Tajikistan’s leading political newspaper, Asia-Plus, has presented a list of the top 20 most influential people in the country. According to the newspaper, their initial idea was to compile a list of the richest people in Tajikistan, something similar to the Forbes’ list. However, Asia-Plus had to abandon this idea because it is virtually impossible to collect credible information on the wealth of Tajikistan’s “moguls”.
Consequently, the newspaper decided to ask 30 leading journalists and political and economic analysts in the country to name the most influential individuals in Tajikistan and rank them in terms on their influence on political decision-making and appointments, economics and finance, security forces, and public opinion. As a result, the Asia-Plus has compiled a list of the top 20 persons that have the power to shape the future of Tajikistan.
The list is as follows:
1. Emomali Rahmon, the President of Tajikistan. This has hardly come as a surprise to anyone. He holds an unchallenged monopoly on political power in the country, and there are no signs that this might change anytime soon.
2. Mahmadsaid Ubaydulloyev, the chairman of the upper house of Tajikistan’s Parliament (since 2000) and the mayor of Dushanbe (since 1996). Ubaydulloyev’s second place on the list is rather surprising because his influence is not always apparent.
3. Hasan Asadullozoda, the head of Tajikistan’s largest bank, Oriyon Bank, and the most influential businessman in the country. He controls several major companies, including an airline company, and a firm that supplies bauxite for Tajikistan’s state-owned aluminum company, the largest source of revenues for the country. Asadullozoda also has major stakes in the country’s cotton, insurance, investment, restaurant, retail, hotel, and telecommunications markets. A June 2008 US embassy cable, disclosed recently by WikiLeaks, offers a very apt description of Asadullozoda’s role in Tajikistan’s economy: “Many of those who know Asadullozoda have said that his primary motivation is to control as many revenue generating enterprises as possible, to the exclusion of others. Businesspeople in Tajikistan view him as a predator, and they fear losing their businesses to Asadullozoda’s draconian methods.”
4. Murodali Alimardon, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs since 2008. Prior to this job, he headed Tajikistan’s National Bank. An audit conducted in 2009 revealed that more than US$1 billion of the Bank’s funds disappeared while Alimardon headed the institution. The government did not comment on the audit results. Alimardon is a close friend of President Rahmon.
5. Matlubkhon Davlatov, head of the President’s Office since 2010. Prior to this job, Davlatov served for almost five years as an economic adviser to the President. Asia-Plus suggests that Davlatov is most probably a relative of President Rahmon.
6. Khamrokhon Zarifi, Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister since 2006. Zarifi worked for 19 years in the Soviet KGB and its successor in Tajikistan, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB). In 1995, he was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister. Afterwards, he served as Tajikistan’s ambassador to the UN, OSCE, Austria, Switzerland, and Hungary.
7. Sherkhon Salimzoda, the country’s Prosecutor General since 2010. Prior to this job, Salimzoda headed the anti-corruption agency in 2007-2009 and served as a presidential adviser on legal matters.
8. Saymumin Yatimov, the head of the State Committee for National Security (GKNB), successor to the Soviet KGB. Before the Soviet Union’s collapse, Yatimov taught the Tajik language and literature to secondary school students. After 1991, he held various government jobs, working in the country’s embassy in Iran, serving as deputy head of GKNB (2000-2005), first deputy minister of foreign affairs (2005-2007), and then Tajikistan’s ambassador to Belgium, NATO, and the European Community (2007-2010). President Rahmon appointed Yatimov to Tajikistan’s top security post in September 2010, following the escape of 25 convicts from the GKNB’s high-security detention facility in Dushanbe.
9. Rustam Emomali, President Rahmon’s eldest son. In March, Rustam was appointed to head the State Customs Service’s smuggling-busting department. The job came with a rank of the major. Rustam also serves as deputy head of the Youth Union and vice-president of the country’s soccer federation. Despite his young age, Rustam has already headed a department in the State Investments Committee and served as a member of the Dushanbe City Council. Rustam’s speedy “career” has generated speculation that Rahmon is grooming his son to succeed him in office.
10. Sherali Gul, Tajikistan’s Minister of Energy and Industry since 2006. Gul is a relative of President Rahmon, and this is perhaps the only reason why he has managed to keep his post for so long. Prior to this job, Gul headed the State Committee on State Property Management (2001-2006).
11. Abdurakhim Qakhkhorov (Kahharov), the Minister of Internal Affairs since 2009. Little is known about Qakhkhorov except for the fact that he is a career police officer. It is worth noting that the Tajik police under his leadership is increasingly haunted by allegations of severe detainee abuse.
12. Mukhiddin Kabiri, the head of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). Kabiri is the only opposition party leader on this list. In September, he was reelected as IRPT’s head. Kabiri is increasingly viewed as a dedicated reformer who can present a viable alternative to the incumbent president. This view is also prevalent in western embassies and capitals where Kabiri is always given warm reception.
13. Shukurjon Zukhurov, the chairman of the lower house of Tajikistan’s Parliament since 2010. In 2006-2010, Zukhurov worked as the Minister of Labor and Social Protection.
14. Sherali Khayrulloyev, Tajikistan’s Defense Minister since 1995. Prior to this job, Khayrulloyev served as Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs from 1988 to 1995.
15. Khoji Akbar Turajonzoda, a prominent Islamic cleric. In 1988, Turajonzoda was appointed as Tajikistan’s supreme religious authority, the Qazi-kalon. After the beginning of the civil war in 1992, he fled the country and became the second most senior leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). As the war ended, Rahmon made Turajonzoda first deputy prime minister in his government. An August 7, 2009 cable from the US embassy in Dushanbe, disclosed recently by WikiLeaks, describes the appointment as the result of a “gentlemen’s agreement” between Turajonzoda and the Tajik president: in exchange for the post, Turajonzoda agreed that he would not challenge Rahmon for the presidency. Hence, the cleric publicly denounced the IRPT and supported Rahmon in the 1999 presidential election. In 2005, however, Rahmon removed him from the government by appointing Turajonzoda to the upper chamber of the country’s parliament. After becoming a senator, Turajonzoda turned openly critical of the government’s increasingly restrictive religion policy. Following the 2010 elections, Rahmon did not reappoint him to the parliament. In October, a cotton plant belonging to the cleric was damaged by arson. This was widely interpreted as an attempt to warn Turajonzoda against criticizing the government’s policy on religion.
16. Tahmina Rahmonova, President Rahmon’s daughter. Tahmina controls a nationwide television channel, TV Safina, and is believed to control a large bank and several shops and restaurants in Dushanbe. The Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty has recently listed Tahmina among “Central Asia’s 10 Most Influential (And Connected) Women“.
17. Amonullo Khukumatullo, the head of the state-owned Tajik Railway Company. He is also believed to control a state agency in charge of oil imports to the country, of which he had previously been the director. One of Khukumatullo’s sons is married to President Rahmon’s oldest daughter, Firuza.
18. Fattoh Saidov, head of the Financial Control and Anti-Corruption Agency since 2009.
19. Jamoliddin Nuraliyev, Tajikistan’s Deputy Finance Minister. Nuraliyev, who is married to President Rahmon’s daughter, Ozoda, is also believed to own a company which collects tolls on a major road connecting central Tajikistan with the north of the country.
20. Ozoda Rahmonova, President Rahmon’s daughter and Deputy Foreign Minister (since 2009). She is on the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty’s list of “Central Asia’s 10 Most Influential (And Connected) Women” together with her sister Tahmina.