every now and then as terrorist acts requires a certain stretch of imagination (particularly the latest explosion where a hapless street-sweeper alone perished).
In a word, if it is some shy Islamists who are involved, then they do not promote their cause - or whatever passed for it - at all. This explosion will definitely fade from memory in a week or two. Neither was anybody particularly frightened, nor stability of Rakhmon's regime was compromised. The explosion has certainly failed to leave a mark. Sure, one may always argue that the Tajik underground is weak and that this is probably all it can come up with...
All the same, the terrorist act was definitely odd. Paradoxical as it may appear, but the authorities alone may benefit from it (the way they have in all analogous episodes before). Islamic fundamentalism may be a deadly threat to the regime - but only when it exists as a threat. Consider Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan where Islamic fundamentalists overrun whole cities which the regular army and police hasten to vacate. When the threat of the Islamic fundamentalism is so vague as it seems to be in Tajikistan, however, ritualistic references to it merely help the regime to handle domestic and foreign problems through appeals to the international community. In other words, the culprits in Dushanbe have only played into Rakhmon's hands.
Sergei Strokan, Kommersant, November 15, 2007, p. 9 © Translated by Ferghana.Ru