Al-Qaida in Uzbekistan?

In the midst of the explosions and shootouts in Tashkent, experts are trying to understand what terrorist organization is behind the explosions and what the consequences of the attacks may be.
Head of Department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan of Institute of former USSR countries Andrei Grozin does not agree with the version of Uzbek authorities that “Hizb-ut-Tahrir” Islamic organization linked to al-Qaida organized the blasts.

NewsInfo What are short-term and long-term consequences of the terrorist attacks? Will the USA or Russia improve their positions in Uzbekistan?

Andrei Grozin. I think the USA will definitely improve its position in Uzbekistan, but even today this position is strong enough. The latest terrorist attacks demonstrated the crisis of the regime in Uzbekistan. Uzbek authorities are conducting the policy of strategic partnership with the USA, and the latest terrorist acts are unlikely to change this policy. They just gave Tashkent a good excuse to ignore the allegations of violating human rights. Oppressive policy will be explained by the need to maintain stability in the country. The regime in Uzbekistan will remain pro-American as long as the USA does not criticize human rights violations in Uzbekistan.

NewsInfo. Will Uzbek President Islam Karimov become more pro-American after the latest terrorist attacks?

Andrei Grozin.  Certainly. The USA is likely to link the terrorist acts with al-Qaida and to offer Uzbekistan more assistance in fighting terrorism.

NewsInfo. Is Hizb-ut-Tahrir connected with al-Qaida?

Andrei Grozin. Uzbek authorities are saying this, but I have doubts. Until recently, Hizb-ut-Tahrir pursued the policy of non-violent change of the existing social order. No proof has been revealed of participation of this organization’s activists in terrorist acts. They spoke about establishing caliphate, but never conducted violent actions on opposing the authorities. Tashkent tries to attach the attacks to Hizb-ut-Tahrir because most of the political prisoners in Uzbekistan are members of this organization.

NewsInfo. What kind of methods is this organization practicing?

Andrei Grozin. Propaganda, demonstrations, attempts to penetrate into the government by recruiting government officials in the organization. Hizb-ut-Tahrir is officially banned in the number of Middle Eastern countries, but in former Soviet republics of Central Asia this organization has been involved only in propaganda.

NewsInfo. Were they successful in “penetrating into the government”?

Andrei Grozin. The results of this activity can be seen in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.  For example, the ombudsman in Kyrgystan is too active in defending the interests of the prisoners-members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir. However, Hizb-ut-Tahrir is unlikely to obtain its supporters in the top positions of executive power. In Uzbekistan the state authorities and security force are holding tight control of the process of forming the executive power structures. In Kyrgyzstan it is easier for Hizb-ut-Tahrir to operate, and the supporters of this organization may penetrate in the local governments of some Southern regions of Kyrgyzstan.