A new Turkmen opposition party, “Hereket” (the “Movement”) has appeared, reports RFE/RL. This is a strange development within a dictatorship that has a notoriously low tolerance for dissent. Turkmen opposition leaders, prominent in the transitional period of the 1990’s have fled to Europe, where they maintain comparatively small amount of influence and international attention. The central figure of Hereket’s leadership is Akmuhammet Baykhanov, who is currently living in Turkey.
Baykhanov has stated Hereket’s goal is to extricate the Turkmen people from “the legacy of Turkmenistan’s first present, Saparmurat Niyazov.” Niyazov, who died in 2006 and is still frequently called “Turkmenbashi” (or head of the Turkmen), had a reputation for repressing journalists, violating his own laws, and spending public funds on questionable projects for “public works.”
Baykhanov said his principles means he will “work for the independence of the Turkmen people, to prevent the authorities’ criminal actions against the Turkmen people, like jailing innocents, demolishing houses, depriving people of property.” How exactly Hereket will disseminate its message of reforms remains unknown, as current President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has continued much in the vein of his predecessor Niyazov.
- China has officially abandoned its plan to participate in the IP pipeline project after threats of US Sanctions and subtle Saudi Arabian and Islamic Development Bank opposition has postponed the pipeline’s completion indefinitely. China has pivoted over to interest in investment in the TAPI pipeline consortium, a surprising move considering that the pipeline plans to take lucrative reserves from Turkmenistan away from China to India. Sources within Beijing state that the expected plan is to lay an additional pipeline from Gwadar Port in Pakistan that will connect to China.
- US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control placed sanctions under the “Kingpin Act” on Atiqullah Ahmady Mohammad Din, who is alleged to own and operate two heroin labs in Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Apparently Din and his brother control four companies based in Afghanistan and the UAE, all of which are covers for the exportation of heroin.
- Kazakhstan has announced that the World Bank plans to loan $102.9 million to support efficient water use and modernize irrigation infrastructure in Central Asia. Simultaneously they are seeking to make the investment climate in Kazakhstan more appealing after the tenge collapsed last month.
- The US State Department has released its Country Reports on Terrorism, with the headline that global terrorism is up 43%, with one of its “danger areas” listed as Central Asia. Exaggerated threat assessments are part and parcel of terrorism reports, according to EurasiaNet, but there is cause for concern that Islamic fundamentalist movements in Uzbekistan could derail the momentum that Afghanistan has gained since its presidential election last month. Additionally foreign fighters from Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan in Syria are a major cause for concern.
- Poppy crop yields have skyrocketed in Afghanistan as the US continues is drawdown of troops. Cultivation of the crop has fueled the insurgency and increased world supply by enormous percentages. But officials in charge of reconstruction are hesitant to condemn the crop. “We don’t really have an effective strategy” to counter Afghanistan’s expanding narcotics industry, said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said on Thursday. “Cultivation is up, drug usage is up, production is up, seizures are down, eradication is down, corruption is up…” he continued. Over the course of the war since 2001, over $7.5 billion has been spent trying to eradicate the industry to no avail.