Friday, August 17, 2007

Civil Military Cooperation

Bangladesh is now trying to redefine Army's role in democracy. Are we closely following the model of Pakistan, Myanmar or Turkey's army backed administration? Why do we need to create additional layers of military role in civil affairs? Is there any security threat to our soverigntiy exising in the country? No, not at all. Bangladesh Army is simply trying to legitimize its military role for greater authority over civil affairs. Cold war is over. We don't need to live in fear and apprehension any more. We need demorcacy, transparency and stability. We don't need Army to dictate the civil affairs in the name of secuity interests.

Read this news article from Daily Star published on August 16, 2007:
Foreign Adviser Iftekhar A Chowdhury yesterday said there should always be civilian supremacy over the military in a democracy, but closer civil-military cooperation would bolster national security.

Iftekhar was speaking as the chief guest at the concluding session of a four-day workshop titled, "Democracy, Governance and Security Reforms" that concluded yesterday with a set of eight recommendations, including enacting a Political Parties Act, instituting anti-corruption and effective parliamentary procedures, and bringing greater civilian control of security forces.

A number of academic, political, and military personnel participated in the workshop jointly organised by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies (APCSS) from the United States.

In her address, US Charge d' Affaires Geeta Pasi said, "In prosecuting corruption as well as other legal cases, it is imperative to meet the international standards of human rights and due process to ensure the legitimacy and credibility of the proceedings."

Iftekhar said that the security forces have been at the forefront of assisting the government and fighting terrorism, but in order to more effectively and competently perform these newer tasks "some reforms in the security sector in Bangladesh are only a demand of the time."

"These reforms must be aimed at facilitating greater coordination and integration of all security forces in the country with a view to contributing to the improvement of the law and order, helping move the economic wheels of the country and ensuring social stability in the country," said the foreign adviser.

"These reforms must enhance both state and human security and be subordinate to the goals of good governance and consistent with democratic principles," he added.

"The role of the security forces in a democracy is defined and delineated by the cardinal principle of civilian supremacy in the affairs of the state. However, in a violent and crime-inflicted society with trans-border links, they may assume a more robust role."

Pasi told the audience, "Bangladeshis have entrusted the caretaker government with a great responsibility, including to put into place a foundation for a free and fair election by the end of 2008 and a healthy, functioning democratic system that Bangladeshis deeply desire."

"The people of Bangladesh have fought hard and sacrificed their lives for democracy. They deserve no less," she said.

Former US Lt Gen Ed Smith, Director of APCSS, said that there are three main considerations for the effective reforms: to have popular recognition that change is needed, a well-planned roadmap of how to go ahead, and continuing the initiative to ensure that the reforms do not lag.

The workshop's recommendations were split into two streams: governance reforms and security reforms.

As part of governance reforms, the workshop participants identified effective parliament, political party reforms, rule of law, combating corruption, accountability, devolution of power, stronger institutions and separation of powers.

These included steps, such as enacting a Political Parties Act and have an effective parliament through functioning committees while security sector reforms include operationalising and expanding the National Security Council for better civilian control of security forces and also the appointment of a full-time defence minister.

The speakers also stressed the need for a national security strategy to integrate defence needs and civilian concerns, enact appropriate public order laws, enhance the professionalism of the security forces, creation of a joint forces headquarters and a joint intelligence apex body.

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