The four articles by Asadullaev, Olimova and Olimov, Sattorzoda, and Akbarzadeh provide insight into the main political factions that dominated Tajikistan's public life during the 1990s. They reveal how the war grew out of the conflict over the reorientation of relations between the state and society. It became a contest over what kind of state and which social elements would dominate it. The key substantive issue in the conflict was the definition of principles that would guide the country's future. This took shape in the struggle between secular and Islamicist visions for the state. In addition to this central conflict, various opposition groups promoted a range of ideological platforms – 'democratic', 'nationalist' or more specifically regional agendas.
With this multiplicity of parties, a key challenge was to find a way to bring them into a negotiation process to reach agreement on the state structure that they would cohabit. Each party represented a coalition of interests that was realigned in the circumstances created by the war. The pressures and opportunities of this period often resulted in rapid changes as former allies were forsaken (for example, the alliance between Kulobi and Leninabadi factions), parties split from within (the Democratic Party of Tajikistan) or individuals switched allegiance. As the mediator and sponsor of the talks, UN officials had to engage in continuous consultations to identify the range of issues and aspirations fuelling the conflict, as well as to ascertain who represented a 'primary party' to the conflict and should therefore be invited to the talks.
The inter-Tajik negotiations were eventually structured around two opposing parties: the government and the United Tajik Opposition. The creation of a unified opposition bloc was crucial to reaching an agreement. Although dominated by one of its members, the Islamic Renaissance Party, it provided a channel for the government to negotiate with a range of opponents. It reduced the government's ability to use 'divide and conquer' strategies that typically rebound by prolonging conflict, as different parties seek to cut a better deal by shifting alliances. It also facilitated a process whereby agreements reached at earlier rounds of the talks between the two parties could build cumulatively into the basis for a comprehensive peace treaty.