Interview with Bakhodir Khan Turkiston, a well-known Uzbek politician, Leader of the “Birdamlik” People’s Democratic Movement in Opposition.
– Bakhodir Khan, it is now 6 months that our country is under ruling of a new president. It looks as if the President, who has been busy appointing the authorities to relevant positions by now, has commenced serious reforms. At all his speeches, the leader of the state is announcing that it is necessary to support entrepreneurs, to fight the corruption. But, we observe that the people are divided into two groups in assessing this. In other words, the groups of believers and non-believers in the reforms that have been started by the president. Which group do you think you belong to?
– Personally, I do not believe any of the reforms that the president has started at all. Because, he is following the path of the previous dictator Islam Karimov, he is not deviating from this path. Everything is being done in a superficial manner in Uzbekistan. Expecting serious changes from Mirziyayev’s presidency term is nothing more than a dreaminess. Mirziyayev had been Prime Ministry of Uzbekistan from 2003 to 2016. Even in 2003, the issues of supply of electricity, gas and drinking water were not so much a problem than it is now. For the past year, it is Shavkat Mirziyayev and the government headed by him are responsible for aggravation of these problems, bankruptcy of many companies, expansion of corruption, and serious drop of living standards of the country’s population. During the period from 2003 and 20017 Uzbekistan stepped back in every filed of economy. This is a shame!
Look, in 2003, total number of our labor migrants in Russia, Kazakhstn and other countries was not over 1 million. By 2017, over 6 million Uzbekistani people have left the country looking for work. Only this figure demonstrates the extent of failure of the government headed by Mirziyayev.
– What do you think the head of the state should have started the reforms with?
– First of all, together with the political reforms, a strong foundation of the state should be built. Regretfully, such a foundation has not yet been established. Of course, since gaining independence until 1995, there had been attempts to built a foundation of the state. But appointment of Rustam Inoyatov, former KGB officer, to the position of the National security Services almost stopped establishment of a foundation of the state. The country stepped onto a different path – the path of ruling without building the foundation of the state. Therefore, we don’t see any active political reforms yet.
Former president, dictator I. Karimov’s sudden death caused a fuss among the authorities in the ruling class. Therefore, the dictator, who had died on the 27th of August, was buried on the 2nd of September. According to the Constitution of the country, the Chairman of the Senate ought to have stepped in as acting president to determine the extraordinary presidential elections and would have ruled the country until the new president to have taken an oath and taken his/her position. Unfortunately, the ruling class did not obey the Constitution and by humiliating our main law the Chairman of Senate was pushed aside and in assistance of Rustam Inoyatov – Chairman of NSS, Shavkat Mirziyayev took the office of the president of the country illegally.
I will answer your question irrespective of that fact. I do not believe that the current government will fulfill the steps that I am proposing as necessary for reforms. My recommendations are:
- a) Complete freedom of speech and press;
- b) Respect to human rights, all political and religious prisoners should be freed from jails;
- v) Ensuring just prevalence of the law;
- g) Enable return of the representatives of opposition to their motherland;
- d) Elimination of corruption.
If these reforms are brought to life, we can say that Mirziyayev’s government are on the right path.
– Bakhodir Khan, you often repeat the aggravation of crisis as opposed to economic growth, lack of economic freedom in the country and you are seriously criticizing your national economy. But, there are also people, who are against your views, and who accuse you of against being unbiased. While there are differences in views, Heritage Foundation Center of USA published the following issue of “Economic freedom index”. The information of this Center obviously confirms the unbiased nature of your views and that you have not gone too far with it. If you have read the publication of the Center, what do you think of the figure in the publication? Is Uzbekistan really among the most left behind countries in the region and world? How close, do you think, is the Center to the truth?
– I totally agree with the conclusions of the Center. Unfortunately, for the 27 years under the deceased president, dictator Karimov, our motherland Uzbekistan lost all its positions in all fields and directions it took in 1989. With this regard, we can take the positions of Kazakhstan. In 1989 the positions of Kazakhstan were below Uzbekistan’s values. Bu 2017, Kazakhstan has risen to position 48 in the Heritage Foundation Center and took a position among developed countries. Whole Uzbekistan has dropped to position 148 among left behind countries of Africa. What does this indicate? It shows that all fields of economy are in crisis. There is not an industry or organization that corruption has not reached. Bribery and corruption is so developed starting from the maternity houses up to the last step of human life. The educational and medical systems have almost been lost. Rural industry is too much left behind, and many industrial companies have gone broke. The national money devaluates every month. Unemployment is growing, supply of electricity, gas and drinking water, repairs of roads have become serious problems. The country needs strong and comprehensive reforms. This is one thing that can be clearly said. There will be no strong economic reforms in Uzbekistan during Mirziyayev’s presidency term. Because he lacks strong political will.
– Recently you posted Josef Goebbels’ aphorism “Give me an dishonest press, and I will give you a nation lack of conscious” on your Facebook page. Indeed, mass media means a lot. Do you think the current president will give any freedom to mass media of Uzbekistan? Is the day nearing when the chest of the local mass media will feel some breeze?
– No, he will not. It is useless to expect this from the running government. Former president, dictator I. Karimov and chairman of NSS Rustam Inoyatov did every attempt to tie the local mass media and kept it under control. Thy killed some journalists, they jailed some of them, made escape from the country, threatened them, put pressure and pursuit against them. On the contrary, the “dishonest” mass media was given all opportunities. Now we witness the fact that millions of politically illiterate and ignorant people have been educated in Uzbekistan by the influence of “dishonest mass media”.
– Do you think the representatives of opposition, who live in foreign countries will be allowed to return to Uzbekistan?
– Return of the opposition representatives to Uzbekistan will remain impossible until NSS change their activities and methods of their work. The reason to this is the blood on hands of NSS and their innumerable crimes against humanity. They fear that their Russophile nature will become disclosed to people, also they fear of losing their illegally obtained billions of dollars. Current government and NSS do not absolutely want the opposition to return to motherland. They are very interested in continuing to rule the country in the state as it is now.
– thank a lot for your sincere conversation! We wish success to you political and all other activities.