Ten of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan's candidates recently failed to pass mandatory Tajik language tests to compete in elections to the district council in Danghara, birthplace of the republic's incumbent President Emomali Rahmon and many members of his cabinet.
Given the constant pressure experienced by Tajikistan's largest opposition party — the only faith-based political party in Central Asia — that should not be news. But the fact that 82-year-old Kholmuhammad Kamolov, who taught Rahmon mathematics when he was at middle school, is among the ten, has given Tajikistan's chattering classes plenty to laugh about.
As IRPT's official website informs, almost half of the party's candidates in Danghara did not pass a mandatory test on the state language. The IRPT says Kamolov waited for two hours in the cold corridor of a building where he had to take the test, before failing for having “bad handwriting”.
The IRPT did not mention why Kamolov was so committed to standing for office against his former pupil's party.
The news immediately sparked a wave of mockery on Facebook, where users doubted the political wisdom of making the man that taught Tajikistan's president look like a dunce:
Барои хамин 23 сол шуд ки шогирдуш вая вай кунед вай шавад гуфта гаштаст!
That is why his student has been saying “do that to that to have that” for the last 23 years!
Another user suggested that the teacher's failure to register as a candidate had little to do with language knowledge:
Бечора муаллим хамаи илму хату каламашро ба шогирдонаш додааст то дар тамоми сохторхо сохиби мансабу макоми баланд шаванд, аммо худ аз санчиш нагузаштааст. Муаллима як приёми бачоияш мондааст, ки аз хизби шогирдаш вакил шавад аз имтихони шаш забон хохад гузашт.
Poor teacher gave all his knowledge to his schoolboys, so they came to lead governmental agencies, but could not pass the test himself. The only chance he had was to try and enter his pupil’s party in which case he could have passed six different language tests simultaneously.
So far the People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan (President Rahmon's party) has not had any problems registering their candidates:
Номзадhои ХХДТ-ро ангуштонашон бошад басанда аст!Барои пахши як тугмаи такдирсуз hусни хату имло чи даркор?..
PDRT’s members have fingers and that is enough for them. No need for nice handwriting — they just need to push the [parliamentary] buttons that ruin everyone's lives.
A local lawyer known for her oppositional views Fayzinisso Vohidova has the same opinion:
Муаллими президенти кишвар аз имтихони забон нагузашт” Аслан намедонам, имтихони забони точики чи зарурат дорад, вакте ки вакилон бахс накунанд, бахсу мубохиса (дебаты) нест, лоихаи конунро нанависанд, кариб ки бо кори эъчоди машгул нестанд. Лоихаи конунхо аз хукумат ворид мешавад. Барои тугмачаро пахш кардан магар забони точики лозим аст?
I do not understand why there is need for a language test, when members of the parliament do not argue, do not debate, do not draft laws, and do almost no creative work. Draft legislation is submitted by the governmental agencies. Why do you need Tajik language to push a button?
Another Facebook user Abdumannon Sheraliev implies sarcastically that having good handwriting might become more and more important in the context of Tajikistan's failing energy system.
Доштани хусни хуби хат барои вакилони оянда вочиб аст, чун бинобар масрафи бехудаи барк компютеру принтерхо аз корбари гирифта мешаванд ва вакилон бояд барои чавоб ба мактубхои мардум аз калам истифода кунанд.
It is mandatory for MPs to have good handwriting, as when computers and printers are taken out of government offices to save energy, parliamentarians should reply to their voters with a pen.
Danghara district is a small rural backwater in southern Tajikistan, with a population of around 135,000. As well as being celebrated as the homeland of Emomali Rahmon, many other prominent members of government list the district as their birthplace, including the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Education and Science, the Minister of Health and Social Protection, the Chairman of the State Agency for Financial Control and the Fight Against Corruption and the Head of the National Bank.
Other key ministerial positions tend to belong to people born in districts close to Danghara, while in recent years immediate members of the Rahmon family have been appointed to key positions, including his son (Head of the Customs Committee), daughter (First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs) and son-in-law (First Deputy Minister of Finance).