Uzbekistan: A Government With Too Much Power on the Loose?

Uzbekistan was under control of the Soviet Union until it became an independent nation in 1991. Until 2016, Uzbekistan still had the same leader for 25 years, Islam Karimov, and the country still had not changed. It was as if it were still under the rule of the Soviet Union. What lingers in Uzbekistan are some of the political habits left by the Soviets. Today, Uzbekistan is still living under a regime that resolutely and brutally resists change. Ever since Islam Karimov’s death, a constant struggle for power has taken over the country. But while political opponents fight to be as powerful, strict and iron-fisted as Karimov, Uzbekistan continues to struggle with a terrible human rights problem and a slow modernizing economy. It is the power of the seven clans in Uzbekistan that prevent gangs or guerilla groups from gaining power in Uzbekistan. Although the clans are very powerful, there are present to serve more as political parties in Uzbekistan, with weaker clans uniting with the three most powerful clans in Uzbekistan.

In Uzbekistan, the population is divided into seven clans, the most powerful clans being the Tashkent, Samarkand, and the Fergana clans. During Soviet control, Moscow manipulated the competition among the three clans for its own gain. Without Soviet management to limit the power of the clans, the competition between them grew more dangerous, posing a threat to the stability of the country, during Karimov’s presidency. In attempting to consolidate his power, Karimov affiliated himself with the Tashkent clan, despite being part of the Samarkand clan, and attempted to create a balance between the clans, but was unsuccessful. To strengthen the Tashkent clan once again, Karimov appointed Rustam Inoyatov as the head of Uzbek National Security Services in 1995, giving him a limitless power to rebuild the weak institution. Many believed that Karimov was preparing Inoyatov to be his successor after giving him this amount of power, but it became clear in 2014, that these were no longer Karimov’s intentions. Inoyatov used this unlimited power to strengthen the Tashkent clan, but soon enough he was the man behind alleged coup attempts, car bombings and mass arrests and counter-arrests of people he saw as opposition. Only after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took office after Karimov’s sudden death in 2016, did he remove Inoyatov from his position, which removed the center of the Karimov-era repressive machine that created a system of ever-present fear to control society.

Because Karimov was able to consolidate so much power during his authoritarian presidency, after his death concerns arose, that the predominantly Sunni Muslim country could face prolonged infighting among clans over its leadership. As a result of this fighting, the people of Uzbekistan believed that the conflict would be something the Islamic radical movement of Uzbekistan could exploit, giving an entryway for radical Islamic groups to enter Uzbekistan, a country that has made continual efforts alongside the United States, to fight against terrorist organizations. When thinking about successors, many believed that Inoyatov would become president, tapping into the people’s fears that he would be even more authoritative and oppressive than Karimov. Others also believed that Gulnara Karimova, ex-president Karimov’s daughter, would succeed him. She was a successful businesswoman that was very powerful in Uzbekistan and even once served as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to Spain. Inoyatov even targeted Gulnara Karimova because of her many ties with the Fergana clan, which Inoyatov saw as opposition. Unfortunately, her chance of succeeding her father was destroyed when two corruption cases were brought against her, and she was also guilty of fraud, money laundering and concealing foreign currency, concerning assets of around $1bn (£760m) belonging to her in 12 countries. In 2014 she disappeared and she is believed to still be under house arrest, and facing the horrible conditions of the National Security Services of Uzbekistan.

Although Uzbekistan still infringes on the rights of their people, using authoritative power to restrict media and their freedom of speech, Uzbekistan and its seven clans have always made it a priority to crackdown on  Islamic extremist groups that have tried to infiltrate the country. Within the clans and political officials, there may be a constant fight for more power, but Uzbekistan’s current president and the government continues to crack down on Islamic extremists.

The Tide of the Taliban

The Taliban formed in early 1990s by an Afghan faction of Islamic fighters, who resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.“Taliban” means students in Pashto. The Taliban won popular support because it promised to impose stability and the rule of law. In 1996, the Taliban took the capital Kabul and declared Afghanistan an Islamic emirate and Mullah Omar its head of state. Since then, the Taliban tried to act as a government because Mohammed wanted to disarm the population (rivalry ethnic groups) and impose a puritanical Islamic order. It controlled 90% of the country before its 2001 overthrow. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan enforced a strict version of Sharia under which women were denied education and careers, were required to wear clothing covering them from head to foot, and were forbidden from leaving homes if no male family members were home. Men were required to wear long beards. The regime neglected social services and other basic state functions. Because of its extreme social discrimination and standards, the Islamic emirate was isolated internationally except for Pakistan, South Arabia, and the UAE. The UN imposed sanctions on the regime for harboring al-Qaeda. In 2001, the Taliban was overthrown by U.S. after its refusal to give up Osama Bin Laden, who led the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

After the Taliban was driven out of power, remainders either fled to Pakistan organized under Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) or stayed in Afghanistan to rebuild power. The Taliban gained local support because Afghans don’t consider the current government as legitimate and see it as corrupt. In the Taliban’s resurgence, its factions have adopted warlord-like behavior: They levy taxes, extort companies in protection rackets, exploit natural resources, and traffic opium poppy.

The Taliban’s main financial income comes from the drug trade. Drug revenue accounts half of the Taliban’s income. The Taliban once exported drugs from Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup and then built labs to process opium into morphine or heroin. The Taliban’s action makes Afghanistan the world’s largest opium producer and exporter. Money from drugs is used in every aspect to finance the Taliban. Other income also includes, foreign donations, illegal gem mining, lumber trade, kidnapping, and extortion.

The Taliban has spread its power in the present days and created an organizational structure as government to manage both national and international issues. The Taliban nowadays has controlled or contested most areas in the south of Afghanistan and even spread its power to the north and the capital Kabul. By September 2017, the Taliban reportedly controlled or contested up to 45 percent of Afghanistan. It is still trying to act as a government and has been able “to create an organizational structure in which the top level provides strategic guidance and oversight while military political officials in the field make operational and tactical decision.” Mullah Akhundzada is responsible for overseeing the courts and judges. The Quetta Shura, the group’s ruling council, is responsible for much of the Taliban’s operations in southern and western Afghanistan. Below the emir is the deputy emir, reported to be Sirajuddin Haqqani. The Deputy emir is responsible for determining the “political and military affairs of the Emirate” according to UN. The Quetta Shura reportedly appoints a simulated government structure for Afghanistan, assigning “shadow” governors to many Afghan provinces and reviewing the performance of each governor.  In 2009, the Shura established a committee to receive complaints about the governors from Afghani locals. The Shura installs ‘shari’a’ courts to deliver enforced justice in controlled areas. It claims “to provide security against a corrupt government and to protect Afghan and Muslim identity against foreign encroachment”. In Jan. 2017, Akhundzada recently replaced Taliban shadow governors in 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and appointed eight additional provincial-level officials as part of an effort to consolidate his influence. 

Akhunzada has attempted to win Afghan hearts by funding some development projects and promising to reform the education system. Today’s Taliban leaders abandoned the ban of no entertainment but use more technologies to advertise their websites, Twitter feeds, videos, and magazines for propaganda.

The Taliban is a strong guerrilla group that has functioned and aspire to function as a government, and its success is due to intense corruption of Afghan government.