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REVIEW on FORUM (April Issue)

April 29, 2009

All the contents of FORUM (April Issue) revolves round the Pilkhana Massacre, the latest of the series of dark chapters that the whole nation witnessed and which left 57 army officers dead.

 In ‘What Lies Below’, Afsan Chowdhury starts by arguing whether the Pilkhana incident is merely a law and order issue or it is an internal crisis of the armed branches. He then predicts the would be relationships between Awami-led government and the Army during the Post-Pilkhana massacre. He breaks the crisis into four stages and gives an overview of the coups and counter-coups inside army. He also reminds us that coup inside the auxiliary forces of armed branches is not new. In December 1994, Ansar took up arms against the state. They were put down by the BDR. Many political analysts back then described the situation as a class struggle within the armed branches. He tries to explore possible reasons for the BDR mutiny. To him, there was resentment among the BDR regarding issues like army officers running the command, poor pay, limited scope of promotion and demand to be hired as UN peacekeepers. He finds it puzzling that the intelligence agencies regularly failed to warn about these incidents. Fingers are pointing at different quarters, from Pakistani and Indian intelligence to Islamist extremists. He praises the politicians and top army officers for dealing with the post-pilkhana situation sagaciously. He expresses his concerns over the BDR jawans dying of heart attack while interrogation. To avoid the incidents like Pilkhan tragedy, he stresses on the involvement of mass people in the dialogue of how a state should be constructed instead of key persons in the civil military relationships.

In ‘Untangling the Web’, Brig. Gen. Shaed Anam Khan raises some points on  the way the situation was handled. According to him, the renegade BDR soldiers killed the bargaining chips—the army officers at measured intervals. It is certainly contradicts the fact the BDR top Brass was gunned down within the first few hours. He thinks there is no political solution for a mutiny. He argues , if the government was negotiating with the renegade soldiers then where was the demand that the government put forward to the mutineers. He also wonders why all the exits of Pilkhana were not blocked after the strict instructions from PM. He also criticizes the way the electronic media covered the whole crisis. In his word, “ It is well to remember ,too, that the journalists influence conflicts and objective journalism helps to attenuating  a volatile situation.” Then He quotes from Ross Howard :

“Professional journalists do not set out to reduce conflict. They seek to present accurate and impartial news. But it is often through good reporting that conflict is reduced.”   

In ‘Brothers in Arms’, Shamsuddin Ahmed thinks ‘This was clearly the result of something which had gone terribly wrong somewhere. Maybe there were undesirable politically motivated elements inducted in the force who have been lying in wait to strike a blow like this.’ What I like most in this piece is the brief history of BDR.

In ‘No pain, No Gain’, M Tamim lays emphasis why the adjustment of energy price is so vital for the energy security. He seriously questions the subsidized energy price and warns us that the era of consuming at a free rate is almost over. For short-term solution, he thinks government should give serious thoughts in setting up two 500 MW coal based power plants, importing 200 MW from Indian state Tripura and load management. For long-term security plan, he proposes a list of steps, ranging from finding new gas field & enhancing existing production to Reforming organizational and commercial framework of energy business.

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