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Internal Security

Preservation of internal security was impossible during the civil war, whose concomitant disorder promoted the activities of numerous illegal groups. Because of Tajikistan's location, the international narcotics trade found these conditions especially inviting in the early and mid-1990s.

Security Organizations

When Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union, the republic's Committee for State Security (KGB) was an integral part of the Soviet-wide KGB. Neither the administration nor the majority of personnel were Tajik. When Tajikistan became independent, the organization was renamed the Committee of National Security and a Tajik, Alimjon Solehboyev, was put in charge. In 1995 the committee received full cabinet status as the Ministry of Security.

Police powers are divided between the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Security. The two most significant characteristics of the current system are the failure to observe the laws that are on the books in political cases and the penetration of the current regime by criminal elements.


In the last years of the Soviet Union and in the Russian Federation of the mid-1990s, the issue of drug trafficking was embroiled in political rhetoric and public prejudices. The Yeltsin administration used the combined threats of narcotics and Islamic fundamentalism to justify Russian military involvement in Tajikistan, and the Rahmonov regime used accusations of drug crimes to justify the repression of domestic political opponents.

Despite the presence of Russian border guards, the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan has proved easily penetrable by narcotics smugglers, for whom the lack of stable law enforcement on both sides of the boundary provides great opportunities. For some Central Asians, the opium trade has assumed great economic importance in the difficult times of the post-Soviet era. An established transit line moves opium from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Khorugh in Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, from which it moves to Dushanbe and then to Osh on the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border. The ultimate destination of much of the narcotics passing through Tajikistan is a burgeoning market in Moscow and other Russian cities, as well as some markets in Western Europe and in other CIS nations. Besides Pakistan and Afghanistan, sources have been identified in Russia, Western Europe, Colombia, and Southeast Asia. A shipment of heroin was confiscated for the first time in 1995; previously, traffic apparently had been limited to opium and hashish.

An organized-crime network reportedly has developed around the Moscow narcotics market; Russian border guards, members of the CIS peacekeeping force, and senior Tajikistani government officials reportedly are involved in this activity. Besides corruption, enforcement has been hampered by antiquated Soviet-era laws and a lack of funding. In 1995 the number of drug arrests increased, but more than two-thirds were for cultivation; only twenty were for the sale of drugs. A national drug-control plan was under government consideration in early 1996. Regional drug-control cooperation broke down after independence. In 1995 the Tajikistani government planned to implement a new regional program, based in the UN Drug Control Program office in Tashkent, for drug interdiction along the Murghob-Osh-Andijon overland route. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the customs authorities, the Ministry of Health, and the procurator general all have responsibilities in drug interdiction, but there are no formal lines of interagency cooperation.

Criminal Justice and the Penal System

Independent Tajikistan's system of courts and police evolved from the institutional framework established in the Soviet era. The judiciary is not fully independent; the 1994 constitution gives the president the power to remove judges from office. In the wake of the victors' wave of violence against actual or potential supporters of the opposition at the end of the civil war, the post-civil war regime continued to ignore due process of law in dealing with opposition supporters. Numerous opposition figures were arrested and held without trial for prolonged periods; representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Helsinki Watch were not permitted to see political prisoners. Extrajudicial killings, disappearances, warrantless searches, the probable planting of incriminating evidence, arrests for conduct that was not illegal, and physical abuse of prisoners were all part of the new regime's treatment of opposition supporters. The regime established its own secret prisons for those held on political charges.

In the new government installed at the end of the civil war, the minister of internal affairs, hence the national head of police, was Yaqub Salimov, who had no law enforcement experience and himself had led a criminal gang. Salimov was an associate of Sangak Safarov, a top antireformist military leader who also had an extensive criminal record. Salimov used his law enforcement position to shield his criminal confederates and to intimidate other members of the cabinet. In 1995 President Rahmonov finally maneuvered Salimov out of power by appointing him ambassador to Turkey. Salimov's successor as minister of internal affairs was Saidomir Zuhurov, a KGB veteran who had been minister of security in the post-civil war government.

Thus, in the mid-1990s Tajikistan's national security condition was tenuous from both domestic and international standpoints. Internally, the concept of uniform law enforcement for the protection of Tajikistani citizens had not taken hold, in spite of constitutional guarantees. Instead, the republic's law enforcement agencies were at the service of the political goals of those in power. Externally, Tajikistan remained almost completely reliant upon Russia and its Central Asian neighbors for military protection of its borders. By 1996 years of internationally sponsored negotiations had failed to bring about a satisfactory compromise between the government and the opposition, offering little hope that CIS troops could leave but providing the Rahmonov government a pretext for ongoing restraint of civil liberties.

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Relatively little has been written in English about Tajikistan. An important study of the largely Persian civilization and political history of southern Central Asia in the early centuries of the Islamic era is Richard N. Frye's Bukhara: The Medieval Achievement . The first three chapters of Turko-Persia in Historical Perspective , edited by Robert L. Canfield, describe the interaction of Turkic- and Persian-speaking peoples in the region. The Russian scholar Vasilii V. Bartol'd wrote a seminal historical work that has been translated as Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion . Tajikistan's Persian-language literature is covered in the chapter "Modern Tajik Literature" in Persian Literature , edited by Ehsan Yarshater. Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone's Russia and Nationalism in Central Asia describes Tajikistani politics in the Stalin and Khrushchev eras from the Russian viewpoint. Muriel Atkin's The Subtlest Battle and "Islam as Faith, Politics and Bogeyman in Tajikistan" (a chapter in The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia , edited by Michael Bourdeaux) describe the role of Islam in Soviet and post-Soviet times. A description of events leading to the 1992 civil war is contained in Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh's "The 'Tajik Spring' of 1992." Sergei Gretsky has covered aspects of the civil war in two articles, one appearing in Critique (Spring 1995) and the other in Central Asia Monitor (No. 1, 1994), and an assessment of Russian-Tajikistani relations in a chapter of Regional Power Rivalries in the New Eurasia , edited by Alvin Z. Rubinstein and Oles M. Smolansky. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of March 1996

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Tajikistan Table of Contents