The president of Uzbekistan has reshuffled senior security officials, appointing loyalists as head of the police and army in a move that will be seen as an effort to bolster his grip over power.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev on September 4 named Pulat Bobojonov as Interior Minister, replacing an official who will head up the Defense Ministry. Bobojonov, 56, has been governor of the Khorezm region since 2012, but he does have a background in law enforcement, having previously served as prosecutor for the Bukhara region. And prior to that, between 2006 and 2011, he was chief prosecutor in Mirziyoyev’s native Jizzakh region.
Outgoing Interior Minister Abdusalom Azizov replaces Kabul Berdiyev as head of the Defense Ministry. Berdiyev, 62, who had been in his job since 2008, will take over as head of the Armed Forces Academy.
Berdiyev was a trusted ally of the late president, Islam Karimov, and is credited with overseeing the incremental consolidation of the Uzbek army as a serious military force. His time in charge was also accompanied by a notable expansion in welfare benefits and raises in salaries for army personnel.
All the same, Mirziyoyev spoke out on August 28, during military exercises in Samarkand, in criticism of the armed forces’ readiness and spoke about the urgency for reforms. His observations, as reported, tended toward the general and abstract in nature, focusing mostly on the need for better training and more patriotic fervor.
The army and police force have thus seen Mirziyoyev’s most concerted efforts at reform in the security sector since he came to power around this time last year. His presumed antagonists in the National Security Service, meanwhile, will be looking on with wary suspicion.