Investigations by the State Police of Turkestan (TMM) into the allegations of governmental corruption appear to have unearthed a rats' nest, and as yet, no-one has any idea where it will all end.
Operatives of TMM's Corruption and Fraud division began the investigation in December of last year, after allegations that Governor Sopu Bek's provincial anti-corruption watchdog was falsifying evidence in a corporate corruption case. Details of this high-level investigation were leaked in March, prompting an angry public response. Protests and calls for the Governor's resignation became calls for his impeachment after further details emerged suggesting that he had known about this and turned a blind eye.
The resignation of Governor Sopu Bek of Kırğızstan earlier this month, rather than closing the investigation, seems only to have broadened its scope. The State Police are now questioning Junior Minister of Justice Botagöz Timür-qızı (Progressive- Jılalabat), Liberal Alliance transport spokesman Joçı Käriim Bek-ulı (Liberal- Bişkek), and Minister of Energy Nurtaı Aleksandrov (Progressive- Bayqoņır) as part of their ongoing investigations.
The offices of the Keņesçis in question deny that the fact that they are being questioned necessarily means that they are guilty, though suspicion continues to rise among the general public.
"At the moment, no charges have been brought against any of the three members of the Kenges in question," said TMM departmental chief Älim Enver-ulı Qorbaşı, who is heading up the investigation. "Given the sensitive nature of any investigation of a sitting political figure, it would be wise for the public not to make any presumptions of guilt."
Wise, perhaps, but already the rumour factory is working overtime.
"We welcome the proactive stance taken by the State Police in this investigation," the spokesman for the Campaign for Ethical Government told Haqayat News. "The elected members of the Keņes must be held to account, no matter the damage to parties and reputations. The alternative – damage to the nation itself – is far worse."
Under increasing pressure not only from the citizenry of Kırğızstan Province, but also from the Progressive Party hierarchy, Governor Sopu Bayal-ulı Bek announced his resignation today.
"Governor Sopu Bek continues to strenuously deny the allegations of complicity in the corruption that has been unearthed in Kırğızstan Province," said a statement released by his office. "However, public opinion has become so inflamed that the Governor can no longer properly discharge the responsibilities of his position. In the interests of Province, Country and Party, he is stepping down as Governor pending immediate elections."
The Governor's decision struck many protesters as an admission of guilt. "If he were innocent of the charges, surely he would have stayed in his position," stated Mııras Çoqan-ulı, a spokesman for the Campaign for Ethical Government, a leading anticorruption group in Turkestan.
Others, though a distinct minority, were not so sure. "It may come down to the question of proof," said Rohıla Orun Baı-qızı, a Turkestani political analyst. "He may, in fact, be not guilty of the charges, but it is extremely difficult to prove that you didn't know about something."
With the resignation of a full Provincial Governor and ex officio member of the Keņes because of this corruption scandal, many are asking how much further the rot goes. The Progressive Party in particular are facing an increasingly hostile climate of opinion, but it is not only former Governor Sopu Bek's Progressives that are the focus of outrage.
"We have caught a Provincial Governor turning a blind eye to corruption in his own anticorruption watchdog," said Mııras Çoqan-ulı. "The people of Turkestan are asking how deep this canker goes, how far it has spread. How many more Governors will be caught in similar scandals? How many more Keņesçis have dirty hands?"
One thing seems certain:
Barely half a year into a new 6-year term of office, the Turkestani government is embroiled in a scandal that has all the makings of a major political crisis.
A series of demonstrations against government corruption in Kırğızstan over the last week turned violent today as crowds threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber weapons. About 30 people received treatment for injuries, most minor but some severe, and it is claimed that some of these injuries were sustained at the hands of the police.
Demonstrators protesting against Governor Sopu Bayal-ulı Bek came out in force amid a new round of allegations of corruption in the Provincial government. Provincial government documents leaked by a sacked mid-level official allege that provincial watchdogs appointed by the governor have been accepting bribes to falsify evidence of departmental corruption. The latest leak suggests that Governor Sopu Bek knew about this.
It was perhaps the involvement of a governor who has such a reputation for intolerance of corruption that triggered the anger and violence. Small-scale petty corruption has long been endemic in Turkestan, especially in government circles, and most people are normally fairly inured to it as "just the way things are". These allegations raise the probablility that more is going wrong than just small-scale and petty corruption.
"If we can't trust our anticorruption watchdogs, who can we trust?" said a young woman in the crowd who refused to be identified. "We thought Sopu Bek was like a hound on the scent of those who take bribes and peddle influence, but it seems the only scent he was on was the stench of money."
The demonstrations had been fairly peaceful up until now. It is not known what sparked the outbreak of violence in this case. Some people in the crowd claim that it was the police who fired first, while the police maintain that they merely responded firmly to deal with a handful of troublemakers determined to cause an incident.
"Most people in the demonstrations were angry, but not violent," said Bişkek police chief Musa Balğaar-ulı Maıor. "There were a few criminal elements using the demonstration as a cover for illegal activity, and we dealt with those firmly for the sake of everyone in the crowd. Unfortunately, this natural police response seemed to trigger further disturbances of a otherwise orderly demonstration, and certain troublemakers seized on these to create an incident." Musa Maıor went on to say that any injuries that were caused by police officers were "extremely regrettable" and to promise that no action would be taken against those who were just demonstrating peacefully.
ORMARA LAUNCH FACILITY - After a minor scandal forced the selection of a new Ğarçığar (cosmonaut) to replace Talğat Sopu Bek-ulı, and then several last-minute technical issues delayed the planned early January launch still further, SpaceOrg's first manned space flight took off this morning.
The Qavoşğar ("Explorer") space capsule, atop a Mıtra rocket with a full complement of six strap-on boosters, lifted off at 09:47 local time, carrying the Qazaqstani Ğarçığar Sergei Jandosov into low Earth orbit. The lift-off proceeded without a noticeable hitch, and orbit was achieved, making the half-Russian half-Qazaq Sergey Ağa the first SpaceOrg cosmonaut to orbit the Earth.
Cheers greeted the announcement that orbit had been achieved here at Mission Control, though the difficulties of successful re-entry still remained.
After what Mission Control here in Ormara deemed a successful mission, the Qavoşğar capsule re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and splashed down in the Indian Ocean. A vessel of the Moghul Royal Navy recovered the capsule with Captain Jandosov on board, and is expected to return him to Ormara later this week.
Captain Jandosov will fly from Ormara to the capitals of the four members of the SpaceOrg alliance for celebratory parades and honours. Beginning in Herat, then progressing through Tehran and Buxara and finishing in his home town, the Qazaq capital Qarağanda.
Her Majesty Queen Gohar IV of the Moghul National Realm arrived today at Ibrahım Enver International Aerodrome to begin a 9-day state visit to Turkestan.
Her personal airship "Moghul One" touched down this afternoon to be met by a full honour guard of Wind Rider ceremonial troops from all six Provinces of Turkestan. The Tajik contingent was in the forefront, as is appropriate given the close linguistic links between the Tajik and Moghul languages, flanked by the Kırğız and Üzbek contingents.
Sultan Ilxan and Nuraslan Keņesbaşı were both present to welcome the ruler of the Moghul National Realm, and following the official ceremonies of welcome, Her Majesty was escorted away through the streets of Buxara to a full state dinner at the Ilxan's Palace.
Later in her visit, the Queen and the Ilxan are expected to sit down for some face-to-face diplomatic discussions, including, if sources close to the Ilxan are to be believed, the possibility of the MNR's shipbuilding industry building the replacement for the "Turkestan", the aging flagship
of the Turkestani Guards' Mazandaran naval flotilla.
The Central Asian space agency known to the English-speaking world as SpaceOrg announced its intention to put its first man in space on January 7th. The collaborative venture between Turkestan, Persia, the Moghul National Realm and the Russian Republic of Qazaqstan is possibly the newest space agency, and launched its first satellite at the beginning of the year.
The planned man-in-space mission announcement, including a press conference introducing the "first choice" Ğarçığar (cosmonaut) Talğat Sopu Bek-ulı, became mired in controversy by a joke attempted by Talğat Ğarçığar.
Talğat Ğarçığar tried to joke that the Mıtra space rocket would lift with it the soul of the late Pope in the Qavoşğar ("Explorer") capsule, "carrying him to Heaven", as he put it. It did not go down as well as he intended.
Talğat Sopu Bek-ulı is well-known in the Turkestani pilot community as a joker, but his personal skill and the prestige of his family made him seem like a natural choice for the SpaceOrg's first cosmonaut. The tastelessness of this particular joke may have cost him his historic space flight.
With both the Ilxan Sultan Qasım-ulı and the Keņesbaşı Nuraslan Näzbek-ulı unable to attend the funeral of the late Pope John XXIII, Turkestan was nonetheless unwilling to remain unrepresented at such a great and solemn event.
In one of her first outings abroad in such a role, the Ilxan's daughter Läylä Sultan-qızı headed the Turkestani delegation to Rome. She and her delegation will remain in the city for both the funeral and the Conclave, after which most of the political delegation will return to Buxara. Läylä and her husband Muşır Davud-ulı, however, will remain in Rome through the Christmas period.