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Central Asia news

Experts: President of Tajikistan is not in control

29.05.2008 19:17 msk

Ferghana.Ru news agency

Analytics Tajikistan

The authorities gave the order to Internal Troops to attack the Langariyevs' household on Tuesday night. Once activists of the Popular Front, the Langariyevs had fought the Islamic opposition, side by side with Emomali Rakhmon, back in the mid-1990s. Not even the elder brother's death in the civil war saved his family now.

Official Tajik media presented the strike as a planned special operation against Sukhrob Langariyev, 29, the youngest brother and allegedly a drug dealer. The Tajik Interior Ministry said yesterday its sources had reported over a centner (50 kilograms) of heroin stored in the household.

The police arrived at Langariyevs' door to search the dwelling and found the door locked, the Langariyevs flatly refusing to admit strangers inside. With the household cordoned off and armored vehicles summoned, the police attacked. Those inside, however, turned out to be armed and the attackers found themselves under intense fire. Five people were reportedly killed in the skirmish including a state security officer, two gawking onlookers, and a child.

Strong resistance compelled the attackers to fall back and reconsider their options. An attempt to reach an agreement with the besieged Longariyevs was made. Sukhrob's father was brought in and advised to persuade the suspect to surrender. The father did his best but Sukhrob flatly refused.

"He only asked that all children and women be permitted to leave the besieged building and the father did lead them out of the fire zone," secret services officer said. He added that the police were absolutely in the dark concerning the number of defenders inside or their arsenals.

The negotiations over, the skirmish resumed. Servicemen of Alpha, a special assignment unit, arrived from Dushanbe, kept pressing the attack and succeeded late at night when the defenders were finally overrun.

The Langariyevs commanded respect far beyond the immediate area and long after the 1992-1997 civil war. One of the brothers, Bahtiyer, commanded a regional SOBR unit (fast response detachment). He fell into disgrace after some critical statements the regime did not appreciate and fled the country. (Some sources claim that he actually was living in Moscow). Major General Faizali Langariyev, another brother, is today chief of the Directorate of Combat Training of the Defense Ministry.

Observers already connected the operation against Sukhrob with the authorities' intrigues against his powerful brother. "This clan did a great deal for Rakhmon indeed, enabling the latter to become the head of state," Shokirdjon Rakhimov, Assistant Chairman of the Social-Democratic Party, said. "There is a conflict of interests "upstairs" nowadays and it is worsening. That is why the powers-that-be regard their former allies as potential rivals and therefore invent excuses to remove them from the political process."

Rakhmon did purge the ruling circles of powerful allies over the last several years. Ex-commander of the Presidential Guard, Gafor Mirzoyev, and former interior minister, Yakub Salimov (both from Kulyab), were tried, convicted, and imprisoned. Nor were former leaders of the United Tajik Opposition forgotten. The Tajik regime has a long memory. It had Mirzokhoji Nizomov (formerly of the Customs Committee) and Mahmadruzi Iskandarov (Democratic Party leader and Tajikgaz ex-director) seized, tried, and sentenced to imprisonment.

Rakhmon's adversaries, in the meantime, stopped playing by his rules or bowing to his will without a murmur of protest. Major Tokhir Chorbanshiyev, commander of a Border Detachment in Gorny Badakhshan, was arrested on orders from Dushanbe last year. When informed, his followers took revenge upon the head of the local state security department and authorities were compelled to surrender and release Chorbanshiyev, once a leader of the United Tajik Opposition.

A skirmish occurred this February in Garm, a town known as bulwark of the Tajik opposition. Colonel Oleg Zakharchenko, commander of the Interior Ministry's OMON or special police unit, was killed in the skirmish. Zakharchenko was in Garm on a mission. He was supposed to arrest Colonel Mirzokhoja Akhmadov, chief of the local Organized Crime Department, who had fought against Rakhmon in the civil war. Akhmadov and his cohorts opened up on the OMON officers come to take them into custody. Zakharchenko was killed and four officers accompanying him were wounded. Akhmadov, in the meantime, retained his job as though nothing untoward happened. That was the last time official Dushanbe tried to restrain the powerful colonel.

Judging by the latest developments in Kulyab, the episode involving Akhmadov and Zakharchenko did not remain unnoticed, and that is bad news for Rakhmon, who has enough troubles in the inner circle to occupy him. All of Dushanbe is speculating on the quarrel between the president's son, Rustam, and business tycoon Hasan Sadullayev, his brother-in-law.

The conflict flared up on May 1 when both were accompanying Rakhmon on a visit to the town of Yavan. Whatever happened between the nephew and the uncle remains unclear, but the former drew a firearm and shot the latter. Wounded in the neck, Sadullayev was rushed to a clinic in Germany where he died a week later. Officially, his death was never confirmed. All of Dushanbe is therefore involved in wild speculations.

The recurring armed clashes between the central government and regional leaders, both official and informal, indicate to observers that Rakhmon does not control his own country. "What with the economic problems mounting, the situation is slipping out of control. Inadequacy of the policy pursued by the authorities become more and more clear," Rakhimov said. "There is no saying what side of the fence former field commanders - the ones that elevated Rakhmon to presidency in the first place - will be on in another conflict."

Tajikistan barely survived a grave crisis fomented by energy and food shortages last winter. According to the International Monetary Fund, 63% of the population exists on less than $2 a day. Almost a million Tajiks earn their living abroad, mostly in Russia. Experts from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development say that these people send nearly $1 billion to their families in Tajikistan every year, almost 50% of the national GDP. Export of aluminum accounts for 50% of all export revenues and amounts to only about $550 million.

"Economic crisis [in Tajikistan] deteriorates into a political crisis, slowly but surely," Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center said. "Rakhmon has lost his former charisma. Remaining the key figure in national politics, he is no longer adequate as an unquestionable intermediary between various regional clans... This latest episode in Kulyab does not have anything to do with a campaign against drugs but everything with the clannish wars going out of hand."

Kommersant (Moscow), May 28, 2008. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru