After Ismaili separatists fatally stabbed General Abdullo Nazarov – a top Tajik government security official and the head of the Tajik intelligence agency “GKNB”, the government of Tajikistan began a military operation in the small town of Khorog on the Afghanistan border. According to the government, the attack was targeted at four leaders of Ismaili criminal groups involved in drug smuggling from Afghanistan, who were also suspected of killing the security official. It was the kind of operation the U.S. – worried about instability on Afghanistan’s northern border – has been training and equipping Tajikistan’s special forces units to carry out. (Source: Tajikistan Launches Military Operation in Pamirs | Jamestown Foundation for Global Research and Analysis | https://jamestown.org/program/tajikistan-launches-military-operation-in-remote-pamirs-region/)
The key wanted man was Tolib Ayombekov, a Ismaili rebel whom authorities have accused of drug smuggling and brutal crimes. (Source: Tolib Ayombekov | Jamestown Foundation for Global Research and Analysis https://jamestown.org/organization/tolib-ayombekov/)
The murder of General Abdullo Nazarov by the Pamiri Ismailis was a signature Assassins-style stabbing carried out with a dagger reminiscent of how the Ismaili Assassins (or Hashishin) of Alamut used to kill their Sunni enemies and how the Ismailis killed Nizam ul Mulk. (Waterson, James, The Ismaili Assassins. A history of medieval murder. Yorkshire, 2008.)
During the operation carried out by the Tajik government after this killing, resistance from the Ismaili militants in the town forced the government into a retreat after failing to capture any of the four men they had sought. Groups of men patrol the streets at night, trying to prevent another surprise attack by the government. Men loyal to the leaders – commonly referred to as “commanders” – say they have gathered weapons in preparation for another war. These are Ismaili Pamiri separatists, who are funded by Aga Khan Foundation and the AKDN to fight against the Tajikistan government.
Sayfullo Safarov, the deputy director of the Center for Strategic Studies also pointed out his observations and added to the evident motives of the separatists movements like the Ismaili Pamiris in Tajikistan and the Ismailis in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, that forces supported by some countries aim to combine Pakistan’s Gilgit and Chitral regions, parts of the historical Badakhshan region in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and a section of China’s territory to form a new country of “The Greater Badakhshan”. One wonders what “forces” and “countries” Safarov is implying are behind this separatist movement. The Aga Khan is probably one of them; many in Dushanbe seem to believe that the Aga Khan (the London-based spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, including the people of Badakhshan) harbors some secret political ambition, and his foundation has been very involved in both Tajik and Afghan Badakhshan. (Source: Are Outside Forces Conspiring To Create “Great Badakhshan”? | Eurasia http://www.eurasianet.org/node/67342)
This comes at an unpropitious time for Tajikistan. In preparation for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, the U.S., Russia, and other partners have been trying to help Tajikistan’s government bolster its shaky hold on the unstable country. Over the last several years, Dushanbe has managed to wrest control over most of Tajikistan from a variety of local warlords who still held sway as a legacy of the civil war that ravaged Tajikistan from 1992 to 1997. Khorog was to be the last step in that consolidation process. But the failure of last summer’s operation, and the hardening of resistance among the people of Khorog, has instead reversed that momentum.
Gorno Badakhshan – the region of which Khorog is the capital – is the most mountainous, remote part of an already very mountainous and remote country. Its geography is dominated by the Pamir (from Persian meaning “the roof of the world”) Mountains, part of the same mountain system that includes the Himalayas and Hindu Kush. It is sparsely populated: Badakhshan’s roughly 250,000 people represent 3 percent of Tajikistan’s total population, but the territory occupies almost half of the entire country. The people, known as Pamiris, speak various Iranian languages that are related to, but not mutually comprehensible with, the Tajik spoken in the rest of Tajikistan. And where most of Tajikistan is Sunni Muslim, the Pamiri [terrorists] are Shia Ismailis, part of a worldwide community of 15 million loyal to the London-based Aga Khan. (Source: The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/06/the-tajiks-who-fight-their-own-government/277336/)
For most of history, the Pamirs were profoundly isolated, but came under control of the Russian empire in 1895. In 1925, the Soviet Union formally created the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast and, mindful of its strategic importance near the sensitive borders with China and Afghanistan, took pains to develop the area and strengthen their hold on it. They built a “highway” and established pharmaceutical and textile factories there.
Afghan MP Fouzia Kofi says subsequent to recent unrest in the Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, certain domestic and foreign political circles are trying to prevent reconstruction of the historical Silk Road which can be the biggest economic highway for Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, armed gangs opposing Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon have become more active in the country’s Badakhshan province. According to local sources, eight fighters from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province were arrested in Tajikistan last week.
Security officials in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, issued a statement on Tuesday saying that at least 12 government troops and 30 militants were killed in clashes near the town of Khorog in the Badakhshan region.
This has been the worst outbreak of violence in Tajikistan since 2010, when 40 security forces were killed in a prison break.
The autonomous Gorno-Badakhshan Province is a mountainous region in Tajikistan, bordering Afghanistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan. The inhabitants of the region are mainly Ismaelite [Ismaili] Muslims. The region is also home to the Pamiri minority. (Source: Press TV http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/253878.html)