While Central Asia’s Soviet-era physical infrastructure crumbles, and the quality and availability of public healthcare and education decline, the police remain the one institution that controls the state’s most remote territories. This article argues that, over the past two decades, the functions of Central Asian police forces have become increasingly punitive. Their negative influence was particularly visible in the aftermath of public protests in the 2000–2010s that resulted in fatal clashes between police units and civilian population. These watershed events were followed by government decisions to overhaul their police forces to preempt a recurrence of public protest. Depending on how willing the incumbent regimes are to control political dissent and how capable the state is in performing these control functions, changes in the Interior Ministries follow. When political will is matched by the economic and administrative resource of the state, policing functions are distributed among additional state institutions. But when the regime lacks the resources to upgrade policing techniques to the desired level, it almost always requests international support to facilitate police reform.
Anna Matveeva“The Perils of Emerging Statehood: Civil War and State Reconstruction in Tajikistan,”Development as State-making(Working Paper no. 46 Crisis States Research Centre March 2009); Erica Marat “Kyrgyzstan’s Fragmented Police and Armed Forces” The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies no. 11 (2010).
Ibid. Lewis2011. On the police as one the state’s predatory and corrupt institutions see Johan Engvall The State as Investment Market: An Analytical Framework for Interpreting Politics and Bureaucracy in Kyrgyzstan (Uppsala: Uppsala University Press 2012) 154 180–184. Eric McGlinchey Chaos Violence Dynasty: Politics and Islam in Central Asia (Pittsburg: Pittsburg University Press 2012) 24–25.
A. Osipian“Corrupt Organizational Hierarchies in the Former Soviet Bloc,”Transition Studies Review17 no. 4 (2010): 822–836.
C. ThomasAiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace1999); S. Baranyi and J.E. Salahub “Police reform and democratic development in lower-profile fragile states” Canadian Journal of Development Studies 32 no. 1 (2011): 48–63; D. Lewis “Who’s Socialising Whom? Regional Organisations and Contested Norms in Central Asia” Europe-Asia Studies 64 no. 7 (2012): 1219–1237; R.M. Oakley M.J. Dziedzic and E.M. Goldberg Policing the New World Disorder: Police Operations and New Public Security (Washington DC: National Defense University Press 1998).