Members of the Kyrgyz parliament are calling for the resignation of Tashtemir Aytbayev, chairman of the National Security Service. A resolution, adopted on January 26, aims at tackling the unsatisfactory nature of the National Security Service in its efforts to combat organized crime. MPs also recommended to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev that Vyacheslav Khan, deputy secretary of the Security Council, should be dismissed from his post. Legislators had received documentary evidence alleging that Khan holds three passports (Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan), owns a business in Kazakhstan, and is a founder of a private security and law firm. Khan allegedly also has an interest in a firm producing alcoholic products.
Such public controversy raging around the normally secretive security organization reflects widespread concern over the handling of high-profile organized crime prosecutions. Although the crisis itself is far from over, the nature of the leadership of the National Security Service and the underlying causes of the resignation demands, serve to highlight the need for wider reform within the security sector if corruption is to be tackled seriously (Akipress, January 26).
Moreover, the depth of this crisis was confirmed on January 25, when Prime Minister Felix Kulov said, “We need an immediate reform of judicial authority and the entire law-enforcement system as a whole.” Kulov blamed law-enforcement and judicial bodies combating organized crime for allowing and contributing to the current situation in Kyrgyzstan, which in his view risks having the underworld merge with the authorities. As an emergency measure, he announced he would take over the running of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Organized Crime Directorate, in order to protect its personnel from intimidation or blackmail. “According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there are 22 organized criminal groupings in the country, but because of the above-mentioned reasons no effective measures are being taken to eliminate them,” explained Kulov. He left no doubt that the blame should be laid at the door of Aytbayev, and on the failings of the National Security Service.
Aytbayev has predictably and vociferously denied accusations of his alleged connection with criminals, pointing to his 45 years serving the country, and declared his willingness to fight these allegations. He dismissed the case against him as concealing behind-the-scenes power struggles, attempting to portray himself as a victim of this process (Itar-Tass, January 26).
One outspoken Kyrgyz legislator, Kanybek Imanaliyev, demanded that the security chief should resign, and not appeal to Kulov simply to stay in office. He accused Prosecutor-General Kambaraly Kongantiyev of infringing constitutional rights and attempting to suppress the freedom of speech of Kyrgyz citizens. He also pointed to the effects on national producers of alcohol attempting to operate in a market where up to 70% of alcohol is contraband (Kabar, January 26).
President Bakiyev’s response, while rather hastily offered, failed to promise Aytbayev’s dismissal. Instead, seeking to avoid the constant reshuffles that denoted the tactics of his predecessor, Bakiyev appeared to lament the public nature of the criticism offered by Prime Minister Kulov.
For the time being at least, the security chief is clinging to his post. Nonetheless, even with tentative presidential backing, the crisis remains unresolved. “Regarding the calls by some MPs to dismiss the Chairman of the National Security Service, Tashtemir Aytbayev, Kurmanbek Bakiyev believes that there must not be the so-called ‘untouchable officials’ in the bodies of state power. He is ready to consider the question of such officials further holding their posts or their personal responsibilities if there is indisputable evidence to confirm that they are acting illegally,” stated presidential press secretary Nadyr Momunov (Kabar, January 27).
Corruption and how to tackle its manifestations are not new to Kyrgyz politics. Calls for the resignation of the chairman of the National Security Service, could be seen in the light of the internal power struggles and the ever-changing nature of Kyrgyz governmental figures. However, the instances of corruption emerging within the country’s power centers even after the Tulip Revolution, bringing organized crime close to the authorities in the manner expressed by Kulov, represents an alarming symptom of malaise within the regime itself. Kulov’s comments did not seem merely aimed at a political rival, or the product of personalizing the nature of the problem; it was significantly constructed to draw attention to the need for fundamental reform of the security agencies, including those tasked with combating organized crime. President Bakiyev will ignore this festering problem at his own political peril.
The international community, witnessing such apparent disarray, should also recognize that the often-cited security threats facing regional governments, such as organized crime, can be internalized to the point where it is difficult to distinguish between criminal elements and the people appointed to combat their activities. Once again, it brings to the fore the issue of accountability for international security assistance programs aimed at improving these capabilities, making sure that the security structures are sufficient to support such efforts. Of course, the real dilemma engages the Kyrgyz leadership itself, demanding tough decisions and the political risk of pursuing corruption at home.