TAJIKISTAN President Rakhmon uses gifts to promote his ‘humanitarian absolutism’

The “gift from the president” is already part of the presidential propaganda. The latest initiative consists of the delivery of 30 new buses to some cities. There is no control over the destination of these reserved funds, which amount to 43 million euros in 2023.

Moscow () – “Gift from the president” is an expression that is already part of the usual lexicon of presidential propaganda in Tajikistan. The latest initiative that brings it up is the concession of 30 new buses to the city of Kulyab and its surroundings in recent days, for the execution of the “State Program for the selective development of transport in the territory of the Republic until the year 2025 Those who criticize the regime dismiss these actions as “pijar” (advertising) – a propaganda by President Emomali Rakhmon at the cost of the population’s savings – but the circle of the leader’s loyalists consider them to be an excellent solution to all problems.

The buses are delivered “by direct order of the president.” The city of Kulyab received six; the neighboring city of Khoruǧ, five. The rest were sent to the troubled province of Upper Badakhshan (Gorno-Badakšan): a “carrot” after so many beatings after the riots last summer. The local authorities expressed their gratitude for this “presidential act of charity” – as they called it – by organizing a festive ceremony to welcome the buses with songs, dances and official speeches, and express the population’s gratitude to the government.

The solemn declarations link the gift to the international holiday of “Nowruz”, the Persian New Year, which coincides with the spring equinox on March 20. On the official websites of the beneficiary cities, photos and videos highlight the images of Rakhmon, which decorate the windows and sides of the buses. No administration deigned to answer the question of how the donation was financed.

After all, on the presidential website itself, it is enough to type the Tajik term tuhfa (gift), to admire the innumerable reports on the magnanimity of the Persian satrap of Dushanbe. The exhibition includes housing for employees of the Tajik law enforcement and special services, buildings built for various public bodies, gifts for orphans and students housed in centers in different parts of the country, and numerous copies of a classic book entitled ‘Točikon’ ( Tajiks).

Academician Bobočon Gafurov wrote the book in 1972, in Soviet times, to extol “the union of the Persian peoples of Central Asia.” Rakhmon ordered a reprint in 2019 and distributed it free to every home. 1.6 million copies were printed, the cost of which -136 million somoni (about 11.7 million euros) was covered by the state budget. Našryoti Muosir won the reprint contest, revealed Ozodi Radio. The publisher was linked to the Faroz company, owned by Rakhmon’s son-in-law, Šamsullo Sokhibov, who made a profit of more than 10 million euros.

One of the timid voices of the opposition, the lawyer and militant of the Social Democratic Party Farkhod Khudoyorov, describes these initiatives as attempts by the president to garner a greater consensus: “The head of state, re-elected time and time again by the people, is financed with the state budget, which is formed by collecting taxes… this type of propaganda is unacceptable, and even criminal from a legal point of view.” In his opinion, even if the masses are fooled by the propaganda, everyone understands that “the political environment of the country does not allow us to talk openly about this issue.”

Any criticism of the president or senior officials can have unforeseeable consequences, says Khudoyorov: “dozens of journalists and hundreds of dissidents and critics of the regime who are in jail today” confirm this.

Officially, the president’s gifts come from his “reserved funds” to deal with emergency situations. 2% of tax revenue goes to these funds, in accordance with Tajikistan’s financial laws. The truth is that there is no control over the destination of these funds, which are fully available to the president for “social projects and cultural initiatives” without prior approval from Parliament. For 2023, the reserved funds amount to almost 500 million somoni (43 million euros), 57 more than the previous year. The few critical voices see in it the traits of “humanitarian absolutism”, the reign of Emomali Rakhmon.

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Written by Editor TLN

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