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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.

KAZAKHSTAN

Perspectives | Why Kazakhstan’s leaders fear regional unrest

Rigged elections have created political crises in two other post-Soviet countries this year, leaving Nur-Sultan edgy ahead of a parliamentary vote

Oct 27 — “Kazakhstan does democracy a lot like Belarus and Kyrgyzstan: carefully and following a script. So Nur-Sultan is watching nervously as what should have been routine box-ticking exercises in both countries recently went off the rails. Since early August, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have marched peacefully, demanding to see the back of their dictator, who claimed a sixth term with an improbable 80.1 percent of the vote. In Kyrgyzstan, chaos and a power vacuum followed blatantly falsified elections for parliament earlier this month.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/perspectives-why-kazakhstans-leaders-fear-regional-unrest

Kazakhstan: Kaspi glitch highlights growing reliance on virtual money

The taxman is annoyed by how much revenue is lost on online payments

Oct 28 — “A technical failure suffered by a popular payment service in Kazakhstan momentarily caused headaches for retailers and consumers alike, while showing at the same time how much the population has come to embrace non-cash transactions. Users of the Kaspi mobile application noticed the trouble on the morning of October 28, when they were unable to withdraw money, make payments or top up their accounts.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-kaspi-glitch-highlights-growing-reliance-on-virtual-money

A Year in Kazakhstan: Some Observations

A foreigner’s glance at today’s Kazakhstan

Oct 28 — “As the world comes to terms with the Coronavirus effect, I’ve been sitting at home, juggling my time between conducting online classes and remotely managing my work. Finding time to write is not the easiest thing to do, but I have finally managed to put together some of the key experiences from my trip to Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/10/28/a-year-in-kazakhstan-some-observations/

KYRGYZSTAN

Third Regime Change in Fifteen Years Upends Kyrgyzstani Politics (Part Two)

The new Kyrgyz administration faces headwinds at home while seeking to secure recognition from Kyrgyzstan’s foreign partners

Oct 27 — “Since his election by Kyrgyzstan’s parliament to the post of caretaker prime minister on October 10 and subsequent accession to the presidency on October 15, Sadyr Zhaparov has managed to fulfill his most important initial priorities—to ensure a swift return to relative stability and end to the violence in the streets (see Part One in EDM, October 20). And with the return to some semblance of order, Zhaparov is now engaged in an active reshaping of the state apparatus. He has already appointed confidants to top-level positions in the cabinet, National Security Council, State Security Committee, State Customs Service and Prosecutor General’s Office. The hardest work still lies ahead, however.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/third-regime-change-in-fifteen-years-upends-kyrgyzstani-politics-part-two/

Hopes dim for reformed Kyrgyzstan as new president consolidates power

Atlantic Council experts respond to regime change in Kyrgyzstan and what recent developments mean for the region and the international community

Oct 28 — “In early October, popular protests in Kyrgyzstan overturned a fraudulent parliamentary election and later toppled the corruption-riddled government. Demonstrators freed imprisoned politicians, demanded new elections, and Kyrgyzstan seemed to be taking a decisive, if chaotic, step toward a more transparent democracy. But those hopes have dimmed in recent weeks as recently imprisoned politician Sadyr Japarov has consolidated power, taking over as prime minister before installing himself as the acting president. It’s unclear how far Japarov is willing to go to fight corruption and whether new elections in January will result in the free and fair political competition sought by this month’s protests.” READ MORE: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/hopes-dim-for-reformed-kyrgyzstan-as-new-president-consolidates-power/

What Experts in Kyrgyzstan Think about Sadyr Zhaparov

If the current acting president leads the country, no positive reforms can be expected, analysts say

Oct 29 — “Three days after the release Sadyr Zhaparov promised two things to his supporters in front of the government house: the incumbent president Sooronbai Zheenbekov will resign, and ex-vice chair of the customs house Raim Matraimov who became a symbol of corruption in the last few years in Kyrgyzstan will go to jail. One week later, Zheenbekov did resign, although he declared the previous day he would not do that until the repeated parliamentary election. Almost one week later, the media reported the news that seemed even more unbelievable – Raim Matraimov was detained.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/what-experts-in-kyrgyzstan-think-about-sadyr-zhaparov

TAJIKISTAN

Firm Linked To Tajik President's Son-In-Law Awarded $13 Million Government Contract

A publishing house in Tajikistan linked to Shamsullo Sohibov — the son-in-law of President Emomali Rahmon — was awarded a lucrative government contract in a dubiously conducted tender by the public procurement agency

Oct 23 — “A newly established publishing house in the Tajik capital has been awarded a lucrative government contract to print more than 1 million copies of a history book after a dubiously conducted tender by the public procurement agency. The firm, Modern Publishing, won the contract despite asking for more than 25 times as much money than the bid of runner-up Er-Graf, a reputable firm known in Dushanbe for high-quality work and competitive prices.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/firm-linked-to-tajik-president-s-son-in-law-awarded-13-million-government-contract/30909107.html

UFC Khabib’s last outing too hot for Tajikistan?

The Tajik authorities are spooked by the idea that a crowd could form

Oct 26 — “Mixed Martial Arts champion Khabib Nurmagomedov bowed out of top-level fighting undefeated last week, but his diehard fans in Tajikistan were unable to see him off in style. Nurmagomedov’s lightweight Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, title matchup with American Justin Gaethje had been hotly anticipated in Dushanbe, where the Dagestani is widely idolized.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/ufc-khabibs-last-outing-too-hot-for-tajikistan

Tajik President Sworn In For Fifth Term

In power since 1992, Rahmon has won four consecutive presidential elections, none of which were deemed free or fair by Western monitors

Oct 30 — “Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who holds the dubious distinction of being the only post-Soviet autocrat in power longer than Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has been sworn in for his fifth term in office. The October 30 inauguration ceremony took place at the Palace of the Nation in the capital, Dushanbe.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajik-president-sworn-in-for-fifth-term/30920898.html

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: Feeling insecure

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

Oct 27 — “After a 17-year wait, Turkmenistan and Russia are signing the dotted line on a joint security cooperation agreement. Lawmakers in Turkmenistan ratified the agreement on October 24. Their colleagues in Moscow did the same three days earlier. Why such briskness and coordination for a document drafted way back in April 2003?” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-feeling-insecure

Anticipating a complete lockdown, Turkmenistan’s residents hurry to hold all family events by end of the month

Radio Azatlyk reported on a possibility of a lockdown in “coronavirus-free” Turkmenistan — this issue is currently on the government agenda

Oct 27 — “Rumours are circulating around Ashgabat that a lockdown will be introduced on 1 November, 2020 and transport services between regions will be stopped. Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that according to rumours, schools, kindergartens and businesses will allegedly be shut down and a ban on mass events will be imposed. In this connection residents of the capital are hurrying to hold weddings and commemoration ceremonies by the end of the month.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/10/anticipating-a-complete-lockdown-turkmenistans-residents-hurry-to-hold-all-family-events-by-of-the-month/

The authorities of Turkmenistan initiate a campaign to discredit the activist Dursoltan Taganova

Dursoltan Taganova is an activist, who is currently residing in Turkey and openly criticizing the political regime in Turkmenistan

Oct 31 — “Radio “Azatlyk” reports that for the past two weeks the cities of Turkmenabat and Farap have held staff meetings in state-run companies and NGOs, with executives of NGOs, women’s councils and officers of the NSM, the Interior Ministry and the public prosecutor’s office in attendance, where government officials have been trying to discredit Dursoltan Taganova.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/10/the-authorities-of-turkmenistan-initiate-a-campaign-to-discredit-the-activist-dursoltan-taganova/

UZBEKISTAN

Bumper melon harvest sweetens Uzbekistan’s pandemic woes

The coronavirus pandemic hit Uzbekistan hard, just when it was on an economic upswing

Oct 28 — “In the giant shed of Uzbek farmer Sanat Kalandarov, a bountiful melon harvest hangs suspended from wooden beams, promising profits through a difficult winter ahead. Kalandarov is practicing a type of storage that is centuries-old — the shed has been in his own family for three generations — and he is dismissive of younger farmers who are turning to refrigerators.” READ MORE: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1755521/business-economy

Uzbekistan: The mixed legacy of Bukhara’s 1920 uprising

One hundred years after the Red Army established the Bukharan People's Soviet Republic, residents are ambivalent about its meaning

Oct 29 — “There is a 19th century, two-story house in Bukhara that Sulayman Inoyatov, 82, tries to visit at least a few times every month. The building is now a museum and was the home of his famous relative, Fayzulla Khodzhayev – an object of mixed feelings in his native city and Uzbekistan as a whole. Khodzhayev’s militantly reformist opposition to the Bukharan Emirate underlay his alliance with the Red Army forces that seized the city in September 1920. For a while, he headed the short-lived Bukharan People's Soviet Republic. But when the Stalinist terror of the late 1930s arrived, Khodzhayev was cut down with countless fellow champions of the Uzbek and Bukharan cause.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-the-mixed-legacy-of-bukharas-1920-uprising

Uzbekistan unveils extensive privatisation programme

The privatisation campaign is the country’s biggest yet

Oct 29 — “Uzbekistan is moving to fully or partly privatise over 620 state-owned companies and properties to accelerate its transition to a market economy, according to a presidential decree published on October 28. The decree included 32 of the largest state companies, such as energy firm Uzbekneftegaz, gold and uranium miner Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Combine, Uzbekistan Airways, Uzbekistan Railways and the Uzautosanoat (UzAuto Motors) automaker.” READ MORE: https://www.intellinews.com/uzbekistan-unveils-extensive-privatisation-programme-195251/?source=uzbekistan

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban Reemerges In Former Pakistani Stronghold

In recent years, Islamabad spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fence the rugged Durand Line border, more than 2,500 kilometers long, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Islamabad says fencing is required to stop militants moving across the border

Oct 27 — “Years ago, Pakistan declared victory against the Taliban after large-scale military operations in a northwestern mountainous region. But the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the formal name of the Pakistani Taliban’s umbrella organization, is now back in parts of Malakand Division, an administrative region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, where thousands were killed and millions displaced during years of Taliban control and military operations.” READ MORE: https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/taliban-reemerges-in-former-pakistani-stronghold/30915484.html

Afghan Probe Uncovers Scandal In D.C. Embassy Reconstruction

Over the past decade, Western allies have consistently urged Afghan officials to make the fight against pervasive corruption a top national priority

Oct 28 — “A fact-finding team for the Afghan parliament has alleged that a construction project at the country’s embassy in Washington was rife with corruption. The parliamentary probe was launched after an exposé in the Afghan media in July reported that the total cost for a 70-meter wall around the Afghan Embassy in northwestern Washington ended up at $1.8 million -- multifold times the market rates for such a construction project. However, Roya Rahmani, the Afghan ambassador in Washington, denies any wrongdoing.” READ MORE: https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghan-probe-uncovers-scandal-in-d-c-embassy-reconstruction/30917377.html

How Reviving Silk Making Helps Women in Afghanistan

Women still face opposition to equality from strict Islamist groups and family members that adhere to conservative practices in Afghanistan. However, the women of Herat looked past these societal hurdles and found financial freedom and equality with silk production

Oct 28 — “The women of Herat, Afghanistan recently started revisiting an ancient tradition that once flourished and defined their city: silk making. Previously an important Silk Road trading hub and an oasis for travelers, Herat is a longstanding cultural center and major city in western Afghanistan. Its prosperous silk trade diminished due to decades of war and Taliban rule. Recent projects launched by the Rehabilitation Association and Agriculture Development for Afghanistan (RAADA) offered training and resources aimed to restore the cultural craft of silk making in Afghanistan, thereby providing financial opportunity and equality to thousands of women.” READ MORE: https://www.borgenmagazine.com/silk-making-in-afghanistan/

WORLD

Has Trump Remade America's Priorities in Central Asia?

U.S. officials say Trump's strategy also reflects changed dynamics — especially the diminished American presence in Afghanistan — and seeks to counter Russian and Chinese overtures toward Afghanistan's northern neighbors

Oct 28 — “Successive American administrations have issued "strategies" for Central Asia. And when the Trump administration rolled out its own in February, its priorities resembled those of administrations past — buttressing sovereignty, fighting terrorism, cooperating on Afghanistan, promoting regional connectivity, supporting reforms and human rights, and enabling U.S. investment and development assistance. But Lisa Curtis, President Donald Trump's adviser for South and Central Asia, argues that "important shifts in the last several years led us to update our approach" as the administration laid out its strategy for the next five years.” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/has-trump-remade-americas-priorities-central-asia

Central Asia risks becoming a hyperarid desert in the near future

The steppe-desert’s biodiversity in Central Asia is under severe threat from human-induced climate change and land degradation

Oct 30 — “Around 34 million years ago, sudden climate change caused ecological breakdown in Central Asia. This ancient event, triggered by rapid drops in temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide, permanently affected biological diversity in the region. Large areas of Mongolia, (geographic) Tibet and north-western China suddenly became hyperarid deserts with little vegetation cover – and stayed that way for almost 20 million years.” READ MORE: https://theconversation.com/central-asia-risks-becoming-a-hyperarid-desert-in-the-near-future-148703

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