KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- Some school principals in northern Tajikistan say they are under pressure to attract new members to President Emomali Rahmon's ruling National Democratic Party of Tajikistan (NDPT), RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
School principal Fayzullo Fayziev, who also heads the Sughd provincial branch of the opposition Democratic Party of Tajikistan, told RFE/RL on August 15 that the local education board has asked all school principals to recruit from five to 10 new party members, all of whom must have a university degree.
But Anvar Jalilov, an NDPT activist in Khujand, told RFE/RL that party membership is voluntary. He challenged those who claim people are being forced to join the NDPT to produce evidence to substantiate those allegations.
Tajik experts said such orders are usually issued verbally and are difficult to prove.
Tilav Rasulzoda, a local expert on politics, told RFE/RL on August 15 that the ruling party is afraid that educated people may join opposition parties if they are given the choice.
Analyst Mardon Hojipoor said the NDPT wants to have the largest and best-educated membership of any party.
The NDPT is currently the largest party in Sughd, with about 48,000 members, some 20,000 of whom reportedly have graduate degrees.
Of the remaining members, about 14,000 are said to have bachelor degrees while some 14,000 are high school graduates.
The main opposition party in Sughd is the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which says it has about 13,000 members.