Police in the town of Qurgon-teppa were reluctant to comment on the incidents to RFE/RL's Tajik Service, other than to say that they were not investigating the December 28-29 torchings.
The shopkeepers claim that local authorities, especially police, have been demanding that they relocate from their stalls to more expensive, state-owned retail space.
One of the shop owners, Gulchehra, quoted a police officer as saying the "ugly little bookstores are ruining the downtown view."
The shopkeepers say they'd sent a letter of protest to local authorities about past police harassment but have heard nothing.
Gulchehra charged simply: "The arson attack was officials' response to our letter."
-- Farangis Najibullah