HomeWorld NewsUzbekistan drops plan to restrict Karakalpak autonomy after protest

Uzbekistan drops plan to restrict Karakalpak autonomy after protest

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev attends a news conference with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Tashkent, Uzbekistan April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov//File Photo

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ALMATY, July 2 (Reuters) – Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Saturday abandoned plans to curb the autonomy of Karakalpakstan province following a rare public protest in the northwest region, his office said.

Friday’s rally was called to protest against constitutional reform plans that would have changed the status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic home to the Karakalpak people – a minority ethnic group with its own language, Uzbek authorities said.

Police dispersed protesters after some of them tried to storm local government buildings in the region’s capital, Nukus, following a march and rally at the central market in the city, local and government officials said.

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Mirziyoyev then issued a decree declaring a state of emergency in Karakalpakstan for a month “in order to ensure the safety of citizens, to defend their rights and freedoms and to restore the rule of law and order” in the region. .

Under the current Uzbek constitution, Karakalpakstan is described as a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan which has the right to secede by holding a referendum.

The new version of the constitution – on which Uzbekistan plans to hold a referendum in the coming months – would no longer mention Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty or its right to secession.

But in a quick reaction to the protest, Mirziyoyev said during a visit to Karakalpakstan on Saturday that changes to his status should be removed from the proposed reform, his office said in a statement.

The Karakalpakstan government said in a statement on Saturday that police had arrested the leaders of Friday’s protest and several other protesters who put up resistance.

The changes regarding Karakalpakstan were part of a broader constitutional reform proposed by Mirziyoyev, which also includes strengthening civil rights and extending the presidential term to seven years from five.

If the reform is approved in the planned referendum, it would reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms.

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Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Gareth Jones, Helen Popper and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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