Negotiations and the peace process

The parties were pushed to negotiate due to the military stalemate, Russian pressure to reach a settlement, and the advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan (who were feared by Tajiks of all political persuasions).

Intra-Tajik peace talks took place mainly under the aegis of Russia, with the United Nations playing a mediating role. In late 1994 a ceasefire was agreed, and the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), consisting of 40 military observers and their support staff, was deployed to monitor it. The ceasefire did not hold.

National Peace Accord

The real breakthrough came in December 1996, when Rakhmonov and leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Said Abdullo Nuri, met in Afghanistan and Moscow, agreed on a new ceasefire and basic principles of a peace and reconciliation agreement.

The National Peace Accord brought an end to the war, and was signed by the government of Tajikistan and the UTO in Moscow in June 1997.

The peace accord provided for the:

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  • Immediate creation of a coalition government
  • Legalization of opposition parties and a transition to multiparty democracy
  • Resettlement of refugees
  • Integration of opposition fighters into the national army
Accord implemented

The accord was by and large been implemented. A coalition government was formed and remains in office. Opposition figures were appointed to a number of important positions. For example, the highly respected Moslem religious leader Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda (He served as the Qazi Qalon, the highest Muslim authority in Tajikistan, from 1988 to 1991) was made first deputy Prime Minister.

Opposition parties were legalized in 1999. Refugees returned to their homes, though many suffered intimidation and discrimination at the hands of local authorities. The military forces of the two sides were formally integrated, but particular army units retained informal links with one or another political grouping.

The peace accord and Islamist extremists

The continued confrontation between Islamists and governments elsewhere in the region placed the peace accord under strain, especially given the presence of an Islamist party, the IRP, in the government coalition. The IRP, the only legal Islamic party in Central Asia, has distanced itself from radical Islamism and has not blocked action against foreign and Tajik radical Islamists based in Tajikistan. Government forces crushed some Tajik Islamists who had rejected the peace accord and continued fighting. Training camps that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had in northern Tajikistan were shut down.

Armed insurgents a continuing problem

More recently, an attack on an army convoy in Eastern Tajikistan in 2010 in which at least 23 Tajik soldiers were killed illustrated the continuing challenge of Islamic insurgents to the government. During 2011 at least six armed clashes reportedly occurred between Tajik security forces and suspected Islamic militants and/or drug traffickers near the border with Afghanistan.

Russia lacks confidence in the Tajik government to effectively contain a low level Islamic insurgency with the country and illegal heroin entering the country from Afganistan. The fear is that both these issues could intensify when the International Security Assistance Force pulls out of Afghanistan in 2014.

The Tajik government has rejected Russia's overtures to again place its border guard on the Tajik-Afghan border.  In  2011 Russia and Tajikistan signed an extension of the Border Cooperation Agreement, which preserves Russian presence in Tajikistan as part of the Border Cooperation Group.  Russia's representatives participate in upgrading state border protection and Tajikistan's operational border security, providing professional training for Tajikistan's border agency, as well as cooperation on terrorism, religious extremism, illegal migration and transnational organized crime.

On the eve of the CSTO summit in September 2013, Tajikistan authorities announced that they had arrested 10 Tajik terrorists trained by the IMU in Pakistan planning to blow up government buildings in Dushanbe and seize hostages.

Russia leases three bases in Tajikistan (Dushanbe, Qurghonteppa and Kulab). In 2012, the Tajik government extended the lease in exchange for increasing quotas and providing more favorable terms for Tajik labor migrants working in Russia.

OSCE
OSCE Office in Tajikistan, Dushanbe (OSCE)

OSCE Office in Tajikistan, Dushanbe (OSCE)

An OSCE Centre was established in Tajikistan in 1994. The Centre monitored implementation of the 1997 peace accord and was one of its guarantors. Following Tajikistan's first multiparty parliamentary elections in 2000, implementation of the peace accord was considered complete. 

The OSCE Centre in Dushanbe opened a new Field Office in Kulyab, some 200 km. to the southeast of the capital, on 27 February 2003.

The OSCE Centre in Dushanbe opened a new Field Office in Kulyab, some 200 km. to the southeast of the capital, on 27 February 2003.(OSCE)

The Centre was renamed the OSCE Office in Tajikistan in 2008. It has five regional field offices: in Garm, Khujand, Kulyab, Kurgan-Tyube and Shaartuz. 

OSCE Office in Tajikistan activities
Ambassador Ivar Vikki, Head of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan (third from the left) (OSCE)

Ambassador Ivar Vikki, Head of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan (third from the left) (OSCE)

The Office has facilitated dialogue and confidence-building between political and regional forces, promoted respect for human rights and development of civil society, and helped create democratic political and legal institutions.

Priorities are the rule of law, separation of powers, human rights, freedom of the media, modernization of legislation and reforms toward building a market economy.

Larisa Aleksandrova of the Human Rights Center NGO, addresses women's access to justice during the OSCE Office in Tajikistan's Preparatory Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Dushanbe, 2 July 2012.

Larisa Aleksandrova of the Human Rights Center NGO, addresses women's access to justice during the OSCE Office in Tajikistan's Preparatory Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Dushanbe, 2 July 2012. (OSCE/Nizom Kalandarov))

 

OSCE Border Management Staff College
Participants at an opening ceremony for the sixth staff course for senior border officials held at the OSCE Border Management Staff College, Dushanbe, 1 October 2012. (OSCE/Gennady Ratushenko)

Participants at an opening ceremony for the sixth staff course for senior border officials held at the OSCE Border Management Staff College, Dushanbe, 1 October 2012. (OSCE/Gennady Ratushenko)

OSCE established an OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe in 2009. The college holds seminars and courses for border- customs and other officials from OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation, including Afghanistan. Since 2009, 310 senior officials from border, customs and police agencies, coming from 21 countries, have completed these courses.

OSCE CiO visits in 2013

OSCE Chairs-in-Office traditionally make at least one swing through central Asia every year.  Ukrainian Foreign Minister and CiO Kozhara visited the five countries of central Asia in October 2013, meeting with presidents, ministers, parliamentarians, civil society, and OSCE field missions.  Kozhara focused on regional security and OSCE engagement with central Asia.