The dozens of imprisoned opposition figures and hundreds of perceived government opponents who have fled Tajikistan would certainly dispute any suggestion that everyone is equal under the law in the Central Asian country controlled by hard-line President Emomali Rahmon.
The injustice extends not only to those who run afoul of Tajik law -- but also to those who escape its grasp.
Case in point: Sulaymon Sultonzoda, the director of Tajikistan’s anti-corruption agency, who met with members of the media on July 30.
A journalist asked Sultonzoda whether Shahboz Rajabzoda, 32, a former official in the Customs Service, was being investigated for corruption, since in his 20 months on the job Rajabzoda worked in the Customs Service, he was able to acquire three apartments in Dushanbe and purchase three cars.
Sultonzoda said Rajabzoda was not being investigated and would not be since there was no formal complaint against him and President Rahmon had already pardoned him.
Rajabzoda’s tale is a strange one.
News of his seemingly ill-gotten gains was announced by Rahmon at a May 10 meeting of officials from the finance, tax, and customs agencies.
Rahmon called on Rajabzoda to stand up and then asked him how many homes and cars he owned.
Not waiting for an answer, Rahmon said: “Your sins are more numerous than the hairs on your head. Where have you worked that you weren’t fired? How they accepted you for this job is beyond comprehension.”
Rahmon was not finished.
Casting a gaze around the hall, he said: “He doesn’t obey anyone, doesn’t even say hello to anyone.” And turning his attention back to Rajabzoda, Rahmon continued, “Did you descend from the heavens? Are you without sin? Do you not have any shortcomings?”
Rahmon ordered Rajabzoda to write a resignation letter and pay restitution for any financial damages he might have caused.
But surprisingly, after citing Rajabzoda’s rather youthful age, Rahmon immediately amnestied him.
Rajabzoda reportedly made 16 trips to Europe during the one year and eight months he worked in the Customs Service.
And he started his work in the Customs Service's Internal Security Department (which has now been dissolved) as a lieutenant -- allegedly because of his education -- and within six months he had risen to the rank of colonel.
It is rather amazing that none of these unusual circumstances will be investigated. Or maybe it's not so amazing in a country like Tajikistan, where who you know can be incredibly valuable.
Rajabzoda did not come down from the heavens, though he did not claw his way up from the bottom, either.
His father is a well-known cardiologist at Tajikistan’s National Medical Center.
And the younger Rajabzoda once worked as a driver, taking the children of an influential person in Tajikistan to and from school each day.
That influential person was Ozoda Rahmon, the eldest daughter of the president and currently the head of the Tajik president’s executive office.
The Biased Scales Of Justice In Tajikistan
About This Blog
Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.
Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.
The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.