slowdown is worse than expected.  By Asyl Osmonalieva in Bishkek

TAJIK PROSECUTORS TAKE ON COURTS  In accusing judge of misconduct, are 
prosecutors acting in the public interest or in their own?  By Nargiz 
Hamrabaeva in Dushanbe

STATIC POLITICS IN TAJIKISTAN  Election next spring will replicate the 
governing party’s dominant position, leaving only a few seats for its rivals.  
By Lola Olimova, Nafisa Pisaredjeva and Talabsho Salomov in Dushanbe

NO LIGHT ON HORIZON FOR TURKMEN NGOS  Talk of reformist policies has not made 
it any easier for non-government groups to win legal status.  By IWPR staff in 
Central Asia

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Latest statistics confirm slowdown is worse than expected.

By Asyl Osmonalieva in Bishkek

The Kyrgyz government is under pressure to accelerate efforts to soften the 
impact of the ongoing economic crisis, as figures confirm the extent of the 

When ministers met businesspeople at a conference on August 4-6 to discuss the 
next phase of the “anti-crisis plan” the government has been implementing since 
the start of the year, they agreed that speed was of the essence if Kyrgyzstan 
is to be steered through this period of global economic turbulence. The 
discussion centred on how the business sector believes banking, industry, 
agriculture and tourism should be supported. 

“The country is currently experiencing a decline in production, trade and the 
service sector. Swift action is needed to stabilise the situation,” First 
Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov told a press conference a day after the 
meeting, which he chaired.

The idea of engaging the business community in taking the anti-crisis plan 
forward was announced by Prime Minister Igor Chudinov at a July 28 cabinet 

Chudinov made it clear that current plans would have to be revised as the 
economic situation was worse than anticipated. 

According to the national statistics agency, the economy grew by only 0.3 per 
cent year on year in the first six months of 2009, compared with 7.5 per cent 
in the same period last year. Industrial production fell by nearly 19 per cent, 
in part because of a slump in exports. 

“The world financial crisis, which has impacted all world economies, has also 
affected our country,” Bolot Toksobayev, head of the department for 
macroeconomic analysis and forecasting at the Ministry of Economic Development 
and Trade, told IWPR. “Kyrgyzstan’s main trading partners, Russia and 
Kazakstan, reduced the volume of manufactured goods they buy from us. Falling 
domestic and external demand led to a decline in industrial production as 
enterprises can’t make a profit if they are producing just to stock the 

Energy shortages, caused by low water levels in the Toktogul reservoir which 
powers the country’s biggest hydroelectric scheme, only compounded the problems 
facing industry. 

Finally, the economy has also suffered from a decline in the amount of money 
sent home by the hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz nationals working abroad.

Reflecting the continuing deterioration, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, 
has scaled down its growth forecast for the year from 3.7 to 0.9 per cent.

The IMF says external assistance, particularly a large Russian financial 
package approved earlier this year, is essential to helping the Kyrgyz economy 
weather the storm and keeping the government solvent afloat.

Current government policy includes efforts to boost budget revenues, build new 
industrial units and ensure a good harvest, while hoping that Kyrgyzstan’s 
trading partners begin to recover so that exports start rising again. 

Toksobaev said money had been earmarked for a development fund that will be 
used to revive moribund industries and back major new projects, for example a 
new cement factory in Kyzyl Kiya in the southern Batken region and a metals 
plant in neighbouring Osh. 

The obstacle to progress on these schemes, he added, was unnecessary levels of 

“We have to clear away the bureaucratic obstacles; it is these obstacles that 
are holding up the process of starting up plants which could even now be 
earning money for the national budget and providing people with jobs,” he said.

Analysts have welcomed the government’s determination to address the crisis, 
although they warn against depending on forecasts that the global economy will 
recover rapidly, helping Kyrgyz exports. 

As Kairat Kasymaliev of the Bishkek-based investment company MGN Capital notes, 
“In March, the situation on world stock markets temporarily stabilised, 
triggering optimistic statements by some experts that the crisis was over. But 
then the situation got worse again. Now we’re again seeing an economic revival 
[in Kyrgyzstan], although it’s quite possible this is a temporary phenomenon.”

Toksobaev agreed that it was premature to be talking about a worldwide 

“Currently, the crisis is being weathered because of the money countries have 
invested in addressing it, but when that has been spent, it is very possible 
the crisis could repeat itself,” he said.

In February, President Kurmanbek Bakiev secured a Russian pledge to invest 1.7 
billion US dollars in a major hydroelectric scheme, a 300-million-dollar loan 
to support the government budget, additional financial assistance worth 150 
million dollars and a write-off of 193 million dollars in sovereign debt, 
granted in exchange for a stake in a Kyrgyz defence plant. 

Analysts agree with the IMF view that support from Russia and other donors and 
lenders will help cushion the economic impact of crisis.

Nurbek Elebaev, who chairs the board of Kyrgyzstan’s stock exchange, says it 
would be worth seeking more loans on soft terms from countries like China, as 
long as the authorities ensure the money is properly invested in short-term 
that will bring swift and productive returns that benefit the country.

Another prediction on which the authorities are pinning their hopes is that the 
harvest will be a good one, ensuring the country has adequate stocks of food to 
take it through next winter. The agriculture ministry is forecasting a grain 
harvest of 642,000 tons, a 14 per cent increase on last year. 

As analysts like Kasymaliev point out, hoping for the best is not enough. 
Better planning, led by the agriculture ministry, is needed to avoid 
unnecessary shortfalls in the production of particular foodstuffs, he says. 

At the same time, Kasymaliev dismisses fears of major food shortages. 

“The situation last year, when the harvest was destroyed by an unusually severe 
drought, could be described as a shock, but this year we haven’t had anything 
of this kind,” he said.

Bakay Junushev, director of the iCap Investment financial services firm, adds a 
note of sobriety, noting that Kyrgyzstan has experienced crises of one kind or 
another for the three years. The likelihood is that people will endure this 
year’s hardships as well.

Asyl Osmonalieva in an IWPR-trained journalist in Kyrgyzstan.


In accusing judge of misconduct, are prosecutors acting in the public interest 
or in their own? 

By Nargiz Hamrabaeva in Dushanbe

Not for the first time, a court in Tajikistan has been accused of handing down 
excessive sentences. What sets this latest case apart is that the complaint 
comes from the prosecution service, which does not usually make it its business 
to seek leniency. 

Some analysts say prosecutors are right to try to rein in a judiciary that 
appears over-fond of heavy sentencing. Others, however, believe the prosecution 
service is merely trying to undermine judges who are about to be strengthened 
by judicial reforms. 

When the trial in question ended on June 10 in the northern city of Khojand, 29 
people were sentenced to between ten and 25 years in prison for a range of 
charges including murder, money laundering and possession of weapons. Two more 
received two-year sentences and were released as part of an amnesty. 

All 31 were accused of being part of an organised crime group working for 
Nuriddin Juraev, a local oligarch in the industrial town of Isfara and a former 
member of the Soghd regional assembly, who is wanted on charges of large-scale 
embezzlement but is on the run. 

The crimes of which they were convicted took place from 1998 to 2007, when the 
provincial prosecutor launched a case against Juraev, accusing him of using 
gangland tactics to forcibly acquire or “privatise” assets including a 
food-processing plant and other industrial units, hotels and cafes, filling 
stations, and houses and apartments. 

It is hard at first sight to understand why prosecutors would oppose a 
successful outcome to a case which they themselves had brought, against what 
appears to have been a dangerous and violent group. The murder of which some 
defendants were convicted was of a deputy chief prosecutor of Tajikistan, Tolib 
Boboev, in 1999.

Yet at a July 7 press conference in the capital Dushanbe, Prosecutor General 
Bobojon Bobokhonov described the verdict as “illegal and unfair” and announced 
that he had lodged a formal protest with the Supreme Court. 

“This is the first time I have encountered such lawlessness,” said Bobokhonov. 
“As early as the preliminary investigative phase, charges of setting up a 
criminal group were dropped, yet this article [of the criminal code] was the 
main element in the final verdict was based on. That means the court ignored 
the investigative documents. As a result, the sentences passed were too harsh.”

Two days after Bobokhon’s press conference, Nur Nurov, the Supreme Court judge 
who presided at the trial, dismissed the chief prosecutor’s allegations. 

“When it comes to Bobokhonov’s statement, only the collegium of the Supreme 
Court can provide a legal assessment of this judicial process,” he said. 

Nurov said it was perfectly legitimate for judges to hand down heavier 
sentences than requested by prosecutors if they felt it necessary.

He added that there was a popular misconception that “if the prosecution asks 
for, say, two years, then the final sentence will be less than that”. In fact, 
he said, there were precedents – he himself had previously handed out death 
sentences when prosecutors had recommended a 14 jail term. 

“This is perfectly legal,” he said.

Analysts are divided about the rights and wrongs of the prosecutor’s 

Parviz Mullojonov, for example, said that in general, courts in Tajikistan 
routinely imposed unjustifiably harsh sentences, and what made the current 
controversy so unusual was the fact that prosecutors were protesting.

“Never before, as far as I can remember, has a prosecutor general publicly 
criticised a judge for sentencing too harshly. As a rule, it’s the reverse – it 
is the prosecution that recommends the harshest verdicts,” he said.

Legal experts say there were flaws in the case brought before the court. 

The main reason why almost all defendants received such long sentences was that 
they were implicated in organised rather than individual criminal activity. 
That meant that those accused of economic crimes received the same kind of 
prison terms as those accused of murder.

“From the start of the trial, those accused of murder should have been treated 
as a separate category,” said a lawyer who wished to remain anonymous.

Relatives of some of the accused told IWPR that lumping all the defendants 
together was prejudicial to the outcome. 

Umed Vahhobov said prosecutors had recommended a seven-year term for his 
brother Ghanijon, a customs officer accused of offences that cost the state 
2,300 US dollars, but the final sentence was three times that.

“No evidence was presented that he was a member of Juraev’s illegal group,” 
said Vahobov.

The brother of another convicted man, Saifiddin Vafoev, said he got 20 years 
instead of the recommended three, and once again he was not personally 
implicated in organised crime. 

Other analysts note that the stand-off between Bobokhonov and the judiciary at 
a time when the prosecution service is battling to save powers that are likely 
to be transferred to the courts, under a set of legal reforms due to conclude 
next year.

While legislation on other elements such as civil law and economic crime has 
already been passed, the code on how criminal offences are prosecuted and tried 
is still under discussion.

Analyst Abdullo Qurbonov believes the chief prosecutor’s attack on a Supreme 
Court judge looks suspiciously like an attempt to show that the judicial system 
is unfit to take on extra tasks.

The reforms would bring Tajikistan into line with the common international 
practice where arrest warrants must be approved by a judge, rather than by 
prosecutors as is now the case.

“Very soon, the new criminal process code will state that arrest warrants can 
only be issued by the courts,” said Qurbonov. “So it becomes very important for 
the prosecution to demonstrate to the head of state that judges are 
incompetent, and to identify other shortcomings in the work of the courts.”

Qurbonov says current legislation gives prosecutors “virtually unlimited powers 
and immunity for all prosecution state”, which he said had created a sense of 

A feature left over from Soviet legal practice, these extensive powers have 
meant that Tajik prosecutors can dominate the courtroom and effectively direct 
both proceedings and outcome. 

While acknowledging that the courts make mistakes and overstep the mark, 
Qurbonov said the current dispute should not be allowed to derail the general 
trend towards reform, even in the event that Judge Nurov’s Supreme Court 
colleagues overturn his decision.

Shokirjon Hakimov, an opposition politician and head of the faculty of law and 
international relations at the Tajik International University, approves of the 
plan to clip prosecutors’ wings.

Right now, he says, “the imposition of certain sanctions and the issue of 
arrest warrants lie exclusively in the hands of the prosecution service, which 
also has the right to exercise oversight of the courts. 

“But in a state that is founded on rule of law, the last word has to lie with 
the courts.” 

The defendants in the Khojand trial are currently appealing against their 
convictions at the Supreme Court. It is not clear whether the court will 
respond to Bobokhonov’s protest separately. 

The chief prosecutor has warned that if the Supreme Court failed to overturn 
the sentences, his office reserves the right to prosecute Judge Nurov.

Nargiz Hamrabaeva is a correspondent for the Asia Plus news agency.


Election next spring will replicate the governing party’s dominant position, 
leaving only a few seats for its rivals.

By Lola Olimova, Nafisa Pisaredjeva and Talabsho Salomov in Dushanbe

The next parliamentary election in Tajikistan is still seven months away, but 
the outcome is already clear. Not only is it a near-certainty that the 
governing People’s Democratic Party, PDP, will win, but it is a safe bet to say 
the Islamic Rebirth Party, IRP, will come a distant second, followed by the 

The two latter parties’ inability to gain on the PDP is partly because they 
lack its resources and access to media, compounded by electoral rules which 
they say are tilted against them. 

However, some observers say that even if the playing field was levelled, 
neither the IRP nor the Communist Party would be able to gather a winning 
number of votes. As a result, Tajikistan’s multiparty democracy is stuck in a 

Opposition parties including the IRP, the Communists, and others which are not 
represented in parliament have been lobbying for improvements to the electoral 
system, thus far without success. 

The Communists drafted a reform bill that proposed abolishing the 
non-returnable deposit candidates have to pay in order to stand. At 7,000 
somonis, around 1,700 US dollars, opposition parties say the fee will prevent 
them fielding as many candidates as they could otherwise have done. 

Other proposed changes include doubling the amount of free airtime assigned to 
political party broadcasts to one hour, and requiring local electoral 
commissions to include opposition party agents in the interests of 

Parliament broke up for the summer without looking at the bill, so the review 
process will only start in October, by which time it may be too late to get any 
changes in place – if they are approved at all – before campaigning for the 
February election begins. 

“If the proposals set out by the political parties are not taken into account, 
the forthcoming election will be marred by numerous violations in the same way 
that previous ones were,” said Rahmatullo Valiev, deputy chairman of the 
Democratic Party, which has no seats in parliament. 

A total of eight political parties will contest 22 out of the 63 seats in the 
lower house of parliament, based on a proportional representation system. The 
remaining 41 seats are directly elected on a constituency basis, offering 
parties a chance to get more members into the legislature. 

The PDP is in an unassailable position because its proximity to power gives it 
access to resources including media, and national and local government 
officials are expected to join as a matter of course. It currently has an 
absolute majority with 52 seats. 

The Communists hold four seats while the IRP held two seats until April, when 
one of its deputies stepped down on health grounds. 

Their poor showing does not reflect relative membership numbers – if the PDP 
has 100,000-plus members nationwide, the Communists have a respectable 50,000 
and the IRP around 30,000. 

Political analysts say the next election is very likely to preserve the status 
quo, so that the IRP and Communists will gain a handful of seats while the PDP 
sweeps the board. 

Others like the Democratic Party, the Socialists and the Social Democratic 
Party of Tajikistan, did not make it past the five per cent threshold set for 
the 2005 ballot. Their chances in the next parliamentary contest remain slim. 

The IRP and Communists both face difficulties in expanding constituencies that 
are somewhat restricted by their specific ideologies. 

The IRP’s history as an armed opposition force during the 1992-97 civil war 
meant its original powerbase was in the opposition strongholds in the mountain 
valleys of eastern Tajikistan and around Qurghonteppa in the southwest of the 

Under the terms of the peace deal which ended the war in 1997, the United Tajik 
Opposition, UTO – in which the IRP was the main player – disbanded its 
guerrilla army, and the Islamic party was legalised and granted a quota of 
government posts, although the number was eroded in subsequent years. 

The party espouses Islamic values – the bulk of Tajikistan’s population is 
Sunni Muslim – but unlike illegal radical groups, it supports the current 
secular state structure. 

The IRP’s past still means it has limited appeal in areas like Kulob in the 
south, the heartland of its wartime opponents – the administration of President 
Imomali Rahmon and the PDP. 

However, party officials insist the party is reaching out to new supporters. 
These days, they say, half of its members live in Soghd province in the north 
of the country, which would previously have been unthinkable. 

Party leader Muhiddin Kabiri says women now account for 46 per cent of the 

Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, who heads the IRP’s research department, says the 
party now attracts intellectuals, civil servants and businessmen – the latter 
also helping to fund the party. Another important source of contributions, he 
says, is the large population of Tajiks working abroad who send money back 

For more on the party, see Tajik Islamic Party Slowly Sidelined , (RCA No. 579, 

If the IRP has some potential for expanding its power-base, that is less the 
case with the Communists. 

After independence in 1991, the bulk of the Soviet Communist Party in 
Tajikistan was effectively transformed into the present PDP, while the true 
believers were left as a small rump party. 

The Communist Party appeal to a generation of over-50s who recall the Soviet 
period as a time of certainty, stability and better living standards than now. 

As political analyst Parviz Mullojonov points out, these voters form a loyal 
and reliable support-base. 

At the same time, the Communists’ particular appeal mean their voters are 
getting older, and are not being replaced by young people. 

Mullojonov says the aging effect will not necessarily show itself in the 2010 
ballot, when he says the party “has every chance of maintaining its current 
position in parliament [four seats], at the very least”. 

The Communist Party’s long-term future looks bleaker than the IRP’s, though. 

Analyst Qiyomiddin Sattori says that to the extent that there is any 
competition, it will be “between two groups, the PDP and the IRP. The 
Communists are no longer a rival.” 

With so little scope for a turnaround in Tajik politics, analysts predict that 
any changes will be minor ones engineered by the authorities. 

Shokirjon Hakimov, deputy chairman of the Social Democrats, says, “The 
authorities are artificially creating a three-party system where there is room 
only for the PDP, IRP and the Communists.” 

Mullojonov predicts that the authorities will seek to adjust the composition of 
parliament to suit themselves. 

“They might try to limit the IRP to just one member, and adjust the number of 
Communist Party members either upwards or downwards,” he said. “They might even 
back a third, weaker party and help it get into the legislature, so as to make 
the new parliament look more presentable and improve its image.” 

Another analyst, Rashidghani Abdullo, says the apparent pluralism of 
Tajikistan’s political system is designed to satisfy the international 
community that democratic mechanisms are in place, without actually relaxing 
the Rahmonov administration’s grip on power. 

“The leaderships in post-Soviet countries are fundamentally oriented towards 
building strong states, but they understand they have to follow certain rules 
of the game with other influential states, particularly western ones,” he said. 
“So on the one hand, they allow elections to take place, but on the other, they 
strive to exert tight controls over the entire process.” 

Lola Olimova is IWPR Tajikistan Editor; Nafisa Pisaredjeva is an IWPR-trained 
journalist and Talabsho Salomov is a reporter in Tajikistan. 


Talk of reformist policies has not made it any easier for non-government groups 
to win legal status.

By IWPR staff in Central Asia

More than two years after incoming Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov 
promised to relax the rigid controls imposed by the state, non-government 
groups say their position has not changed for the better. 

Berdymuhammedov’s talk of reform and the steps he announced to reverse the 
detrimental policies of his predecessor Saparmurat Niazov in areas like 
healthcare and education raised hopes that Turkmenistan would undergo a more 
general process of liberalisation, and that non-government organisations, NGOs, 
would be allowed to resume work.

That has not happened, according to local observers. 

While human rights groups continue to be regarded as completely beyond the 
pale, even associations pursuing innocent aims like helping the elderly and 
beekeeping are still finding that their applications to register with the 
authorities are blocked at every turn. Not one has been registered since 
Berdymuhammedov came to power.

A new law on public organisations passed in 2003 was designed to give the 
government total control over the activities, funding and assets of 
non-government organisations, NGOs. 

To operate legally, it is essential for an NGO to register with the justice 
ministry. Failure to do so leaves its members open to prosecution for “illegal 

On the face of it, Turkmenistan has a healthy civil society numbering several 
hundred groups. However, these are either government-sponsored institutions 
working on behalf of women, children and young people, and veterans of the 
Second World War; or semi-commercial ventures supporting the arts, sports and 

All of them are sanctioned and controlled by government, so this select band 
faces no real problems registering.

Even so, according to one local analyst, only about 150 of the 
government-approved NGOs that exist on paper actually operate; the rest are 

Other NGOs find their applications are turned down flat or else the process is 
dragged out for years with no resolution.

According to a justice ministry official who did not want to be named, in some 
instances groups are told their activities will overlap with the functions of 
government agencies or the approved NGOs.

Yet many local charities are trying to address issues in areas long neglected 
by the state, such as helping the unemployed, elderly people and other 
vulnerable groups.

An unemployed lecturer who wanted to set up a group that would provide business 
training courses for housewives and unemployed young people said he had been 
waiting for a response from the justice ministry for over two years. 

“I have completely lost faith in seeing good and useful ideas being 
implemented,” he said.

An activist in Ashgabat described how he and his colleagues had all but given 
up any hope they would be allowed to work with elderly people struggling to 

“These people who were ready to work with the elderly have lost hope, while 
elderly people in need are left with nothing,” he said.

Others who have so far failed to make progress with their applications include 
a group of Ashgabat scientists who planned to use their knowledge to show 
farmers to grow organic produce; a group which wanted to arrange summer camps 
for children; and a farming expert who tried to set up a charity teaching 
school-leavers from poor families skills that would earn them an income, such 
as beekeeping, rabbit-breeding and making eco-friendly fertilisers.

This man, based in the northern province of Dashoguz, said, “I’ve realised I 
won’t be able to afford to get registered – I don’t have the energy, time or 
money to keep going to the [justice] ministry, so I’m working without 
registration, at my own risk.”

He questions the authorities’ motives for blocking groups like his.

“You have to ask who gains by it. How do the authorities benefit from doing 
this? They’re unable to offer anything in its place,” he said.

An Ashgabat-based analyst explained how justice ministry officials try to find 
errors in the supporting documentation in order to invalidate applications. 

“Bureaucrats find various reasons for prolonging the process, and in the end 
they either say no to registration, or the NGO activists get tired of it and 
give up trying,” said a media analyst in city of Dashoguz.” “The list of formal 
excuses for not accepting documents is endless – the address doesn’t count as 
legal, some certificate is missing, or they want a medical letter confirming 
that the NGO director is of sound mind.”

The analyst said the policy of refusing registration reflected the authorities’ 
profound fear of losing control over any aspect of public life. 

“The main reason why the authorities don’t want to give people an opportunity 
to assemble and engage in communal activity – even to set up an innocent 
interest group is that [it brings together] people who hold common ideas. 
That’s already a sign of dissent,” he said. “The Turkmen authorities cannot let 
this happen. The entire system has been built so as to prevent people from 
exchanging ideas and views, and from getting together to discuss things.”

Apart from legal status, registration would allow independent NGOs to apply for 
funding from donors abroad. 

An environmentalist in Ashgabat said donors generally had rules restricting 
their grants to properly registered NGOs, If funds go instead to the 
“pro-government NGOs”, he warned, “In a country like Turkmenistan, it would 
mean the money is going to strengthen the authorities.”

Prior to the 2003 legislation, unregistered NGOs had a little more freedom of 
action to work on grants from international donor organisations. 

“Until the new law arrived, there were over 200 ‘initiative groups’ operating 
with financial assistance from international organisations. Most had submitted 
documents for registration but did not obtain it,” said an analyst who used to 
work for the government.

Although no independent NGOs are currently winning registration, there are some 
to which the authorities are particularly hostile. According to the analyst, 
this list includes human rights groups, those working on educational projects, 
and NGOs that want to help develop small and medium-sized businesses, and 

As an activist involved in a failed bid to register a group organising summer 
camps for young people said, some organisations continued to work illicitly. 
“But the consequences can be grave,” he added.

A journalist in Dashoguz said NGO activists had either left the country or were 
now operating covertly. 

“Some have gone underground; they work with caution and pass on their 
knowledge, ideas and skills to those who are interested,” he said. “I know 
these people but can’t name them, as they are all under the scrutiny of the 
security services. They are being watched, their phones are tapped, emails are 
screened, and they are even followed. During events such as a visit by a 
foreign delegation in the country, some are placed under house arrest.”

The risks of trying to engage even in the most innocent kinds of NGO activity, 
and the impossibility of registering, are having a stifling effect on civic 
society activity. 

“Over the last few years, no one [i.e no new group] has even tried to register 
because it’s a pointless, useless exercise,” said the journalist. “It’s even 
dangerous to say the word ‘NGO’ aloud as it attracts suspicions that you are 
trying to organise people, something which will mean unpleasant consequences 
with the security services.” 

(The names of interviewees have been withheld out of concern for their 

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