[Congressional Record Volume 148, Number 134 (Friday, October 11, 2002)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1832-E1834]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                 ACTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN

                                 ______
                                 

                          HON. NORMAN D. DICKS

                             of washington

                    in the house of representatives

                       Thursday, October 10, 2002

  Mr. DICKS. Mr. Speaker, Once again I would like to call the attention 
of my colleagues to a news report concerning the ongoing undemocratic 
actions of the President of Kazakhstan. In the Wall Street Journal 
report that I would ask to insert into the Record today, the 
correspondent Steve LeVine detailed a series of bizarre actions by 
President Nazarbayev to silence his critics from within the government, 
to silence any opposition from the news media and to further 
consolidate his power. I believe it is important for members of this 
body to pay closer attention

[[Page E1833]]

to developments in the former Soviet Republics in central Asia, 
particularly as some drift quickly away from democratic rule.

        [lsqb]From the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2002[rsqb]

Caspian Intrigue: Odd Family Drama In Kazakhstan Dims Democratic Hopes 
    --Petroleum-Rich Land's Ruler Smacks Down Son-in-Law And Sundry 
               Challengers--Oil Companies Feel Heat, Too

                           (By Steve LeVine)

       Almaty, Kazakhstan.--In three frenzied days last November, 
     government troops raided a television station, offices and 
     homes and took up positions at the airport. Their target: 
     anything connected to a powerful son-in-law of Kazakhstan's 
     long-ruling president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
       ``Karavan newspaper has been closed, KTK-TV has been closed 
     and censorship has been imposed in the country,'' read a 
     message greeting viewers tuned to the TV station, which, like 
     the newspaper, belonged to the family of the son-in-law, 
     Rakhat Alliyev. He, meanwhile, played a cat-and-mouse game 
     with his father-in-law, stealing in and out of Western 
     embassies and hinting that he might like political protection 
     abroad.
       So began a bizarre drama in this oil-rich Central Asian 
     land while the world's eyes were riveted on a war just to its 
     south, in Afghanistan. It is a drama that does nothing to 
     encourage those hoping for a softening of authoritarian rule 
     in the region.
       The events include the sidelining not only of Mr. Aliyev 
     but of nearly all other potential challengers to the Kazakh 
     president. One politician who proposed limits on presidential 
     power has just drawn a seven-year prison term. Eight 
     journalists or news organizations that criticized members of 
     the Kazakhstan first family have faced harassment, one paper 
     finding a headless dog on the doorstep.
       The crackdown reflects a broad trend in a region about 
     which the U.S. had high hopes. Since the early 1990s, former 
     Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus have drawn 
     intense interest from the U.S. America has been eager to tap 
     into these countries' energy reserves--of which Kazakhstan's 
     are by far the richest--and to see them establish open 
     economies and democratic rule.
       And in the past year, the U.S. has developed another vital 
     interest in this region: military alliances for the war on 
     terrorism. As U.S. forces moved into Afghanistan last fall, 
     the U.S. established military arrangements with six former 
     Soviet republics. Mr. Nazarbayev has wholeheartedly supported 
     the war on terrorism and permitted the U.S. to use Kazakhstan 
     airfields for emergency landings.
       Though the Central Asian countries initially encouraged 
     hopes for democratic rule, they have veered further and 
     further from the democratic path. Uzbekistan, for instance, 
     tolerates no political dissent, despite the destruction in 
     Afghanistan last year of its exiled Islamic opposition. 
     Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, has just 
     renamed the days of the week and the months of the year in 
     honor of himself and matters dear to his heart.
       Mr. Nazarbayev's crackdown has been especially dispiriting, 
     because the 62-year-old Kazakh president has been considered 
     one of the region's more tolerant leaders. Day-to-day life in 
     Kazakhstan, with busy Internet cafes and vibrant shopping, is 
     open and relaxed. But this doesn't include venturing into 
     politics without the president's blessing. His reassertion of 
     power leaves another of the world's major oil-producing 
     nations under authoritarian rule.
       A U.S. State Department spokesman, Phil Recker, said last 
     month: ``The U.S. believes that recent developments in 
     Kazakhstan, such as the new restrictive legislation regarding 
     political parties and the ongoing harassment of opposition 
     figures and the independent media, pose a serious threat to 
     the country's democratic process.'' Mr. Nazarbayev and others 
     in his government declined repeated requests for comment.
       Politics isn't the only arena feeling the Kazakh 
     government's new assertiveness. The government is pressuring 
     some Western companies operating here to renegotiate long-
     signed contracts. For instance, the government has fined 
     Chevron Texaco Corp. $73 million for storing sulfur. Chevron 
     says its contract permits this and is fighting the fine. 
     Washington has protested the recent business interference.
       These are the latest trials for a land that has seen many, 
     including great tragedies. In the 1930s, Stalin forced the 
     nomadic Kazakbs, accustomed to wandering the steppes with 
     sheep and camels, to settle down and learn to raise crops. An 
     estimated 1.5 million people died of starvation during this 
     period. Stalin also used Kazakhstan, a sprawling land of 
     temperature extremes, as a kind of western Siberia. He exiled 
     hundreds of thousands here--including the whole population of 
     Chechnya, relocated en masse in 1944. The Soviets also did 
     their nuclear testing in one corner of Kazakhstan.
       Mr. Nazarbayev, a former steelworker who rose through 
     Communist Party ranks, has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 
     through a simple lever: the power to name and shuffle 
     virtually every minister, governor and judge. Early on, he 
     appointed enough young, reform-minded officials to fuel the 
     optimism of those who hoped for a democratic future. But in 
     the mid-1990s, he began moving relatives into powerful 
     positions. Then three years ago, he grew more self-protective 
     after coming under suspicion of stowing funds in Swiss bank 
     accounts.
       Mr. Nazarbayev named his eldest son-in-law, Mr. Aliyev, now 
     39, to senior positions first in the Tax Police and then the 
     security agency KNB, local successor to the KGB. Another son-
     in-law, Timur Kulibayev, 35, was put in charge of oil-and-gas 
     transportation and now is deputy chief of an agency that 
     oversees most oil industry.
       Both became powerful in business as well. Mr. Aliyev grew 
     rich through sugar trading and other enterprises. Members of 
     his family bought control of three TV stations, a bank called 
     Nurbank, a regional carrier called Atyrau Airlines and the 
     largest-circulation newspaper, Karavan.
       The other son-in-law, Mr. Kulibayev, gained control of 
     another bank, oil-field interests and a caviar-trading 
     monopoly, say people familiar with the deals. In one 
     instance, a government company Mr. Kulibayev headed did a 
     $150 million Eurobond financing to help build an export 
     pipeline to an oil field called Alibekmola--a field in which, 
     say people familiar with the matter, Mr. Kulibayev himself 
     owns a 17.5% stake.
       Mr. Kulibayev declined to be interviewed. Mr. Aliyev, in 
     interviews before his clash with the president, said his own 
     business dealings were appropriate. President Nazarbayev has 
     said it is fine for his relatives to be in business and 
     government simultaneously so long as they don't break the 
     law.
       In recent years, new laws have tightened Mr. Nazarbayev's 
     grip on power. One passed in 1998 barred anyone convicted of 
     a legal infraction from running for election--a potent tool, 
     since among illegal acts here is any criticism that ``insults 
     the honor and dignity of the president.''
       In 1999, a Swiss judge, suspecting money laundering, froze 
     about 11 Swiss bank accounts that he said appeared to belong 
     to Mr. Nazarbayev or other leading Kazakhs. The U.S. Justice 
     Department joined the probe in 2000. It empaneled a grand 
     jury to hear allegations that $35 million of oil-company 
     money had been funneled to Swiss accounts appearing to belong 
     to Kazakhstan political figures. The U.S. probe advanced a 
     bit this week as a federal judge in New York endorsed the 
     grand jury's right to see certain documents.
       In Kazakhstan, however, it was Mr. Aliyev, the oldest son-
     in-law of the president, who was becoming the lightning rod. 
     As head of the Tax Police, he raised hackles by moving about 
     Almaty with hulking policemen trained in martial arts, 
     staging televised raids on suspected tax-dodgers, terrorists 
     and narcotics traders. Business rivals and political 
     opponents saw his tactics as intimidation.
       Mr. Aliyev dismissed his critics as people who thought they 
     were above the law. ``To force someone to abide by the law is 
     difficult, and nobody likes it when discipline and order are 
     demanded of them,'' he said in an interview a year ago.
       But last fall, two prominent Kazakhs--a provincial governor 
     and a tycoon--launched a campaign against Mr. Aliyev. Their 
     allies stood up in parliament to accuse him of demanding 
     ``tribute'' from businessmen. The critics also suggested Mr. 
     Aliyev was disloyal to the president.
       One critic, Galimzhan Zhakianov, the provincial governor, 
     linked Mr. Aliyev to a Web site that had carried allegations 
     of bribe-taking by the president. (Mr. Aliyev denied the 
     link.)
       A newspaper owned by the other critic, media and banking 
     tycoon Mukhtar Ablyazov, stated that Mr. Aliyev was ``pushing 
     to become the top leader of the country. The President is in 
     danger. . . . It's his time to act!''
       As rumors grew that Mr. Aliyev was plotting a coup, the 
     campaign against him found allies among top aides to his 
     father-in-law, the president. One presidential aide demanded 
     Mr. Aliyev's resignation. Mr. Aliyev said he would quit only 
     at the president's personal request. And in a veiled threat 
     to reveal corruption, he warned the aide there would be 
     ``big, big problems'' if anything happened to him.
       Mr. Aliyev then vanished. The next day, Nov. 16, armed 
     troops staged their sweep through Almaty in search of him. 
     Mr. Aliyev slipped into the U.S. and French embassies, 
     hinting that he might exchange sensational revelations in 
     return for protection, according to one diplomat.
       The strange standoff ended on the third day, as President 
     Nazarbayev and Mr. Aliyev made a joint television appearance. 
     The president said his son-in-law would now serve on his 
     personal guard, which was a big demotion from his previous 
     role. Mr. Aliyev said he was the victim of ``slanderous'' 
     talk, and was just fighting the ``scum that [blocks] healthy 
     forces in society.''
       But Mr. Aliyev's demotion had emboldened his critics--and 
     they now overplayed their hand. The two main critics made 
     plans to release documents concerning Kazakh-owned Swiss bank 
     accounts, according to their political associates. They also 
     announced a new political party, in league with certain 
     reform-minded businessmen and members of the government.
       The president asked them one by one what they wanted. They 
     pressed him to loosen his grip on power, strengthen 
     Parliament and allow the election of local leaders. Mr. 
     Zhakianov, in particular, may have gone too far. He warned 
     the president that he risked a

[[Page E1834]]

     fate like that of Indonesia's Suharto, who was forced 
     ignominiously from office.
       Mr. Nazarbayev seemed taken aback, Mr. Zhakianov said in an 
     interview last December. ``He was shocked over what happened 
     with Rakhat [Aliyev]. . . . He was in shock over what 
     happened with us because young people working under him were 
     talking about political reform and the need to change the 
     system.'' Still, the reformers were convinced Mr. Nazarbayev 
     would meet at least a few of their demands.
       Instead, three days later, he fired all the political 
     appointees in the group--Mr. Zhakianov, a minister and three 
     deputy ministers. Later, he branded the critics 
     ``Bolsheviks,'' likening their call for greater parliamentary 
     authority to an early Communist refrain.
       Then followed a series of unexplained assaults on the 
     Kazakh news media. The body of a headless dog was found in 
     front of a weekly paper called the Republic, and the dog's 
     head outside the editor's apartment. Four journalists were 
     seriously beaten.
       Shortly after a journalist named Lira Baisetova wrote a 
     story critical of Mr. Nazarbayev, her 25-year-old daughter, 
     Leyla, vanished, then died. The authorities said she hanged 
     herself while in police custody. Human Rights Watch in New 
     York and the Paris-based Journalists Without Borders raised 
     questions about how she died, after opposition figures 
     claimed she had been beaten. The government said it had 
     nothing to do with her death or with any of the attacks on 
     the news media.
       In March, the government arrested one of the leading 
     governmental critics, Mr. Ablyazov, the publishing and 
     banking tycoon.
       Now it was the turn of Mr. Zhakianov, the reform-minded 
     provincial governor, to find himself on the run and in 
     hiding. Police raided a hotel, searching room to room for 
     him. He was there, but eluded the troops, and then slipped 
     away to a scheduled meeting at the French embassy.
       Police learned of the meeting and encircled the embassy. 
     They pried off manhole covers to make sure their quarry 
     didn't escape through the sewers. Supported by British, 
     German and French diplomats who all had offices in the 
     building, Mr. Zhakianov holed up for six days, until Kazakh 
     authorities and the diplomats reached an agreement: Mr. 
     Zhakianov would be held in his own Almaty home and the 
     diplomats would have access to him. But a few weeks later, 
     Kazakh officials flew Mr. Zhakianov 620 miles north to 
     confinement in the city of Pavlodar.
       On the day he was arrested, the government acknowledged the 
     existence of one Swiss bank account--containing $1.2 billion. 
     It said this was government cash from oil deals and was used 
     by Mr. Nazarbayev as a rainy-day fund to help the country 
     weather crises.
       The two leading critics went on trial. Mr. Ablyazov, the 
     tycoon, was convicted of embezzling $3.6 million from the 
     state and sentenced in July to six years in prison. Mr. 
     Zhakianov, the former provincial governor, was convicted last 
     month of selling state enterprises at illegitimately low 
     prices. He got seven years in prison.
       And Mr. Aliyev, the ambitious son-in-law? In a time-honored 
     form of banishment for out-of-favor officials here, he was 
     sent off to be an ambassador, in this case to Austria. ``In 
     the end,'' says one local participant in the political 
     maneuvering, ``the president simply took power back into his 
     own hands.''

     

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