18 november 2019

Central Asia news

The last of the allies

14.07.2009 16:05 msk

Sanobar Shermatova

Politics Tajikistan

The circumstances of the death of former Emergency Control Ministry, the General-Lieutenant Mirzo Zieev are not clear. According to the official statement, he was planning to take over the power in Tavildara, but soon joined the governmental forces and later on was killed by his comrades. The opposition sources affirm that Zieev was called by the ruling regime for negotiations and was shot by governmental troops. What is the implication of the death of important opposition leader who has done so much to strengthen the power of the President Rakhmon?

Djaga or Mr. Commander

If it was not the collapse of USSR that fueled to dramatic events in Tajikistan the young man from rural area, the fan of Indian movies, would have lived the ordinary life of Soviet citizen. After graduating from school Mirzo Zieev served in the Soviet army and then finished the industrial technical school, majoring in topography. The disturbance in the 1990s split Tajik by regional attribute. Tavildara, where Zieevs are originally from, joined the opposition forces. Mirzo, working as the local driver, forms own unit and moves to Afghanistan, where the opposition were forced out. Mirzo received "Djaga" nickname, after the character of favorite Indian movies, as well as "sokhibkoroni kumondon" (Mr. Commander) that he received in Afghanistan after heading joint forces of united Tajik opposition.

The rapid acceleration to the power took place in 1998 after the militants returned to Tajikistan. The President Rakhmon signed the peaceful agreement with old enemy, Islamic opposition against new enemy – restless colonel Makhmud Khudaiberdyev. At that time the central government had to rely on one warlord against others. These were new sad realities: Rakhmon and his team did not control most part of the republic where the fight continued for financial and other resources. Yesterday’s comrades were turning into enemies and vice versa.

Mirzo Zieev was promised the position of Defense Minister in case of successful operation against mutineer Khudaiberdyev. Professional soldier and Colonel Makhmud Khudaiberdyev joined National frontline against Islamic opposition. After signing peaceful agreement several times he organized the mutinies and ultimately escaped to Uzbekistan, from where he organized the military attack in the northern regions of the republic. The rebels were defeated and Khudaiberdyev had to return to Uzbekistan. Instead of promised chair of Defense Minister Zieev received the position of Emergency Control Minister; the Emergency Control Committee was specifically renamed to the ministry.

The immediate comrades of Zieev and the members of his office were appointed to the positions of first Deputy Emergency Control Minister, first deputy Head of Committee for border protection, first Deputy Defense Minister. The comrades of Zieev take over the positions of Chairman of Sberbank and the Head of the Committee for precious metals and stones. ECM gets the opportunity to form military units. The team of former warlord de facto becomes the basis for Rakhmon’s regime. Such transformation required more serious reason than the defeat of rebels. And such reason appeared soon.

Considering the support, provided by Uzbek authorities to Khudaibergenov, Rakhmon is recommended to use the militants of Djuma Namangani. After signing peaceful agreement in 1997 these people, representing opposition, became unclaimed and expected the execution at home country. Their bases in Tajik mountains could be a temporary haven: Tashkent was demanding their extradition. As in case with Tajik opposition, the only solution was to position themselves as political and military force and, receiving the security guarantees from Uzbek government, to return home. This led to the establishment of Islamic movement of Uzbekistan that attempted military actions in Uzbek territory in 1999-2000.

Zieev’s people ensured the access to neighboring republics for IMU soldiers. The Emergency Control Minister played an important role in the march, named "country war in Batken" after Kyrgyz rayon, occupied by Namangani. In the summer of 1999 Japanese geologists and Kyrgyz citizens, kept in Batken as hostages, were freed with the assistance of Zieev.


In the following years Emomali Rakhmon several times had to ask for Zieev’s assistance when he needed to neutralize the threat of new military actions on the enemy’s side or release the hostages. Thus, in 2001 as per personal request of Rakhmon, Zieev conducted the negotiations as a result of which foreign experts and Tajik law enforcement officers, captured in Tavildara, were released without any preliminary conditions. By that time the relationship status between Zieev and the President was not the best one. Strengthening his positions, Rakhmon less needed those people who helped him out to accelerate to supreme power. The former comrades were disappearing as if they were dropped from the chess desk by experience and subtle player. Ultimately, it became Zieev’s turn in November of 2006 when he was fired from the position of the Emergency Control Minister by the presidential decree.


Yakub Salimov, former Internal Affairs Minister and ex-Ambassador in Turkey, sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.

Gafur (Gaffor) Mirzoev, former Chief of Presidential Guard and the Director of the agency for the control of drug trafficking, sentenced to life imprisonment.

Makhmadruzi Iskandarov, the leader of Democratic Party, former Oil and Gas Minister, sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment.

Makhmadnazar Salikhov, former Prosecutor General, former Internal Affairs Minister and Head of President’s office. According to official statement, he shot himself at the arrest.

Abdudjalil Khamidov, former Head of Sogd Oblast, sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.

Sukhrob Langariev, the brother of the National frontline leader Langari Langariev, sentenced to 18 years.

Safarali Kendjaev, former Chairman of Supreme Council, the founder of National frontline, murdered.

Khabib Sanginov, former Deputy Internal Affairs Minister, murdered.
Leaving politics, the retired General started agricultural business. In his luxury mansion in Tavildara Mirzo Zieev told the journalist of Asia Plus agency that he was going to produce the record number of melons. "All of a sudden, I hear about militants! I had to stop operations and meet people in order to calm them down", Zieev shared in the interview. After conversation with him it remained unclear whether the Minister was acting independently or upon the request of the government. There could be also another scenario. The image of Zieev among the residents of Tavildara was very strong and people, concerned about rumors on militants and possible military operations, came to famous comrade to clarify information. In the interview with journalist, Zieev spoke very carefully, avoiding direct answers. He said he decided not to interfere in the operations of governmental forces "in order to avoid misunderstanding". Perhaps, for the same reason he did not publicly reject the official statement that militia units were concentrated in the mountainous regions in order to eliminate poppy crops. It is a common knowledge that poppy was never grown in this region. The governmental forces de facto chased the militants, coming from Afghanistan.

One may not trust the former warlord when confidently says that "no force can destabilize the situation in the country" and his statements that "while I am alive I will put best efforts not to allow the destabilization in the region". However, the tone of his recent statements matches his behavior. After the resignation Zieev never attempted the mutiny. Obviously, the last of the charismatic commanders that reached peaceful agreement with Rakhmon 12 years ago, could change his mind any right time. Nonetheless, there was no such moment in Tavildara rayon after emergence of militants. As an experienced soldier, Zieev could foresee that victorious march against the government is destined to fail if it is initiated from mountainous region and having few soldiers. Therefore, the official statement that Zieev joined the militants is questionable.

Was Zieev killed by governmental soldiers that believed that in the future he would be able to head the opposition against Rakhmon or radical militants that would want to get rid of charismatic mediator? I believe we will not hear the right answer in the near future. One thing is unambiguous: the resignation of former comrades of the President fortifies the current power, shared between "own" people.

Sanobar Shermatova – the expert of RIA Novosti, exclusively for Ferghana.Ru news agency