Religious extremism threatening Uzbekistan


Maqbool Ahmed

Uzbekistan is suffering disturbances due to national terrorists and religious threats: suspected members of the Uzbek Islamist Movement and of the Islamic Jihad Union are frequently arrested and condemned on the Uzbek territory. The country also has other regional concerns: drug trade (mainly coming from Afghanistan) that benefits to corruption in each State level, from socio-demographic preoccupations (60% of the population is under thirty) to problems in the insertion of ethnic minorities.
Karimov tries by any means at his disposal to stop the rise of extremism which is maintained by drug trade and the social ill of some minorities, just like using exacerbated censorship of local journalists. Those who investigate are frequently jailed or sent to psychiatric hospitals. Foreign journalists are sent back home, external communications are widely reduced, and phone cards are used as control devices… As many methods used by the Uzbek dictator.
However, the country is now isolated in its quest for allies against the terrorist threat: its relations towards occidental countries are widely compromised by this disrespect of Human Rights. Its relation to Russia is also far from being ideal. Uzbekistan does not agree with the implementation of Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kirghizstan, with which Tashkent capital is not really in good terms. As to Russia, it does not approve the military partnership between Uzbekistan and the United States of America such as the increasing Uzbek commitment to NATO.
The economy still has the upper hand. Putin and Karimov are pleased with a 20% increase in turnover from trade between their two countries within a year: a way for Russia to complete its economic domination on Uzbekistan, which joined the free trade area of the Independent States Community (ISC) last 31st of May.
The two countries have an interest in allying with each other for common interests: raise in joint ventures, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation programs… And fight against terrorism. Moscow and Tashkent agree, in particular, on helping Afghanistan in 2014, following the occidental troops’ withdrawal. The future of Central Asia depends on the cooperation between every country of the region, which is the only way to escape from religious extremism.
During Karimov’s visit in Moscow in 2013 the two Heads of State reached an agreement to tighten their relationship, particularly on the parts concerning the fight against terrorism and the economy. It is to be hoped that the cooperation on security will go in a positive way and that Central Asian countries would be able to fight the plague of religious extremism.
Uzbekistan relations with Pakistan have not been exemplary simply because of Uzbeks presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas including Waziristan. Even in the Peshawar army public school tragedy in which over 133 children were killed, two terrorists are reported to be the Uzbeks. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an Al-Qaeda affiliate, has had a large presence in Pakistan’s tribal belt since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Analysts believe the incumbent government under Islam Karimov is still struggling to have sway over the terrorists. They believe, it is a gradual process things can improve in the coming days.
The writer is a student and doing his M.Phil in Regional Studies