Big Men with Guns Trade Barbs in Bishkek
As Kyrgyzstan’s newly elected parliament prepares to do battle over government posts, some of the country’s big men in uniform – namely, the recently appointed prosecutor general and his former colleagues from the National Security Service (SNB) – have fired nasty verbal shots across each other’s bows, raising yet more thorny questions about post-election stability. The first salvo came on Friday, October 8, when Prosecutor General Kubatbek Baibolov spoke at the unveiling of a monument to opposition journalist Gennady Pavlyuk, who died last year after falling – with his arms and legs tied – from a sixth-story window. Less than two weeks earlier, authorities in neighboring Kazakhstan, where the murder took place, had arrested two suspects in the case and Kazakh media circulated rumors that Kyrgyzstan’s secret services had had a hand in the killing. Speaking at the ceremony, Baibolov promised he would do everything possible to bring the killers to justice and made some unflattering references to the SNB, noting it had long “persecuted freedom of speech and human rights and liberties.” According to some local press reports, Baibolov – himself a former KGB colonel-turned-businessman before entering politics – went as far as to liken the intelligence service to a criminal group and said its members would be punished for any involvement they may have had in the murder.Three days later, the SNB issued a scathing response.“It is not the special service that is a criminal organization,” said the October 11 statement, as quoted by Zpress.kg, “but the mafia-clan-style authorities who are criminal, and who manipulate and use both individual employees and the law-enforcement bodies in general, including the special service and the Prosecutor General’s Office, for their own self-interest in order to consolidate power and steal all the wealth of the people, as happened in the recent past, and whom the people decisively overthrew this April.” The report went on to say that the SNB statement called for major house-cleaning in the ranks of prosecutors, calling them the main tool for persecuting and detaining opposition politicians and independent journalists and legitimizing the nepotistic, clannish regime of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.This public fist-shaking comes a month after provisional President Roza Otunbayeva suddenly reshuffled key national security officials, and there has been much speculation about the political realignments resulting from the move. (One former deputy speaker of parliament speculated after the personnel changes that the SNB was on the side of Otunbayeva’s Social Democrats, while the Interior Ministry was aligned with another pro-government party, Ata-Meken.)The truth, as is too often the case, is hidden somewhere among the bulldogs fighting under the carpet, but the troubling questions for a country trying to stave off disintegration are obvious: Where do the loyalties of key security figures lie? And whose orders will they follow if deadly street violence flares again, as it has already twice this year?