Staunton,November 7 – The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, the last region ofTajikistan over which Dushanbe has yet to establish full control and which is amajor conduit for the flow of drugs and other contraband from Afghanistan intothe rest of the country, has continued its descent into chaos and violence.
Theauthorities have been trying to take control of the region since mid-Septemberwhen Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon visited the area and demanded thatthe authorities suppress the illegal flow of drugs and arms. He began replacingofficials and forced the seven most important informal gang leaders to sign anagreement to subordinate themselves.
Butinstead of ending tensions, the situation has deteriorated over the last fewdays, with reports of gunfire by members of the population and a betterdocumented account that the police fired into a crowd of some 200 demonstrators(russian.eurasianet.org/таджикистан-акция-протеста-в-бадахшане-повышает-ставки-в-противостоянии-с-правительством).
Twowere wounded and that prompted relatives to complain that they had no one tocomplain to when the militia acted so violently. Officials responded that thepopulation was to blame, having fired shots earlier and then having attacked amilitia car.Because of the region’sisolation, it is difficult to determine with certainty who is correct.
But one thing is clear: Dushanbe nowfaces a situation in which the population is very much against it, and the authoritieswill either have to apply even more force than they have up to now, likelyleading to deaths, or give up on any hope they may have to establish fullcontrol there.
In either case, it appears likelythat radicals in Afghanistan just over the border will be watching and likelywill try to exploit the situation, moves that could affect not only thishighland region and Tajikistan but Central Asia more generally.That is because this region is the gatewaynot just to Dushanbe but to the other countries in the region as well.