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"When they ask me "who is the President of Uzbekibekibekistanstan?"
I am going to say, "you know, I don't know, do you know?"
Knowing who is the head of some of some of these small,
insignificant states around the world - I don't think that is
something that is critical to focusing on national security."
Herman Cain, 09 October 2011

Rustam Inoyatov

Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, died 02 September 2016. The Chairman of the National Security Service (NSS or SNB - the Uzbek version of the KGB) General-Colonel Rustam Inoyatov was considered to be a possible successor to Karimov, but that didn't happen. One unknown is how much influence other powerful former allies of Karimov -- such as longtime national security chief Rustam Inoyatov and Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov, who is also finance minister -- wield behind the scenes.

On 08 November 2016 claimed that the regime planned to revive a banned political party called Ozod Dehkonlar (Free Peasants) founded by Nigora Khidoyatova, a political emigre based in the United States. Uzbekistan was endeavoring to persuade the international community that it is embarking on a path of democratization in order to attract inward investment. Talks had taken place between the head of the security services, Rustam Inoyatov, acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Khidoyatova to allow for the Ozod Dehkonlar leader to return to Uzbekistan in exchange for acting as a pliant opposition force.

He was born on 22 June 1944 and graduated from the Tashkent Faculty of Oriental Studies, learning Farsi and English. When he was promoted from the Uzbek KGB to the KGB USSR (1976-1981) he worked at Soviet embassies, and most likely his duties included monitoring Soviet ambassadors. Inoyatov is widely seen as the power behind the Uzbek throne and was likely to have a key role in any succession to Karimov.

He is also one of the heads of the influential Tashkent clan, which is allied with the Ferghana clan. These two clans are based in Tashkent, Ferghana, Andijan and Namangan through their alliance. Their major rival is the Samarqand clan based in Samarqand, Bukhara, Dzhizak and Navoi, via its alliance with the Dzhizak clan. Unlike the civil war in Tajikistan in the 1990s, the civil war in Uzbekistan happened behind the scenes between these various clans. The Uzbek Government has denied the existence of clan politics.

The MVD controls the police, which are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. The NSS, headed by a chairman who is answerable directly to the president, deals with a broad range of national security questions, including corruption, organized crime, and narcotics. Corruption among law enforcement personnel remained a problem. Police routinely and arbitrarily detained citizens to extort bribes. Impunity remained a problem, and officials responsible for abuses were rarely punished.

High and growing unemployment, as well as continuing high levels of corruption, had a negative impact on the economy and contributed to social unrest. These factors likely played a role in precipitating a violent uprising in May 2005 in the city of Andijon, which in turn led to a wave of repressive government reaction that dominated the remainder of the year. The Andijon uprising grew out of a series of daily peaceful protests in support of 23 businessmen on trial for Islamic extremism between February and May. By May 10, according to eyewitnesses, the protests grew to between 500 and 1 thousand participants. On the night of May 12-13, an unknown number of unidentified individuals seized weapons from a police garrison, stormed the city prison where the defendants were being held, and released several hundred inmates. According to witnesses and press reports, armed men also attacked and occupied the Hokimiyat (regional administration) building and took hostages. Armed men also attacked a Ministry of Defense garrison, as well as the city Hokimiyat and a theater in Andijon.

On May 13, according to several witnesses including locals, and foreign and domestic journalists, a crowd of several thousand civilians, mostly unarmed but encircled by armed civilians, gathered on the square in front of the regional Hokimiyat building, where several demonstrators spoke through a megaphone to protest injustice and economic hardship. That evening, according to several eyewitness accounts, government forces fired indiscriminately and without warning into the crowd. There were credible reports of many more civilians killed while fleeing the scene. The total number of dead was estimated, depending upon the source, at between the government's total of 187, including 31 members of government security forces, and over 700. The government portrayed the events as an attempted coup by Islamic militants seeking to establish a caliphate.

The government continued to use an estimated 12 thousand local neighborhood committees as a source of information on potential extremists. Committees served varied legitimate social functions, but also functioned as a link between local society, and government and law enforcement. Neighborhood committees' influence varied widely, with committees in rural areas tending to be much more influential than those in cities. Each neighborhood committee assigned a posbon (neighborhood guardian) whose job it was to ensure public order and maintain a proper moral climate in the neighborhood. In practice this meant preventing young persons in the neighborhood from joining extremist Islamic groups. Neighborhood committees also frequently identified for police those residents who appeared suspicious and, working with local MVD and NSS representatives, reportedly paid particular attention to recently amnestied prisoners and the families of individuals jailed for alleged extremism.

Although the law prohibits such practices, police and the NSS routinely tortured, beat, and otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions or incriminating information. Police, prison officials, and the NSS allegedly used suffocation, electric shock, deprivation of food and water, and sexual abuse, with beating the most commonly reported method of abuse. Torture and abuse were common in prisons, pretrial facilities, and local police and security service precincts. Several cases of medical abuse were reported, including forced psychiatric treatment on political grounds and alleged sterilization of women without notification or medical need.

Persistent rumours of growing dissatisfaction with Karimovs policies among mid-level officials, including within the security services, sparked speculation in 2006 about a possible palace coup. Dissent within the security services, on which Karimov relied more than ever, could be dangerous, yet his control seemed assured. Among those said to be closest to him prior to the Andijon uprising were Interior Minister Zokirjon Almatov and the chief of the National Security Service, Rustam Inoyatov. There were rumours of intense inter-service rivalry, and shortly after the Andijon events, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) was stripped of its internal forces, which were reportedly divided between the NSS and the Ministry of Defense.

The NSS controlled the information flow to President Karimov, and by 2008 Foreign Minister Norov was under significant stress due to pressure from NSS Chairman Inoyatov. Norov did not have regular access to President Karimov, and Inoyatov was trying to prevent Norov from developing a closer relationship with Karimov as was the case when Kamilov was Foreign Minister.

The National Security Service also had penetrated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and an unspecified number of NSS officers there were monitoring Norov's every move. Inoyatov had "kompromat" (compromising information) on Norov obtained from Norov's days as an Ambassador in Europe, where he was allegedly involved in unspecified "shady dealings." The NSS officers in Uzbekistan's embassies overseas reported to Inoyatov on the behavior of Uzbekistan's Ambassadors. Inoyatov had not revealed the "kompromat" in question to Karimov, but was using it as leverage against Norov.

A succession scenario circulating among members of the Apparat in 2009 envisiond Karimov handing over the Presidency to Gulnora Karimova and then becoming Chairman of Uzbekistan's Senate. Per the text of Uzbekistan's Constitution, the Chairman of the Senate has the power to choose the Chairman of the National Security Service. Some said Karimov intended to give National Security Council Secretary Murat Ataev more power in order to balance him against Inoyatov, and may be planning to replace Inoyatov with Ataev later on.

President Karimov remained interested in surrounding Inoyatov with "deputies" who would keep tabs on him and report on him. Inoyatov, however, was aware of the intent behind this and consistently found "kompromat" (compromising material) on such "deputies." He would then forward this information to President Karimov, necessitating their removal. Members of the Presidential Apparat said that Inoyatov had amassed considerable amounts of kompromat on other officials, including on members of the Karimov family. Some in the Apparat were speculating that if Inoyatov is in fact dismissed from his position and chooses to use this kompromat against the Karimov family, the family would have him "terminated."

In 2013, unsubstantiated rumors spread that 75-year-old Karimov was in poor health, and choosing a successor. Rumored candidates included first deputy prime minister Rustam Azimov; the chairman of Uzbekistans National Security Service, Rustam Inoyatov; Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyayev; and Karimovs billionaire daughter, Gulnara Karimova, who works as a fashion designer, philanthropist, and aspiring pop star. Many suspect Inoyatov was behind the campaign to bring down Karimovs daughter Gulnara.

Existing patron-client networks built around regional identities (sometimes called clans) or core institutions such as the SNB have the potential to pull members into a conflict initiated from the top by elites who control distribution of vital goods and services. A contested presidential succession is probably the most likely scenario for this type of conflict to emerge, though contested succession to Colonial-General Rustam Inoyatov, the powerful head of the SNB, is another potential vector that is especially opaque to outside analysts.

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