Even after weeks of a seemingly monumental wave of corruption-related arrests in Tajikistan, state media has maintained a studied silence on the issue. With the prevailing orthodoxy among the nation’s leadership being that internal squabbles are not for public airing, independent media have taken the initiative, but not always with happy results.
News first broke in late April that more than a dozen officials with the government of Tajikistan’s main anti-corruption agency had been arrested for corruption.
Among those reportedly caught up in the sweep were Davlatbek Hairzoda, the No. 2 in the graft-fighting body, Jamoliddin Muhamadzoda, the head of inspections department in the anti-corruption agency, and the head of the investigative department, Firuz Holmurodzoda. Another individual said to have been caught up in hunt was Firdavs Niyozbadalov, an investigator and son-in-law of former MP and secretary general of the National Security Council, Amirkul Azimov.
Another anti-corruption agency official, Umed Kamolzoda, who is also the son of a former general in the security services, Saidanvar Kamolov, is wanted, but it is not clear at the time of writing that he has been detained.
At least three of those arrests — Hairzoda, Holmurodzoda and Niyozbadalov — have been confirmed by relatives speaking to RFE/RL’s Tajikistan service, Radio Ozodi. The relatives have denied the officials in question were involved in any wrongdoing, however.
On May 22, RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, added yet another name to the roster: Fahriddin Bozorov, deputy head of the customs service anti-smuggling department.
As if the avalanche of names wasn’t bad enough, there have been some dud pieces of information floating around.
Prague-based website akhbor.com, which appears to have taken a lead on much of the information emerging from this story, posted photos claiming to show a humungous trove of dollars being discovered in the family home of the one of the suspects, Hairzoda. As the website explained, the pictures have been widely circulated by mobile phone users in Tajikistan, as though that somehow constituted evidence of anything. The photos, however, turned out not to be from Tajikistan at all, but of some other unspecified nation — possibly Ecuador.
If there is one thread seemingly tying all these ends together, then that is none other than President Emomali Rahmon’s son and the mayor of Dushanbe, Rustam Emomali.
Emomali’s last job before being appointed Dushanbe mayor earlier this year was as head of the anti-corruption agency now effectively being dismantled one arrest after another. His CV also includes a stint heading the customs service.
For so many of his former close associates to be scooped up in this fashion cannot but come as a crushing embarrassment.
The anti-corruption sweep, it is important to note, is the handiwork of the State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, making this all look like a classic case of clan infighting.
The ruling elite is to a large extent drawn from the region around the southern city of Kulob, but that is only part of a bigger picture and there are yet more wheels within wheels to consider.
In order for Emomali to slide into the mayor’s seat at the start of the year, it was necessary to displace former incumbent and long-time insider Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, a key exponent of the Farkhor clan. Not content with taking Ubaidulloev’s job, Emomali upped the ante by making ominous moves toward investigating the former mayor for evidence of corruption during his time in office.
While the Farkhor crew and the Rahmon family’s Dangara clan may generally speaking be thought to be on the same side, it does not follow that they always pull in the same direction.
As it happens, GKNB chief Saymumin Yatimov is, like Ubaidulloev, a native of the Farkhor district, so his sudden eagerness to hound Emomali’s old colleagues may well be a logical expression of regional loyalty.
At this nebulous stage, drawing inferences from presumed clan affiliations is intensely speculative and should be done with caution. If there is any validity to this line of thinking, it will be determined by Ubaidulloev’s ultimate fate.
While the veteran politician has lost his mayoral seat, he retains the chairmanship of the upper house of parliament — a position that he is currently expected to be eased out of some time this summer. Even that might not be a disaster, but if Emomali goes through with vague threats to pursue the corruption case against Ubaidulloev, it could be another matter altogether.