As described above, the hokimiat is the government administrative body that exists at regional, district, city, and town levels. Officially, the hokim serves both the representative and executive branches of government at their territorial level. The hokims of the provinces and of Tashkent are appointed and dismissed by the president. Hokims at lower levels are appointed by the hokim one level above. In practice, it is the executive branch of government that oversees the work of the hokim.
Although a mahalla committee can act independently in such matters as organizing wedding celebrations and funerals or building maintenance, in areas of key government policy they are obliged to carry out government instructions passed down from the hokimiat. Representatives of mahalla committees speak frankly about their role implementing government instructions at the local level. The positions of chair (aksakal), secretary, and posbon, as well as mahalla committee staff, are all state-funded, through the budget of the hokimiat.56 Hokimiats have the power to abolish, found, merge, split, or change the borders of a mahalla.57 In addition, elections of mahalla committee members, including the aksakal, must be approved by the hokim.58
According to article 6 of the Mahalla Law, state bodies must not interfere in the activities of mahalla committees, but should render them assistance. It is clear, however, that this is not observed in practice. Mahalla committees are subject to interference from the highest to the lowest levels of government.
In Tashkent, the city is divided into administrative districts, and the mahalla chair acts under instructions of the district hokimiat to direct the mahalla committee activities. Each year the hokimiat issues a booklet to the mahalla committees outlining the program it must fulfill. Mahalla officials must prepare an annual plan of their work for hokimiat approval. Likewise a report on the previous year’s work must be submitted to the hokimiat. One mahalla committee chairman explained to Human Rights Watch his relations with the local hokimiat:
Others confirmed this pattern. The deputy chair, who heads the women’s section of a different mahalla committee explained:
The deputy chair of a Tashkent mahalla told Human Rights Watch, “[w]e meet with the hokimiat. They control our work. We give them all our records so that they can check them. The hokimiat calls us and we come. We go two or three times a week.61
The hokimiat can direct mahalla officials to carry out other tasks as they arise. After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, mahalla committees were directed to carry out more anti-terrorist meetings and seminars. The hokimiat also requires the mahalla committees to collect and pass on statistics covering their area.62
Sometimes other government authorities, including the police, procurators and courts, also direct the work of mahalla committees.63
56 Article 22 of the Mahalla Law and Article 4 of the Posbon Law.
57 Article 5 of the Mahalla Law.
58 Articles 7 and 20 of the Mahalla Law. In 1998, the hokim responsible for mahalla Abai, of Tashkent, reportedly refused to allow one candidate to become the committee chairman, choosing his own person for the supposedly elective role. Human Rights Watch interview with resident of mahalla Abai who did not want to be identified, Tashkent, January 3, 2002.
59 Human Rights Watch interview with mahalla committee chairman, Tashkent, January 3, 2002.
60 Human Rights Watch interview with mahalla committee deputy chair, Tashkent, January 11, 2002.
61 Human Rights Watch interview with mahalla committee deputy chair, Tashkent, December 26, 2001.
63 For example, on June 7, 2000, the Margilan City Court ordered the chairman of the Tashkesar mahalla committee to take precautionary measures to stop religious “extremist” activities in his mahalla, and gave him twenty days to report back to the court about what measures he had taken. Translation of court document on file in Human Rights Watch.