DUSHANBE, October 17, 2012, Asia-Plus -- The chairman of Tajikistan''s opposition Islamic Revival Party (IRP) says that public support has increased in the wake of this summer''s military operations in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).

Radio Liberty reports Muhiddin Kabiri was speaking at George Washington University in the U.S. capital.

While conceding that the number of supporters was difficult to verify, he said residents of the restive eastern province, particularly youth and women, were increasingly looking to the party “not only because we are an Islamic party, but because they are looking for an alternative.”

Government operations against militants in July and August left some 70 people dead in Gorno-Badakhshan, sparking an information blackout, protests, and questions about Dushanbe''s motives.

The Islamic Revival Party, which is the only legal Islamist party in Central Asia, has also come under increased pressure in the region.  Kabiri claimed it is continuing.

He also said the party plans to participate in the 2013 presidential election, either offering its own candidate or supporting a candidate chosen by a coalition.  Kabiri has advocated a democratic state that incorporates Islamic values.

Kabiri met with Robert Blake, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Affairs, on October 15.  He is scheduled to travel to New York for meetings with the Tajik Diaspora, RFE/RL reported on October 16.