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Tajikistan and Uzbekistan: Crackdown on Islamists may backfire

TASHKENT: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on Saturday that efforts to crack down on religious freedom might backfire.She said this could lead to increased sympathy for radical views in Central Asia, a region the United States sees as key to the future stability of Afghanistan.Clinton met Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon and Uzbek President Islam Karimov to thank the two Central Asian states for their cooperation in the US-led war in neighbouring Afghanistan.She stressed to both that freedom of religious expression was tied to the region`s future security, US officials said.“I disagree with restrictions on religious freedom and shared those concerns,” Clinton told a news conference after meeting Rakhmon in Dushanbe on the last full day of her latest overseas trip.She said efforts to regulate religion “could push legitimate religious expression underground, and that could build up a lot of unrest and discontent”.Clinton`s visit to the two former Soviet republics came after a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan that was focused on US efforts to find a political solution to the decade-long Afghan conflict. She also promoted greater regional economic integration under a plan US officials have dubbed “the New Silk Road”.

Karimov and Rakhmon have moved to limit religious freedom in their countries which remain under authoritarian rule two decades after the break-up of the Soviet Union.Tajikistan, a mainly Muslim country of 7.5 million people, introduced laws in August to ban youths from praying in mosques, churches and other religious sites, a move that was criticised by religious leaders.Rakhmon, in power since 1992, has said tough measures are needed to stop the spread of religious fundamentalism in an impoverished country that shares a porous 1,340-km border with Afghanistan. “You have to look at the consequences,” Clinton said in Tajikistan.

“We would hope there would be a rethinking of any restrictions going forward, because we think it will increase sympathy for extremist views which would in turn threaten the stability and security of the country.”

Rakhmon`s Moscow-backed secular government clashed with the Islamist opposition during a 1992-97 civil war, in which tens of thousands were killed.

The president has ignored previous requests from the West to respect freedom of conscience. He has ordered students home from religious schools abroad and clamped down on a growing trend for Islamic dress.

US officials said Clinton also raised the issue with Uzbekistan`s Karimov — widely seen as one of the most repressive leaders in the region — as one of a number of human rights concerns that also include press freedom, human trafficking and political reforms.—Reuters

LONDON: If there is one thing more fraught, more attended by failure and more difficult to do than fighting a war, it is building the peace which follows. Our modern wars are fought in weeks or months — but building the peace is measured in decades. Wars are violent and swift. Building peace is long, painful and almost always untidy. Winning wars needs decisiveness. Building peace needs strategic patience.

What happens next in Libya is unlikely to be tidy or elegant to watch. Get used to it. The country is tribal by nature and the war has been tribal in its conduct. Finding a constitution — probably a highly devolved one — that can provide a framework to contain these pressures is not going to be easy — especially with such oil revenues to be distributed, so much religion to infect minds, and so many arms in the peoples` hands.

But there are strengths to build on. There are some able individuals who are more than capable of efficiently running their country. With the world waiting at Tripoli`s door for its precious high-quality crude, Libya will not be poor. There is international goodwill. And, it seems, a desire among Libya`s people for genuine democracy, though — note please London, Paris and Washington — one which will more likely see Turkey`s Islamic democracy as its model, than our secular ones.

We in the west must only help where we are asked to. This was a different war — we played our part to enable the Libyan people to fight on their own terms. We have to be prepared to let them build their own peace on the same basis. Interference will be unwise and unwelcome as they have made clear. Sending in floods of uninvited businessmen to capture contracts as reward for our help is not likely to be well received. Ditto dispatching the kind of small army of wet-behind-the-ears economic graduates to “help them rebuild their economy”, which we sent to Iraq in the early days.

When, as seems almost inevitable, the building of the Libyan peace starts getting untidy and inelegant to watch, let us remember that when we did it our way in Iraq and Afghanistan, it wasn`t exactly a success either.

Our biggest mistake in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — from which perhaps the Libyans can learn — was to fail to make the rule of law the first priority. Thus corruption, that constant by-product of war, became ingrained in the peace. I changed this in Bosnia when I went there as high representative, but by then it was too late. The establishment of the rule of law — perhaps even martial law at first — which then develops over time into a reliable legal, judicial and prosecutorial structure based on the cultural norms of the country, is the essential framework for the security people need and for economic activity.

A key and early ingredient in this is to establish the state`s monopoly in the use of lethal force. This will be one of Libya`s earliest challenges — taking privately possessed arms out of circulation. It will not happen quickly and it may need to be approached with subtlety as well as forceful insistence (in Kosovo they simply converted the rebel forces into a kind of home guard as an interim step).
Dawn/Guardian News Service:

Dictators in Muslim world do not learn lessons, see Qadafi, Zain Abdin, Hosni Mubarak .... Asad and Saleh in line..... ..Central Asian states oppress people, where are human rights of these people, freedom to worship... freedom to speak... oppression breeds extremism and violence... world should move stop these dictators ... if want to make this world safe and peaceful..

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