Tajikistan is still in a nation-building stage. Because its territory is cut off from the centers of Tajik civilization—the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand, which are part of Uzbekistan—any central government in Tajikistan faces political and social maneuvering and challenges to unite an ethnically mixed and geographically dispersed population. In addition, recent government propaganda on the "Tajik" nature of the country, despite ethnic Tajiks comprising only 65 percent of the population, may not easily be accepted by an ethnically diverse population. Therefore, in addition to economic woes, which continue to cause barriers to the well-being of the country, the lack of democracy and security also wreak havoc. The presidential and parliamentary elections of 1999 and 2000, for example, were thought to be mired with improper intervention and influence by the ruling elite. Furthermore, although some level of banditry may have diminished due to the govern-ment's incorporation of many former opposition forces, other problems of insecurity are on the rise. Two of the most critical are the increase in the drug trafficking from Afghanistan and armed guerillas of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) using Tajikistan as a base to invade neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The future well-being of Tajikistan depends on a variety of factors, among which are whether the armed conflicts of Afghanistan and the sporadic guerrilla warfare of the IMU will eventually come to peaceful resolutions. Other factors are the will of the government to extend more democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression. The allowance of an independent media and encouragement of a strong civil society will be steps in the right direction. Provision of loans and logistics for small farmers and small businesses could truly alleviate the economic pains of the people. A plan to protect the natural environment in the form of establishing large parts of the country as national parks and creating accommodations for tourists via the creation of small locally-owned hotels throughout the country could encourage the establishment of a potentially lucrative ecotourism industry. This could simultaneously generate income for the local population, provide foreign capital for the central government, and preserve the natural environment. Finally, moves toward economic and cultural integration with other Central Asian republics and easing of travel throughout the region will be highly beneficial for the future of Tajikistan and the region as a whole.