Uzbek security chief sacked
Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev (pictured), has consolidated his power by sacking Tashkent’s repressive security chief, Rustam Inoyatov, head of the National Security Service (SNB), who had been regarded as the second most influential government figure after the president.
Ihtiyor Abdullaev, 51, the current prosecutor-general, is due to replace Inoyatov.
Mirziyoyev, 60, now has uncontested power in Central Asia’s most populous state with a 32-million population, where the courts and parliament are under executive control.
It is thought Mirziyoyev may now be able to reform the economic and administrative sectors more quickly as Inoyatov’s resistance had allegedly been slowing foreign exchange liberalisation. The Tashkent government is cloaked in secrecy and the Uzbek media is tightly muzzled.
Inoyatov had been regarded as one of three candidates to succeed president Islam Karimov after his death in 2016, along with then prime minister Mirziyoyev.
Mirziyoyev’s office said Inoyatov was leaving the state security service, most closed and powerful agency in Uzbekistan, and had been named an adviser to the president: a position often given to retiring government chiefs.
Earlier this month Mirziyoev demanded that SNB staff be removed from Uzbek embassies, saying ambassadors should not be under surveillance as they were presidential envoys.
Inoyatov, 73, a former Soviet KGB officer, had led the powerful SNB since 1995 and was one of the closest allies of ex-president Islam Karimov, who ruled with dictatorial powers since the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Speculation about Inoyatov’s future started after Mirziyoev’s December 22 speech to parliament, in which he criticised the SNB and its leadership, calling for immediate reforms to the organisation.
Mirziyoev singled out the security service, interior ministry and prosecutor-general’s office for what he called “systemic violations of ordinary people’s rights”, including the principle of presumed innocence.
“[W]e should not allow a single body to collect all the powers and resources and prevent violation of the principle of checks and balances,” the president said.
“In this regard, it should be noted that the bodies of the National Security Service have been acting until the present day on the basis of the regulation approved by the government 26 years ago.”
Mirziyoev’s speech called for reform, saying that the government must operate on democratic principles.
The president has overseen the release of several public figures, journalists and politicians jailed on what rights activists say were politically motivated charges.
Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Picture credit: Wikimedia