October 26, 2004
Asia Plus: Mr. Ambassador, you have recently returned from your Pamir trip [the Pamir Mountians of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast]. I would like to know about the purpose of your trip and your impressions of the region.
Ambassador Hoagland: Yes, I spent three days in the regional capital of Khorog and the area around Khorog. I had been in the Pamirs in July, but this was my first official visit to the region. What I found was what I find everywhere in Tajikistan -- extremely well educated, sophisticated people who are open to new ideas and who want to build a strong independent country. A few specific examples. I had an excellent meeting for almost an hour and half with Governor Niyozmamadov. We talked about many issues, which are important for Gorno-Badakhshan and for Tajikistan. We talked about land reform, and about the changing situation with the Border Guards. We talked about development in the region, and we talked about Afghanistan. I found that our views are very, very close. He said one thing especially that I agree with very strongly: any kind of assistance that the international community gives to Tajikistan should also be the same on the other side of the border for Afghanistan, because it's important for the governor to have strong government structures across the river [in Afghanistan] to work with. I thought that was a very wise point of view.
I also met with many other groups. I visited schools. I opened two Internet centers that we are supporting. I saw that the impulse for reform is very, very strong in the Gorno-Badakhshan area. In some ways, the people of the Pamirs are leading reform in Tajikistan, and I will give you two examples.
First example. Land reform and private ownership of land has been so successful in that area that the same model is now being extended to the Rasht Valley [in north-central Tajikistan] and three districts in Khatlon [Province in southeastern Tajikistan].
Second example. I visited the Institute for Professional Development, which helps teachers and school administrators to improve their professional skills. They are introducing new methods of teaching and preparing new textbooks and new teaching aids for schools. This has been so successful that the Ministry of Education here in Dushanbe has accepted some of their new methods.
I also visited the Pamir Energy Project where the World Bank and the Aga Khan Foundation have provided loans to rebuild the Soviet-era power station. I saw that many international organizations and financial institutions are very active in Gorno-Badakhshan, especially the Aga Khan Foundation. And they all appear to have a very good three-way partnership: the international organizations, the government of Gorno-Badakhshan, and the people of Gorno-Badakhshan.
So I've given you a rather a long answer, but I would say in the end that Gorno-Badakhshan may be geographically isolated, but it is certainly not intellectually isolated.