President Mirziyoyev is abandoning plans to limit Karakalpak’s autonomy after a rare public protest in the northwestern province.
Uzbekistan declared a month-long state of emergency in an autonomous republic where rare protests forced President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to cancel some constitutional reforms.
President Mirziyoyev’s press secretary Sherzod Asadov wrote on Telegram on Saturday that the state of emergency in the Republic of Karakalpakstan will last from shortly after midnight on Sunday (19:00 GMT Saturday) until August 2.
The measure is being taken to “ensure the safety of citizens, protect their rights and freedoms (and) restore law and order” in the territory, the statement added.
Uzbekistan’s president arrived in Karakalpakstan on Saturday and promised that proposed constitutional amendments that would weaken the territory’s status would be reversed.
A rally was called on Friday to protest constitutional reform plans that would change the status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic that is home to the Karakalpak people, an ethnic minority group with their own language, Uzbek officials said.
Police dispersed protesters after some tried to storm local government buildings in the regional capital of Nukus following a march and rally at the city’s central market, local and government officials said.
Under the current constitution of Uzbekistan, Karakalpakstan is described as a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan and has the right to secede through a referendum.
The new version of the constitution – on which Uzbekistan plans to hold a public vote in the coming months – will no longer mention Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty or the right to secede.
But in a swift reaction to the protest, Mirziyoyev said on Saturday during a visit to Karakalpakstan 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 earlier Saturday that police had detained the leaders of Friday’s protest and several other protesters who resisted.
A joint statement by the police, parliament and cabinet of the republic said that “provocateurs” had tried “to take over state institutions… to split society and destabilize the socio-political situation in Uzbekistan”.
“A group of organizers of mass riots and persons who actively resisted the law enforcement authorities were detained. They are being investigated,” the statement said, blaming a “criminal group” for the riots.
The changes affecting Karakalpakstan were part of a broader constitutional reform proposed by Mirziyoyev, which also included strengthening civil rights and extending the presidential term to seven years from five.
If the reform is approved in the planned referendum, it will reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms.