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Tajikistan: President Dismisses Government Loyalists, Opposition Figures

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov appeared to add to his list of potential political opponents this week when he fired a military commander who had helped keep him in power during the country's civil war. Rakhmonov's sacking of the commander of the presidential guard followed a series of dismissals of senior opposition figures from government posts.

Prague, 29 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov this week sacked presidential guard commander Ghaffor Mirzoyev. Several senior members of the former opposition who owed their positions to the peace deal that ended the Tajik civil war also were dismissed from government posts recently.

Mirzoyev had led the presidential guard against a series of threats during the civil war, including from some of the government's own troops. It would not be an exaggeration to say Mirzoyev kept Rakhmonov in power during these mutinies.

Mirzoyev's replacement, Rajabali Rakhmonoliyev, is from Rakhmonov's home region of Kulob. Mirzoyev's reaction to his dismissal was not surprising: "I view this [dismissal] as unfair -- 100 percent unfair! We were not fighting for this [during the civil war]. We were not fighting for what we have here and now!"

Mirzoyev was quoted by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS as saying he is not angry at Rakhmonov. "I am angry at his circle," he said. "Maybe I bothered someone."

Some 200 soldiers in the presidential guard have threatened to resign in protest. Mirzoyev has said he will not support any acts of violence against the government. Mirzoyev added that if the presidential circle steps up pressure, he will leave the country.

Rakhmonov's motives for dismissals of both former opposition figures and government loyalists are unclear but could be explained by a desire to rid the government of anyone who commanded an armed unit in the field during the civil war. Rakhmonov has publicly said he wants younger people involved in the country's politics. At the same time, he may wish to cleanse the bureaucracy of people whose ideas or actions played a large part in the civil war.

"I view this [dismissal] as unfair -- 100 percent unfair! We were not fighting for this [during the civil war]. We were not fighting for what we have here and now!"
Mirzoyev's dismissal also may have been an attempt at keeping a balance. It was becoming noticeable that many of those who had been fired recently were from the former opposition. Opposition groups who fought government forces during the civil war have watched the gains they made with the peace deal slowly erode.

One of those who lost a government position recently is Mahmadruzi Iskandarov, head of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan. He is now in the eastern Tajikabad region, reportedly meeting with party supporters to plan strategy for next year's parliamentary elections.

Iskandarov says he intends to appeal to the countries which were guarantors of the Tajik peace, as well as international organizations and the Tajik people: "In the address, we will ask the guarantor countries, the UN, and the political parties of the country which are in opposition to the government to be more active. And to the people of Tajikistan, we will ask that they be more vigilant and understand the fate of their country is in their hands, and they should not turn over their future to a small group of people from just one region. The best Tajik figures who I believe could [improve life in Tajikistan] are on the sidelines of political life."

The Dushanbe-based media group Asia-Plus reported yesterday that Iskandarov plans to create a new political party or bloc. The news agency could not confirm rumors that Iskandarov would appeal to former field commanders from the civil war.

With an increasing number of figures from the war now finding themselves removed from government posts, there are fears some may again resort to arms to force change.

The Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan has suffered as much as any other from dismissals from government posts. The leader of the party, Said Abdullo Nuri, is calling on supporters not to let frustration cloud their judgment: "Every person, every citizen of Tajikistan, any group has the right to hold meetings to discuss various problems, but within the framework of the law. As the former leader of an opposition bloc, I advise everyone to never go outside the law and not give an opportunity for the outbreak of violence in the country."

Parliamentary elections are scheduled in just over one year, but opposition groups and now supporters of the president are seeing their influence waning.

Mirzoyev's comments that the situation today in Tajikistan is not what he and others were fighting for is perhaps a telling remark. Tajikistan's peace has been described as fragile, and questions are now arising as to how much strain the peace can withstand.

(Salimjon Aioubov and Kholiqi Sangin of RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report.)

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