Kazakhstan says reforms to move forward despite protests

Nur-Sultan, Apr 28 (EFE).- Planned democratic reforms in Kazakhstan are to continue even if protests like the ones that rocked the country in January break out, Kazakh Secretary of State Erlan Karin said Thursday.

“The only response (to protests) is not to stop the reforms,” ​​Karin stressed when asked about the outbreak of violence in January during a meeting with foreign journalists in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan.

Kazakhstan is in a process of “transition” to limit the powers of the president, strengthen the functions of Parliament and reform political parties, justice and the electoral system, among others, in order to provide greater participation of civil society and more human rights protection, Karin explained.

He said the transition began long ago and is planned in several phases, so the January riots should not be seen as a reaction to more recently announced reforms..

The Secretary of State, a position close to the Kazakh president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, insisted that the disturbances, which caused 240 deaths, around 4,600 injuries and some 10,000 detainees, began with peaceful mobilizations for social demands such as a reduction in the price of gas.

But those protests were used by organized groups of “dissidents” to commit acts of “terrorism” in an attempt to generate an armed conflict to seize power, he stressed, and reiterated his claim that the uprising was an attempt to spread jihadism to his country from Syria.

The head of Criminal Investigations of the Kazakhstan General Prosecutor’s Office, Eldos Kilymzhanov, stated that about 5,000 cases remain open while investigations continue to establish who was behind the violence.

Kilymzhanov pointed out that they are investigating “foreigners” who work in the country as suspected of being behind what he and others, including Tokayev, considered an attempted coup.

But he assured that he had no basis to affirm that it was the work of Islamic extremists from abroad, as the secretary of state asserts.

This former Soviet republic, the ninth largest country in the world, is undertaking reforms after thirty years as an independent nation, which in addition to political advances aims to boost the oil- and gas-rich country’s economy. EFE

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