Politicians or Army – Who is Responsible for Hindering Bangladesh?
Monsur Ibrahim, USA
Since the emergence of army backed Caretaker Government (CG), our army chief on many occasions has denounced the politicians and held them responsible for all the bad things and hindrance since last 35 years. According to Lt. General Moeen U Ahmed, politicians have been the root of all evils. Let us analyze the facts and see if Gen. Moeen is telling the truth.
Under Whom Bangladesh spent most of its life since 1972?
During last 35 years since our independence, Bangladesh has been ruled and controlled from cantonment for long 26.5 years and yet we are hearing that politicians are responsible!
Emergence of Moeen Uddin Ahmed as the most powerful person
Mr. Moeen Uddin Ahmed, an employee of the republic has been giving us many lessons since his emergence as the most powerful man behind current CG government. His emergence was described in USA Today (1/11/2007) as, “With more than 60,000 troops on the streets enforcing a state of emergency suspended the fundamental rights of citizens. The move came hours after the president met with the chief of the army staff, Lt. Gen. Moeen U Ahmed, at the presidential palace.” Since then the CG has done some excellent work and won hearts and minds of common people but gradually nation started to see CG’c controversial face and is getting skeptical about the role of army.
First Political Government (1972-1975)
After the independence of Bangladesh in Dec 1971, Bangladesh was ruled by politicians for 3.5 years till some army people killed the then president in Aug 1975. Since the language movement in 1952, emergence of Bangladesh has a long history of political struggle for rights of Bengalis. The ultimate liberation war was also done under political leadership who won sweeping mass mandate in 1970 election. The life of the first political government of the nation was cut short by a spree of killing from army people whom Mr. Moeen represents. Unfortunately, we would like to remind Mr. Moeen U Ahmed that it was army who interrupted a political government in 1975.
Ziaur Rahman – another Army Officer ruled from Cantonment: (1975-1981)
After the killing of 1975, soon Ziaur Rahman took over Bangladesh’s rule as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Zia, also being an employee of the republic took over power, formed Jagodol and then BNP. Though Zia was apparently financially honest, he bribed politicians and broke almost all political parties with the aim to ‘divide and rule’.
We would politely like to re-remind our army chief Lt. Gen. Moeen U Ahmed that Ziaur Rahman, a fellow army general like him illegally invaded the political arena and made the politicians corrupt by bribery and blackmailing. It was an army officer (Zia) like him who rehabilitated all anti-state and anti-Bangladesh politicians and made one of them Shah Aziz nation’s prime minister. Can we ask a simple question to Mr. Moeen? What happens to a new free nation when you bring back people in power who not only opposed the freedom of that nation but also fought against it? How do you expect progress from them who didn’t want a Bangladesh to born and tried every means to abort its birth? Mr. Moeen, it was Ziaur Rahman alias “the army” who imposed that unfortunate event on this nation.
Mr. Moeen U Ahmed, it was Ziaur Rahman alias “an army officer” who rewarded the killers of a president by providing diplomatic jobs and passing indemnity law. What morality would you claim for preventing justice and rewarding killers? Politicians didn’t do that but a man from “Army” did it. Just to remind you that last year during Zia’s wife’s rule, a higher court in Bangladesh declared Gen. Zia’s taking over power and entire regime ‘illegal’. Mr. Moeen, would you blame politicians for an army general’s illegal role?
Ershad - Another army officer ruled from cantonment (1981-1990):
After you (army) killed your army general Zia, came another army Gen. Ershad. Mr. Moeen, again in the history of our nation, army intervened and took over. The second martial law administrator initially talked about fighting against corruption but ultimately was totally drowned under corruption. Most of Zia’s ministers joined him and he too ruled Bangladesh from cantonment for another nine years till end of 1990. This army general not only got involved in financial corruption but also in moral and ethical corruption. Mr. Moeen, It is your (army’s) another general who was financially corrupt and got famous as womanizer. What moral lesson army gave to the nation via Gen. Ershad? He was not a product of politics but a product of well disciplined army. Mr. Moeen, again, would you blame politicians for this army General’s corrupt and characterless role?
Ershad for the first time spread the corruption among army at all levels. He appointed retired army officers as chiefs of all corporations and semi-autonomous bodies and allotted them civil plots. Mr. Moeen, we would also like to remind you of the incident when expensive watches were smuggled under Defence Purchage (DGDP) invoices during Gen. Ershad’s regime. The brave custom officer who challenged the boxes and opened them to discover that DGDP was smuggling watches, were shot dead at his residence on the same night. Mr. Moeen, this didn’t happen by civilians but by army. Would you blame politicians for such corruption?
Mrs. Khaleda Zia: General’s wife’s rule from Cantonment (1991-1996; 2001-2006)
After Zia and Ershad, Bangladesh was again ruled from cantonment in two and a short term for another 11 years by Mrs. Ziaur Rahman – wife of the army general who formed BNP. Backed by cantonment and army, Khaleda showed immense power and defied all democratic norms. In her latest term she gave us the worst possible rule in the history of the country. Instead of going into unlimited details, here are few examples of her arrogance because of army backed power.
Per constitution, President is number one in protocol followed by Speaker and then Prime Minister – irrespective of form of government (parliamentary or presidential). The day Khaleda took oath as Prime Minister (PM) for the first time in 1991, the then PID chief Mr. S…. went to her residence with the national flag to hoist it. Per constitution PM gets a particular size of flag which is smaller than what President and Speaker gets. Khaleda demanded the largest size assigned (by constitution) for the President. PID chief wanted to explain the constitutional provision but only got yelled at. He came back and returned with the largest size assigned for the President. This is how wife of this army general backed by cantonment damned our constitution on the very first day just after taking oath.
“Shapla” is our national flower and President used to use “Shapla” monogram in his car. Ministers get a monogram with Bangladesh’s map. The second desperate violation of constitution after taking oath as PM was done by Khaleda Zia as she started using the monogram assigned for President dam-caring constitutional provision.
We saw Khaleda’s immense strength and power from cantonment backed by army. She as opposition leader drove to Tongi Ijtema through airport runway but didn’t allow another opposition leader Hasina to drive even via cantonment. She lived in cantonment but blocked Hasina from visiting patient in combined military hospital and a relative in naval residential quarters. Where did she get all these power? Today when army withdrew its support and not standing behind Khaleda, she is almost a ‘zero’. That proves army was behind her power. Her husband Gen. Zia gave indemnity to 1975 killers in the army and she gave indemnity for approximately two hundred extra judicial killings done by army during “Operation Clean Heart” in 2002. Mr. Moeen, are politicians responsible here or the one in the cantonment and backed by army is responsible? Who gave her a blank check so far?
October 2006 violence in Paltan:
Mr. Moeen U Ahmed, you have categorically mentioned and criticized the incidents of October 2006 where supporters of BNP-Jamat and 14 party alliances fought each other killing 4 people. You mentioned that as “uncivilized” and we agree. One group came out with fire arms and other group with bamboo and wooden sticks and this kind of situation is unwanted. But Mr. Moeen, these people were civilians and not very civilized. Isn’t it fair to look at self before criticizing others for the same crime? This is what I am referring to:
Mr. Moeen, army is an educated, civilized, well trained, disciplined and organized force. Nation spends a huge amount of tax-payer’s money to train army who has a very secure life with housing, subsidized ration, logistics and all kinds of support. Shouldn’t we have high expectations from such a force? Mr. Moeen, would you please answer some of my following questions:
Army is supposed to be the most disciplined force. Why there were 19-21 coups in your (army’s) well disciplined force against Gen. Ziaur Rahman? Why army killed each other indiscriminately during each coup? Do you remember the killing of air force officials during Japanese plane hijack? Why your civilized army killed one another?
Does it look better or worse than Paltan incident?
It is the army Mr. Moeen who killed two presidents Mujib and Zia. It is the army Mr. Moeen who killed innocent men, pregnant women and kids on Aug 15, 1975. Mr. Moeen, how civilized was that? Only during Zia’s regime, an approximately 3000 soldiers were killed fighting each other. What did the nation see from our well organized and disciplined forces? Does that look worse than Paltan incident? We do not support violence but before criticizing a civil political unrest and giving politicians a bad image, shouldn’t you at least see what example your army has set to the nation?
New Brand of Democracy
Bangladesh's army chief Moeen U Ahmed said on Apr 01 that the military-backed interim government would build a new brand of democracy to overcome the country's chronic poor governance. Mr. Moeen, thanks for recognizing chronic poor governance but please do not forget that 26.5 years of it came from army and cantonment. The army backed CG initially has done some excellent job and earned hearts and minds of people. BUT nation gradually started to see the samples of new brand of democracy. Here are some examples:
Sample-1: Per Mr. Moeen, politicians didn’t contribute anything positive during last 35 years but his army backed CG has appointed a politician Mr. Moinul Hossain as law and information advisor. This politician has a long history of being friends with army and we have seen that in 1971, 1975-1981. Being a politician, he is now the mouthpiece of army backed CG. In recent past this unethical pro-army politician represented fraud justice Faizi’s case in the high court.
Sample-2: Though this is not an elected govt., per barrister Moinul Hossain, govt. will decide who will be the party chief for various political parties. Per him, govt. will decide who will stay in the country and who won’t be able to stay in the country. Mr. Moeen, if this is how your ‘new brand of democracy’ will work, we are sorry because by all standards it is called unheard extreme “autocracy”.
Sample-3: When Sk. Hasina wanted to come back to country to face her extortion case, Gen. Matin – another hybrid ‘moral’ army officer called Sk. Hasina and Awami League secretary General MA Jalil and requested that Sk. Hasina does not return hastily but as per her normal schedule. Even after govt. filed murder case against Sk. Hasina, Gen. Matin said there is no bar for her to return to Bangladesh and there is no pressure for Khaleda Zia to go abroad. The very next day government issued a press note barring Hasina’s return and requested all foreign airlines not to carry her. When journalists asked Gen. Matin about what he said the day before, Gen. Matin replied, “I told that yesterday and that doesn’t mean its true today”. Mr. Moeen, we do not need this brand of ‘new democracy’ as this portrays your backed government as a liar, dishonest and cunning government. This example set by your new brand of democracy is worst than any commitment made by any crook political government anywhere in the world.
Sample 4: Your have appointed a brilliant Inspector General of Police (IGP) who promised us of revolutionizing one of the most corrupted police forces on earth. We are not complaining about what action he took against Kohinoor Mian for inhuman crimes but we saw examples of our revolutionized police force under your “new brand of democracy”.
Sk. Hasina went abroad informing our foreign ministry. Awami League leader Mr. Nasim has been arrested and is in custody. Police submitted charge sheet of the Paltan murder case showing both these leaders as absconding. On one hand, govt. is putting barrier so that Sk. Hasina cannot return, on the other hand govt. issued a warrant against her for not showing up in the court. Same is with Mr. Nasim. He is in custody and it was the responsibility of the police department to produce him in court, instead he has been shown absent in court and a warrant has been issued against him.
Gen. Moeen, we don’t have language to praise these absurd activities that we have seen under your “new brand of democracy”. Should we say shame on IGP because he bowed to your desire? Your (army) backed government did not allow our police to act independently rather imposed the decision and compelled them to do it. What is the difference when other governments that you criticized used to influence and compel police to do what they wanted? What improvement are you showing to us? Is this also the sample of “Independent Judiciary” that your government claimed to have implemented? Why the magistrate even didn’t have the guts to ask that Mr. Nasim is in jail and why you are showing him absconding? He simply issued the warrant because you desired it. Mr. Moeen, if morning shows the day, your samples of ‘new brand of democracy’ has already shown us what the nation can expect from you and your backed government.
Finally who is responsible- Army or Politicians?
So, we can see that in the history of last 35 years, Bangladesh was controlled by army and cantonment for long 26.5 years. Politicians ruled only for 8.5 years. Mr. Moeen, whom should we blame for the hindrance of our nation? One doesn’t have to be a political scientist to see the facts. Mr. Moeen, with all due respect, it was unfortunately the army and the illegal intervention of army into political arena that hindered Bangladesh time and again. It was the army and cantonment that interrupted the activities of politicians.
This is what USA Today thinks about your government, “The state of emergency has raised concern in a country with a history of military rule. Two past presidents have been assassinated and there have been 19 other coup attempts in Bangladesh since it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971.”
Please do not undermine and wrongfully blame the politicians for your (army’s) activities. This time it was clear that with a fair election power would go out of cantonment, and again you (army) interfered and took over from behind. Why blame politicians when facts clearly show that it is the army who is intervening in political arena time and again and causing us the hindrance? Not to forget, it was the political leaders who gave us independence.
Bottom-line, we do not want anyone to dictate who should be our leader. Let people of Bangladesh accept or reject someone. Last but not the least; we do not want any Hamid Karzai or Noor-e- Maliki in Bangladesh.