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Precarious Peace

"A bad peace is better than a good war".

Pressure on Rakhmanov from Russia (and the faltering loyalty of his own commanders) forced the government to negotiate with the opposition, which was then in exile in Iran. Finally, in December 1996 a ceasefire was declared, followed up by a peace agreement on 27 June 1997. The agreement set up a power-sharing organisation, the National Reconciliation Commission, headed by the opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri, which guaranteed the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) 30% of the seats in a coalition government in return for a laying down of arms.

When the dust settled, it was clear that independence and civil war had proven catastrophic for Tajikistan, which had always been the poorest of the Soviet republics. During the civil war Tajikistan’s GDP per capita shrank 70%, plunging it from part of a global superpower to one of the world’s 30 poorest countries within a decade. Two complete harvests were missed and the region suffered major subsequent droughts. Standards of living in the country had been set back by 20 years or more.

Spirits were raised in September 1998 when the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Islamic Ismaili sect, visited Gorno-Badakhshan. The Aga Khan Foundation had effectively fed the Pamir region since the start of the civil war and some 80,000 Pamiris came out to hear their spiritual leader tell them to lay down their arms, while another 10,000 Afghan Tajiks strained their ears across the river in Afghanistan.