Kazakhstan: between color revolution and Islamic terrorism

By Aditi Bhaduri

New Delhi, January 8: The intensity of the unrest in Kazakhstan this week was apparently not on anyone’s radar. Yet the rise in violence has not been entirely surprising.

When family and clan regimes remain in power for decades, without accountability to their citizens, the least they have to guarantee is the economic well-being of all. It is surprising that Kazakhstan has seen fuel-related riots, which sparked widespread violence and chaos, which saw the government sacked. Surprising, because Kazakhstan is the richest, largest and most powerful state in Central Asia. It is rich in resources, with oil and gas in abundance, one of the largest producers of uranium in the world, but unlike neighboring Uzbekistan, which is also rich in resources, it is also not no longer strapped for cash.

The apparent trigger for the violent protests was rising fuel prices – the government had lifted the cap on LPG which is widely used by the population. The protests began in the oil town of Zhanaozen, where in 2011, 16 oil workers protesting poor working conditions were killed by police. Protests and violence then quickly spread to other cities in Kazakhstan, long considered a haven of tranquility and peace.

On Tuesday, the government was sacked and fuel prices fell. But that did not quell the protests. As authorities cracked down on the internet, social media was inundated with images of violence, official buildings on fire and a statue of first President Nur Sultan Nazarbayev shot down by crowds in Taldykorgan, three hours from Almaty, the commercial capital of the country. Rumors have circulated that Nazarbayev and his family have fled the country.

It’s hard to believe that only a rise in the price of fuel could have led to such large-scale chaos. Grievances and frustrations had been piling up for a long time. In 2019, for example, protests were staged during the elections, which were widely seen as cosmetic and allowed Nazarbayev to retain power.

In March 2019, in a surprising and unprecedented but astute gesture, then-president Nur Sultan Nazarbayev announced that he was stepping down as president. Nazarbayev has held this post for 28 years, since 1991, when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was dissolved and Kazakhstan became a sovereign republic. Nazarbayev said that according to the constitutional provisions, he will cease to be president of the republic and that for the remainder of the term, the president of the Senate of Kazakhstan, Qasym-Jomart Tokayev, will assume the presidency.

Nazarbayev remained chairman of his Nur Otan party, the largest party in the current Kazakh parliament, and life chairman of the country’s Security Council. His successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 65, a career diplomat and Sinologist, was part of Nazarbayev’s inner circle. He previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. Tokayev also belongs to Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party.

The transition, it was felt, was symbolic, and the presidential elections were held the same year as an expression of even more symbolism. The handpicked Tokayev, of course, won handsomely.

Nonetheless, protests took place during the elections which were not considered fair. Soon after, Tokayev renamed the capital Astana to Nur Sultan, in honor of Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan has a young population – 51% are under 29 years old. It was young people who were at the forefront of the protests.

President Tokayev was quick to call on Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) forces to quell the violence, which continued overnight with a death toll of 18 and 3,000 arrests at the time. of the editorial staff. Kazakhstan, along with Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, is a founding member of the CSTO. There is no doubt that the specter of color revolutions in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, which saw the overthrow of Soviet-era President Akayev and several other presidents, must be watching. And Russia was quick to send troops to restore peace and stability.

The RIA news agency reported that around 2,500 people will be stationed in Kazakhstan for several days or weeks. Authorities said the protests were seized by extremist forces, including those belonging to the Islamic State, which had previously recruited from the country. (Part of the CSTO’s raison d’être is to fight Islamist terrorism in Central Asia). Across the country, a state of counterterrorism operations has been established.

Skepticism and speculation about the narrative, however, is rife. One of the rumors circulating is that the United States is behind the protests, to open a second pressure front against Russia, after Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that, “Reaffirming its commitment to the obligations of allies in the CSTO, the Russian Federation has supported the adoption of urgent measures amid the rapidly deteriorating internal political situation and of the rise in violence in Kazakhstan. countries as externally induced attempts to disrupt the security and integrity of the state by violent means, including trained and organized armed groups. The Russian Federation will continue to consult closely with Kazakhstan and other allies of the CSTO to analyze and develop, if necessary, effective measures, mainly to assist the counterterrorism operation carried out by the Kazakh security forces. . “

However, the deployment of CSTO troops has been questioned by analysts in the region. Kazakh political analyst Karlygash Nugmanova called the deployment “bad” without broad discussions between Kazakh and Russian citizens. Questions were raised as to why the CSTO refused to send troops earlier to the member state of Kyrgyzstan which faced similar unrest or did not rush to protect Armenia in its war with Azerbaijan in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Uzbek analysts wondered why Uzbekistan had not rushed to help its neighbor, leaving space for the Russian re-entry into the region. The White House has announced that it is closely monitoring events.

For Russia, however, this is an opportunity to strengthen its traditional role in the region and position itself there as a network security provider. In this, he will no doubt also have the support of Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, which is not a member of the CSTO but which, following the hold of the Taliban in Kabul, has strengthened its military ties with Russia. . Time will tell which direction the uprising will take. But for now, it’s back to the future.

(Aditi Bhaduri is a columnist specializing in Eurasian geopolitics. The opinions expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)

(Content is released under an agreement with indianarrative.com)


(1094 words)

2022-01-08-18: 28: 03
Source: IANS

Kazakhstan: between color revolution and Islamic terrorism

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