Weekly Digest of Central Asia

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.


Who Will Run Post-Nazarbayev Kazakhstan?

As Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev is 78 years old, state power succession is a relevant issue in the Central Asian country

Oct 30 — “Who will run Kazakhstan after President Nursultan Nazarbayev, its current and only leader, passes from the political scene? Nazarbayev, who has held the presidency since the formation of the independent Kazakh state 27 years ago, is 78 years old. The question of who could take over as president after him has become a topic for discussion among regional watchers in recent years, as Nazarbayev occasionally disappears from the political scene to receive medical treatment abroad.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/10/who-will-run-post-nazarbayev-kazakhstan/

Kazakhstan’s security agencies given formal permission to block internet

Authorities in Kazakhstan now have more instruments to suppress opposition voices in the country

Oct 30 — “Security agencies in Kazakhstan have been given official permission to do what they have been doing for years already — to block internet websites. According to a government decree adopted on October 28, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the National Security Committee, the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry are authorized to bar access to online resources during what the document describes as “emergency situations.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-security-agencies-given-formal-permission-to-block-internet

Kazakhstan: Reporter dukes it out with mining giant in test case

After failing to convince a journalist to stop reporting on its pollution, the industrial giant allegedly tried blackmail

Oct 30 — “When journalists in Kazakhstan face off against powerful corporate interests, it rarely ends well for the small guy. For that reason, media rights advocates are watching with interest as one reporter in the industrial town of Temirtau dukes it out with an industrial behemoth that ranks among the country’s largest investors.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-reporter-dukes-it-out-with-mining-giant-in-test-case

Language-motivated emigration of Russians causes shortage of qualified workers in Kazakhstan

The role of the Russian language has been very strong in Kazakhstan since the Soviet era, but the most recent policies pursued by Astana are gradually changing the situation, which is fraught with consequences

Nov 2 — “In mid-October, the nationalist-leaning Qazaquni.kz website, run by the Ak Zhol (Democratic Party) of Kazakhstan, published an appeal to Russian-speaking compatriots, calling on them to learn Kazakh. The article stresses that “it is not obligatory for Kazakhs to know Russian,” and therefore, now Kazakhs are just as likely to know Russian as Russians know Kazakh (Qazaquni.kz, October 19).” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20446-language-motivated-emigration-of-russians-causes-shortage-of-qualified-workers-in-kazakhstan


To sell or not to sell? Kyrgyzstan mapping the future of major mobile operator

The government has failed to sell a lucrative cellular communication operator and now seems to have abandoned the privatization idea

Oct 28 — “The Government of Kyrgyzstan has decided not to sell the leading mobile operator, Alfa Telecom CJSC (TM MegaCom), experts believe. The Economy Ministry has submitted for public discussion a draft Government program for the privatization of state property for 2018-2020, and has not included the company in it. According to Kyrgyzstan’s legislation, the Alfa Telecom CJSC is an independent legal entity with a private ownership, with 100% of the state-owned shares.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20424-to-sell-or-not-to-sell-kyrgyzstan-mapping-the-future-of-major-mobile-operator

Chaarat Gold says Centerra refused C$2B offer for firm, not just Kumtor

Chaarat’s goal was to gain control of Kumtor, Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine

Oct 31 — “Chaarat Gold Holdings (LON:CGH), the company that tried and failed to buy Centerra Gold’s (TSX:CG) Kumtor mine in Kyrgyzstan, revealed Wednesday the Canadian miner turned down an unconventional takeover offer, valued at about C$2 billion (roughly $1.52B), for the entire company. The Central Asia-focused gold miner last month proposed buying the Toronto-based company in an all-cash transaction at 35% above Centerra’s share price, which was then C$5.48 (about $4.17).” READ MORE: http://www.mining.com/chaarat-gold-says-centerra-refused-2b-offer-whole-firm-not-just-kumtor-mine/

Kyrgyzstan: As political winds change, iconic newspaper again tussled over

Investigation is going on whether the change of ownership at Vecherniy Bishkek newspaper in 2015 was legal

Oct 31 — “The drama at Kyrgyzstan’s most famous newspaper never ends. In the latest turn of events, police on October 28 sealed the offices of Russian-language Vecherniy Bishkek, a newspaper whose fortunes have waxed and waned in line with the whims of those running the country at any given time.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-as-political-winds-change-iconic-newspaper-again-tussled-over

The next steppe: can Kyrgyzstan become an adventure tourism hotspot?

Kyrgyzstan — host of the World Nomad Games — is attracting growing numbers of hikers, riders and skiers

Nov 2 — “Through the dust I can see a throng of men on horseback. They press and jostle until one rider bursts clear, swinging a heavy object up to his saddle — the goat carcass which, in the Kyrgyz game of kok-boru, serves as a shaggy, leggy, 50kg ball. It is early September and I’m at the World Nomad Games, Central Asia’s answer to the Olympics, held in the lakeside town of Cholpon Ata in eastern Kyrgyzstan.” READ MORE: https://www.ft.com/content/320f4174-db70-11e8-b173-ebef6ab1374a


A comprehensive reform program is key to development and shared prosperity in Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s young and growing population could find improved employment opportunities in high-quality, well-paying jobs within a more diversified economy

Oct 29 — “The International Entrepreneurship Forum held earlier this month in Tajikistan has demonstrated a widespread recognition of the potential effectiveness of a reform program that would provide the private sector with sufficient space and security for more dynamic business activities, states Jan-Peter Olters, World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/20428-a-comprehensive-reform-program-is-key-to-development-and-shared-prosperity-in-tajikistan

Damming with strong praise: Tajikistan to name power plant after president?

The personality cult of President Rahmon is mounting in Tajikistan

Oct 30 — “The head of a pro-government party in Tajikistan has struck another blow for sycophancy by suggesting that a major hydropower dam currently under construction be named after the nation’s president. Asia-Plus reported on October 30 that Saidjafar Usmonzoda, leader of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, has suggested that the structure now known mundanely as Roghun GES should be dedicated to Emomali Rahmon.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/damming-with-strong-praise-tajikistan-to-name-power-plant-after-president

The conundrum of Tajikistan’s female suicides

Stories of dramatic attempts at suicide by women accompanied by child-killing crop up regularly in the news in Tajikistan

Nov 1 — “Jumagul Nosirova, 60, cannot shake the image of her seven-year-old grandchild, Ziyoviddin, waving to her as he left home and saying: “Bye-bye granny.” Some hours later, one evening in July 2015, he and his two sisters, six-year-old Mahina and five-year-old Omina, would be dead. They were throw into a rushing river by their own mother before she attempted and failed to take her own life. Passersby were able to save Parvina Abdullоyeva, but not her children.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/the-conundrum-of-tajikistans-female-suicides


Turkmenistan gov’t lures carriers with fuel discounts

Gas-rich Turkmenistan aims to become an air transport hub in Central Asia

Oct 28 — “The government of Turkmenistan has announced it will offer preferential fuel prices to all airlines that choose to use the country’s airports for technical stops between Asia and Europe. According to the government’s website, Cargolux (CV, Luxembourg) became the first carrier to enjoy such discounts on October 1, 2018.” READ MORE: https://www.ch-aviation.com/portal/news/72156-turkmenistan-govt-lures-carriers-with-fuel-discounts

Turkmenistan: Cycling president, spending Dragon

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Oct 30 — “A potentially significant development for Turkmenistan was buried in a report by Dubai-based newspaper Khaleej Times. The paper reports that Dragon Oil, a subsidiary of the state-owned Emirates National Oil Company, or ENOC, will substantially increase its investment plans, spending some $13 billion on its existing fields over the next 10 years. Dragon Oil primarily operates in Turkmenistan, with smaller projects in Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-cycling-president-spending-dragon

The President of Turkmenistan lifted a golden weight bar during a cabinet meeting to rapturous applause

The autocratic president of Turkmenistan is well-known for his publicity stunts

Nov 2 — “A video has emerged of the President of Turkmenistan. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, lifting weights during a cabinet meeting while his subordinates applauded him. The bizarre scene, broadcast on state TV channel Altyn Asyr and shared by Radio Free Liberty’s Turkmen language service, shows the autocratic ruler being showered with applause by ministers as he lifts a gold bar above his head.” READ MORE: https://inews.co.uk/news/world/turkmenistan-president-gurbanguly-berdimuhamedow-weights-video/


Uzbeks Angry After Homes Demolished To Build Mirziyoev’s Presidential Palace, Highway

Dozens of houses were razed and hundreds of people were displaced to make way for the President’s new residence and a presidential highway leading to it

Oct 28 — “When Tashkent’s sumptuous Oqsaroy (White Palace) was converted into a museum devoted to autocratic Uzbek President Islam Karimov after his death in 2016, successor Shavkhat Mirziyoev needed a fresh new base from which to rule Central Asia’s most-populous country. A palatial mansion was quickly built on a plot of land next to the Chirchik River in the small village of Baytqorqon, outside of the Uzbek capital.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbeks-angry-homes-demolished-mirziyoev-presidential-palace-highway/29568605.html

Uzbek deputy PM sacked in ditch row

Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Zoyir Mirzayev has been dismissed over a scandal involving the public humiliation of a group of farmers

Oct 29 — “An image appeared on social media over the weekend of six men standing knee-deep in the cold water of an irrigation ditch, the Kun.uz news site reports.
The image came with a caption that the men were farmers being punished for poor harvest results, prompting online anger at their humiliation and bewilderment as to why they did not try to defend themselves.” READ MORE: https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-46019602

Uzbek bloggers test – and hit – the limits of new-found freedom

The recent detention of Uzbek bloggers shows that the changes in the country have limits, even as Uzbekistan tries to project a more liberal image to foreign investors

Oct 31 — “When Uzbek authorities detained several online activists in September, blogger Davronbek Tojialiyev packed some clothes in a bag and waited for the knock on his door. The police never came, and Tojialiyev, one of a handful of bloggers breaking taboos by criticizing state policies and officials, writes on.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uzbekistan-blogging-insight/uzbek-bloggers-test-and-hit-the-limits-of-new-found-freedom-idUSKCN1N50NW

Pakistan, Uzbekistan to work for Afghan peace

Uzbekistan is taking more efforts to help achieve peace in Afghanistan, its important economic partner in the region

Nov 2 — “Pakistan and Uzbekistan Thursday vowed to work jointly for regional peace, especially in Afghanistan. Speaking at a joint news conference here after a meeting, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov said both the countries shared views on Afghanistan. They expressed the resolve to further enhance bilateral cooperation to promote peace and stability in the region.” READ MORE: https://nation.com.pk/02-Nov-2018/pakistan-uzbekistan-to-work-for-afghan-peace?show=blocks


Taliban Floggings Hint At Crackdown On Smartphones

While men on mobile devices are a common sight in Afghanistan, local conservative culture frequently frowns on women using mobile phones in public

Oct 30 — “The scenes of a public flogging in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan showed two women in blue burqas kneeling nearly motionless as a man beat them over their heads and bodies with a cane. The women, whose names have not been released, had been found guilty of breaking the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law after police said they visited a local health clinic without a male relative being present. They were also said to have been seen by Taliban fighters communicating on mobile phones.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/taliban-floggings-new-crackdown-smartphones/29573464.html

Afghanistan’s Real Internet Lives on Its Streets

The offline marketplace of digital content — the “Sneakernet” — is thriving in Afghanistan

Oct 31 — “At a dusty street market in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Aziz is shopping for digital files: games, music, videos, ghazals (recitations of love poetry), and naat (anthems praising the Prophet Muhammad), to add to his already extensive mobile entertainment collection.” READ MORE: http://nymag.com/developing/2018/10/afghanistan-sneakernet-internet-physical-file-sharing.html

For Them, Afghanistan Is Safer Than China

Persecution in China’s Xinjiang is pushing Uighurs to move to neighboring Afghanistan

Nov 1 — “Afghanistan’s borderlands have long been a refuge for ethnic minorities fleeing persecution in China. In the 18th century, when the Qing empire conquered Xinjiang, Uighurs who rebelled against Qing rule escaped to Badakhshan. Today, China’s campaigns and restrictions against the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group in the western region of Xinjiang, have spurred an exodus into Afghanistan, especially after Beijing and the local authorities intensified their crackdown on Uighur freedoms, religion, and culture.” READ MORE: https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/01/for-them-afghanistan-is-safer-than-china/

Afghanistan: Could peace finally be at hand?

A columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus suggests his path to end the war in Afghanistan

Nov 2 — “The news that the U.S. recently held face-to-face talks with the Taliban suggests that the longest war in U.S. history may have reached a turning point, although the road to such a peace is long, rocky, and plagued with as many improvised explosive devices as the highway from Kandahar to Kabul. That the 17-year old war has reached a tipping point seems clear. The Taliban now controls more territory than they have since the American invasion of 2001.” READ MORE: https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/afghanistan-could-peace-finally-be-at-hand/


The perspective of trans-Caspian gas flow to Europe

With the signing of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan now has an opportunity to diversify its natural gas exports to Europe through the proposed Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline project

Oct 30 — “On August 12, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Caspian Sea’s Legal Status in Astana. The Convention’s provision endorsing the construction of a subsea pipeline raised optimism regarding the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) project, which has been stalled due to the Caspian’s uncertain status. Discussions on the TCGP have been ongoing since the 1990s, envisaging the export of 30 billion cubic meters/year (bcm/y) of Turkmen gas to Europe across the Caspian by integrating with the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC).” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/20433-the-perspective-of-trans-caspian-gas-flow-to-europe

India making inroads in Central Asia

Central Asia holds a very significant position in India’s foreign-policy discourse, as India has made the region part of its “extended neighborhood

Oct 30 — “The year 2018 is ending on a high note for India. With the recent visits of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to India and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s to Tajikistan, India is clearly showing its keenness to engage with Central Asian countries. Early next year, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will be visiting India.” READ MORE: http://www.atimes.com/india-making-inroads-in-central-asia/


Times of Central Asia