ALMATY: Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev canceled plans to limit the autonomy of the country’s Karakalpakstan province on Saturday, following a rare public protest in the northern territory, according to his office.
According to Uzbek authorities, the march was organised to oppose constitutional reform plans that would have changed the status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic home to the Karakalpak people – an ethnic minority group with its own language.
Protesters were dispersed by police after some of them attempted to attack local government buildings in the region’s capital, Nukus, following a march and rally at the city’s major market, according to local and government officials.
Mirziyoyev later signed a decree declaring a state of emergency in Karakalpakstan for one month “to secure inhabitants’ security, safeguard their rights and freedoms, and restore the rule of law and order” in the province.
Karakalpakstan is described in the current Uzbek constitution as an independent republic within Uzbekistan with the right to secede through a referendum.
The new constitution, on which Uzbekistan intends to hold a referendum in the coming months, would not include Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty or right to secede.
In response to the protest, Mirziyoyev said on Saturday during a visit to Karakalpakstan that modifications to its status must be removed from the proposed reform, according to his office.
The government of Karakalpakstan claimed early on Saturday that police had detained the protest leaders and several other protestors who had resisted arrest.
The reforms affecting Karakalpakstan are part of a bigger constitutional revision suggested by Mirziyoyev, which also involves improving civil liberties and increasing the presidential term from five to seven years.
If the reform is approved in the upcoming referendum, Mirziyoyev’s term count will be reset, allowing him to run for two more terms.
Source: Arab News