A systematic purge of the security apparatus is underway in Turkmenistan, with ample publicity in the state media. President Saparmurat Niazov launched this operation on March 4. Some of those purged are being subjected to lengthy, televised dressing-downs by Niazov personally.
In the opening move, Niazov punished the top security official, Muhammet Nazarov, for withholding information from the president: “He only tells me half of what he should, and conceals the rest.” Niazov dismissed Nazarov from the post of presidential adviser on legal issues and coordinator of the law enforcement and military agencies. Niazov demoted Nazarov from three-star to two-star general, and allowed him to keep his other post, that of head of the National Security Committee (NSC, the main internal intelligence agency) for a three-month grace period. Nazarov earned this partial reprieve after performing self-criticism in front of Niazov on television.
Niazov painted a picture of widespread lawlessness in NSC ranks. According to the president, Nazarov had tolerated “breaches of order by NSC staffs in towns, districts and regions,” bribery by the NSC’s senior central staff, and apparently also widespread drug use by officers: “The entire staffs of the Geoktepe and Buzmein Security Committees have become drug addicts, don’t you know this?”
At the same time, the president dismissed the National Security Committee’s two deputy heads–both of them colonels, one of them the security chief of the capital Ashgabat–and stripped them of all military ranks. He accused the sacked Ashgabat security chief of having “for years done bad deeds,” to wit: appointing relatives to security officers’ posts in certain towns, taking part in illegal sales of Turkmen oil products to Uzbekistan, and owning (under cover) a hotel in the city of Dashoguz.
At a special, enlarged session of the cabinet of ministers, Niazov added to the picture of lawlessness within, and by, the NSC: “A number of our fellow-citizens, our brothers and relatives, were prosecuted without cause. Security officers searched their houses and pressured these people in order to extort bribes…. NSC officers are getting involved in judicial cases, are interfering with the police, the prosecutors and the courts, are beating up the suspects and the accused.” According to Niazov, “the root of all this evil is in the Soviet work style, in which the KGB stood above everybody else.”
Niazov continued this operation by dismissing the heads of the Balkan Region and Mary Region departments of the National Security Committee and stripping both of them of the rank of Colonel. They had “conducted illegal searches, created situations conducive to bribery and gave unworthy examples to their subordinates.”
In his next move, Niazov dismissed six lieutenant-colonels and five majors from the NSC, stripped them of all rank and cashiered them from the military service for “flagrant breaches of the law.” In the town of Govurdak and the district of Vekilbazar (both near the Afghan border), Niazov dismissed the local NSC chiefs for “arresting and interrogating citizens without sufficient reasons in abuse of their official powers, searching homes in breach of law, resorting to threats, and causing popular discontent through all these actions.”
In what did sound like a replay from the post-Stalin “thaw” era in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Niazov accused NSC senior staff of conducting surveillance of state officials and intriguing against them: “You should not be fighting against state leaders, but you began tailing them, drawing up false reports on them, spreading gossip about them. You took advantage of the fact that there was no agency in the country to control you.”
Apparently in order to centralize control over the security apparatus, Niazov has appointed himself head of a commission which is taking over from Nazarov in the supervision of all the law enforcement and military agencies. The real background and full implications of this continuing purge might not emerge before it runs its course as Niazov determines it (Turkmen State News Service, Turkmen Television, Ashgabat Radio, Interfax, March 4-12; see the Monitor, February 19).
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