Only on hand: The situation in Nukus is a deliberate provocation of the authoritarian leader of Uzbekistan

The first of the official authorities to react to the protests in the Republic of Karakalpakstan was in the Parliament of Uzbekistan. It happened on July 2, a day after the start of mass marches and rallies, in the capital of the republic - Nukus.

In their press release, the deputies of the Karakalpak parliament called the demonstrators a “criminal group of individuals”, “provocateurs”, “populists”, “manipulating the minds of citizens” and “organizing illegal actions, expressed in an attempt to seize government bodies.”

At the time, it might have seemed that such harsh rhetoric was hasty and would soon be corrected. However, the further development of events showed that definitions that have nothing to do with the presumption of innocence will form the basis of the behavior of the authorities in the context of a local protest that has some national overtones. And this accusatory strategy, apparently, was clearly developed in advance, verified and agreed upon.

External enemies are to blame

The amendments were submitted for public discussion on June 25. Literally the next day, local protests began in different cities of Karakalpakstan. At the same time, there was a wave of publications in the press about the “correct understanding of the constitutional reform”, which, it seems, came from the presidential administration.

One of the leading web publications of Uzbekistan Kun.Uz reprinted the post of a former political emigrant, and now a supporter of Mirziyoyev's reforms, political scientist Kamoliddin Rabbimov. Lamenting that "the proposal to amend Articles 70-75 of the Constitution has caused some concerns among some of our Karakalpak brother-friends", he stated that "the proposed change is intended to prevent external forces from conspiring against one nation, brotherhood and coexistence." Then he continues in Russian, although earlier the political scientist posted his opinion mainly in Uzbek:

“In view of the provocations taking place in the post-Soviet space, we should not give a chance to external forces that are against our unity on this issue.”

It is worth comparing these words with the statement of Shavkat Mirziyoyev on July 6:

“Of course, these events were not organized in one day or ten. They have been prepared for years by destructive outside forces. Their main goal is an encroachment on the territorial integrity of Uzbekistan and the creation of an interethnic conflict.

Neither the first nor the second speaker named these "outside forces" by name. However, the uniformity of their statements once again proves that the state approach to solving the Karakalpak crisis was worked out in advance and is being consistently pursued by the authorities to this day.

Fear of “voluntary entry” into Russia

By "provocations in the post-Soviet space" a thoughtful reader should probably understand Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, and Crimea. However, for the general public in Uzbekistan, such hints are only abstract horror stories. This is not Kazakhstan, where there is a large Russian diaspora and where the scandalous statements of politicians from Moscow are perceived much more sharply. But what does the “Karakalpak issue” have to do with Russia?

The Uzbek security services remember well how in 2014 a representative of the unregistered Alga Karakalpakstan (Forward, Karakalpakstan) party spoke of “talks about joining Russia that are gaining popularity within Karakalpakstan.” In addition, he quite transparently hinted that from 1930 to 1936 Karakalpakstan was part of the RSFSR.

Talk about provocations began right after the annexation of Crimea and caused Tashkent the strongest irritation. Although interstate Russian-Uzbek relations have been at a “high level of trust” recognized by both sides for many years, no one in Uzbekistan needs such a “fifth column” in the person of Karakalpak nationalists who are thinking about “voluntary entry” into the Russian Federation.

Talk about provocations began right after the annexation of Crimea and caused Tashkent the strongest annoyance

It is also important that in 2013 the term of the twenty-year agreement between Karakalpakstan and Uzbekistan on the voluntary entry of the first republic into the second one expired . Today it is difficult to say why the then president of the country, Islam Karimov, hushed up the issue of its extension or termination. Three years later, Karimov died, and the geopolitical situation continued to deteriorate rapidly. However, Shavkat Mirziyoyev found the strength to do what the first president of the country did not do. He decided to deal with long-standing problems that he inherited from the Soviet period and from the early years of independence.

Everything for a smooth "zero"

Having announced the constitutional reform at the end of 2021, Shavkat Mirziyoyev made an emphasis in it on the social orientation of the future fundamental law of the country, human rights, the development of education and science. It is known that members of a special parliamentary commission collected proposals from the population and submitted them for discussion, so formally the president seems to have nothing to do with it. (More about this in the commentary of The Insider by Tashkent political scientist Rustam Burnashev)

As a result, among the proposed amendments, as expected, there were such “positive” items as an innovation on the secular nature of the Uzbek state, a provision on the irremovability of judges and the inadmissibility of pressure on lawyers. And completely unexpected proposals to eliminate Karakalpak sovereignty and to change the presidential term from five to seven years.

Despite the formal non-involvement of the president in the collection of proposals for voting on the Constitution, it is hard to imagine that this process proceeded without the strictest control from his administration. Despite all the “image” reforms of Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the update in no way affected real politics and the most important decisions in public administration.

Despite all the “image” reforms of Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the update in no way affected real politics and the most important decisions in public administration.

There is still not a single legal opposition political party in Uzbekistan, and the hardened Soviet judicial system is alive and well. Freedom of the press and civil control over the actions of the authorities exist only in words. All decisions are made by one person - an authoritarian leader who is not particularly different from his colleagues in the Central Asian workshop - Rahmon (Tajikistan), Tokaev (Kazakhstan), Berdimuhamedov (Turkmenistan) or Zhaparov (Kyrgyzstan).

The speed with which Mirziyoyev immediately after the protest rallies demanded the removal of the amendments relating to the sovereignty of Karakalpakstan from the draft Constitution suggests that some other controversial points, such as extending the presidential term, will be pointedly discarded. This is also evidenced by the fact that the term for discussing the amendments was extended by parliament for another 10 days.

Public gestures demonstrating the modesty of the president and concern for the people will give Mirziyoyev an opportunity to avoid dissatisfaction with the "zeroing" of both the population of Uzbekistan and, more importantly, the leaders of enlightened Europe. After all, the latter are always ready to criticize the next dictator for usurping power.

Everyone has forgotten old Andijan, there will be no new one

The harsh suppression of the uprising in Nukus could have had rather serious negative consequences for Mirziyoyev. Mostly abroad, in the democratic world, from where both international recognition of economic reforms and business investment come to Uzbekistan.

As early as July 4, the European Union called on Tashkent "for an open and independent investigation into the violent events in Karakalpakstan" and also demanded that Uzbekistan "guarantee the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, in accordance with Uzbekistan's international obligations."

However, such a reaction of Europe as it was in 2005, after the execution in Andijan, and serious sanctions against Uzbekistan are not expected. Firstly, the authorities will do everything possible to present the people who took to the streets not as political opponents, but as cruel provocateurs, "the overwhelming majority of whom were people in a state of drug and alcohol intoxication." Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan on July 6 stated literally the following: "The cruelty of the actions of the rioters was the result of the provocative actions of a group of people who manipulated the minds of people, and cannot be qualified as peaceful demonstrations of citizens."

Secondly, according to the totality of all the “merits”, the West still likes Shavkat Mirziyoyev very much. He eradicated forced labor in the cotton fields, released two dozen political prisoners, and pursues a market-based financial policy. But most importantly, in the eyes of Europe, Mirziyoyev is not eager to join the pro-Russian Eurasian Economic Union, does not recognize the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR, declares support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and advocates an end to the war.

Thirdly, it can be confidently stated that, looking back at Crimea and Ukraine, the leaders of Europe will not condemn Mirziyoyev later for the brutal reprisal against Karakalpak separatists. After all, criticism can push him into the arms of Putin. Ukraine is distracting Europe and the States from other world problems so much today that it is time to admit that the Uzbek leader chose the best time to solve the “Karakalpak issue”.

American Daily Newspaper

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