Central Asia Theater
BBC reports May 12 on an unprecedented wave of protests against the authoritarian regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. Every day for the past four months, protesters in the eastern town of Andijan have gathered outside a courthouse where 23 local businessmen are on trial, accused of membership in a radical Islamic group, which they and their relatives strongly deny.
There is a sleazy underside to what is being protrayed as an important step towards peace in Asia. Visiting New Delhi, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed an agreement with India to resolve border disputes dating to the Sino-Indian war of 1962, in which China seized a contested stretch of the Himalayas known as Aksai Chin. Geographically a part of Kashmir (itself contested by India and Pakistan), Aksai Chin is strategic to China not only because it controls a pass through the mountains which could serve as an invasion route, but (perhaps more importantly) because it straddles both of western China's restive internal colonies: Tibet and Xinkiang. Delhi and Beijing have remained at odds over the territory since the brief war, and only restored direct air links in 2002. (See CNN, May 24, 2002)
As Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution is being consolidated, with a modicum of order returning to Bishkek, the capital, ousted president Askar Akayev has emerged in Moscow, and formally resigned--after having pledged from hiding that he wouldn't. He said that he hopes to return to Kyrgyzstan to participate in new presidential elections now slated for June--but just as a voter, not a candidate. (Pakistan Daily Times, April 4)
What is now being dubbed Kyrgyzstan's "Tulip Revolution" is starting to look considerably less than velvet. The country remains divided, with ousted president Askar Akayev in hiding but refusing to step down, and some protests and even road blockades reported in his support. (AP, March 28) Looting and sporadic gunfire continue, with armed bands roaming the streets of Bishkek, the capital.
The first real evidence of a U.S. hand in the recent murky revolution in Kyrgyzstan has emered in the form of a "secret report" purportedly written by U.S. Ambassador Stephen M. Young, which appears on the website of Kabar, the Kyrgyz National News Agency. Kabar appears to remain in the hands of loyalists to ousted President Akayev, and we make no claims as to the authenticity of the letter.
World media reported just yesterday that opposition lawmaker Ishenbai Kadyrbekov had been appointed interim president by Parliament following the ouster of Kyrgyzstan's long-ruling strongman Askar Akayev in a popular uprising. But on March 25, AP reports that a better-known opposition figure with a questionable past, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has been named interim president—and prime minister. Reads the report:
After several days of parallel power, in which opposition protesters had seized control of provinicial cities but not the capital, the government of Kyrgyzstan fell March 24. Angry protests broke out in Bishkek, the capital, and crowds repeatedly attempted to storm the White House, the central government building. At first security forces repulsed the protesters, but eventually gave way, allowing them to take the building.
The Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan is divided by a popular uprising in the wake of contested elections, with the government of President Askar Akayev in control in the northern capital, Bishkek, but the southern city of Osh now in the hands of opposition protesters. Normality is starting to return to Osh following a wave of strikes and protests which culminated in the ouster of the official governor Kubanych Joldoshev and installation in power of an opposition leader, Anvar Artykov, who the central government refuses to recognize.