Monday, March 17, 2008

Role of army should be for short term

Role of army should be for short term with specific reason: Seghal
Source: New Age
Saiful Huda
March 17, 2007

Eminent journalist of Pakistan, Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal, on Sunday said the military top brass backing the present interim government should encourage holding of general elections as soon as possible. ‘I think they have done a remarkable job,’ he said, adding that the role of the army in Bangladesh should be for a short term, with specific reasons and a defined mission.

Sehgal, a retired officer of the Pakistan army who is the publisher and chief editor of Pakistan’s Defence Journal, said this to journalists while exchanging views on the pre- and post-election scenario in Pakistan. The programme, organised by the Dhaka Reporters Unity at its auditorium, was also attended by the DRU’s general secretary Elias Khan.

When Sehgal was asked to compare the situation in Pakistan with that of Bangladesh, he said there were lots of common factors in the situation of the two countries which were disturbing. He said a ‘comparatively free and fair’ election in Pakistan has resulted in a hung parliament, and the new government there will have to face the major problems of containing price-hike of essentials including flour, edible oil, lentils, electricity and water.

Sehgal, who has always preferred the non-involvement of the army in civil matters, said there were very few cases of violence during the recent election in Pakistan as the army chief had withdrawn all of the nearly 362 senior military officials who were holding posts in the civil administration.

When he was asked whether or not the army in Bangladesh should do the same, he said it would be unfortunate if they do not learn the lessons of Pakistan and history and do the same. Appreciating the role of the Bangladesh military in the present situation, he said, ‘There are some successes, but there are also failures.’ He, however, did not elaborate any further. When reporters referred to the withdrawal of corruption cases against political leaders in Pakistan before the elections and whether he thought that the same should be done in Bangladesh, Sehgal replied he was not in favour of withdrawing corruption cases against political leaders.

However their trials should be transparent and the due judicial process should be followed, he added. Sehgal, regarding the role of the media in such a situation, said, ‘If you are doing the right thing, the media is your friend.’

He said that he had felt only the other day, while talking to some senior journalists, that there was pressure on the media in Bangladesh. On the issue of the growing ties between India and Bangladesh, including the possible resumption of railway links between the two countries, he said, ‘We should strengthen our links for the betterment of the people.’

He said it would not be possible to wish away India which is a big economic power in the neighbourhood. ‘We have to break down the barriers caused by apprehension,’ he said, adding that Bangladesh has to use its population to its advantage. The eminent columnist also delivered a lecture at the National Defence College in Mirpur in the morning.

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