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My view on Crisis Group Asia Report N˚226

July 6, 2012

International Crisis Group’s (ICG) Crisis Group Asia Report N˚226, titled “Bangladesh: Back to The Future” was published on June 13. As ICG claims, it was “based on extensive interviews and other sources”. I carefully read it. In general, I found the report was critical to the Awami League (AL) government, may be ICG team talked to a group of like-minded people, and it was intended to make a level playing ground for BNP, which I correctly assumed back in March this year.

Another thing I observed that I can not help sharing. While ICG had access to pretty much every tier of Bangladeshi Defense establishment, Human Rights Watch was refused by some of the law-enforcement agencies when they were working on the report titled ‘The Fear Never Leaves Me: Torture, Custodial Deaths, and Unfair Trials After the 2009 Mutiny of the Bangladesh Rifles.’

Just after its release, local media overwhelmingly welcomed it and published reports and analysis criticizing government and creating soft corners for BNP. But some tiny important aspects had been willfully ignored or had been forgotten to take into account

What I found interesting in this report is it contains some description of military frustration over the incumbent Awami League government.

The ICG report ends with a note of caution reminding all the parties of a deepening political crisis if they fail to reach a consensus. For the moment, it seems to me both the parties are receptive to that advice. As a conciliatory move detained BNP leaders have been released by the government; BNP has made a pause on its anti-govt. street agitation, likely to be resumed after the fasting month of Ramadan.

The report brings to the surface, once again, the psyche of the military personnel. In a reaction to present government’s failed attempt to ensure a secular armed forces and to guarantee the allegiance of Armed Forces to constitution, a retired major general overtly expressed his discontent.

Let me put his reaction in his own words:

If they are trying to uproot deep beliefs, then they are likely to meet deep resistance.Our battle cry is ‘Allahu Akbar’, because we would fight to protect our faith over our institution. You cannot motivate someone to die based on something as abstract as the constitution!

In addition to that, many perceived the ongoing cooperation between India and Bangladesh, particularly in the area of connectivity, as “AL’s sacrifice of strategic assets” and some even went to say this “concedes Bangladesh’s sovereignty to the arch enemy”. But the truth is no transit agreement has been signed yet and the ongoing cooperation is in line with the existing agreement.

Another interesting fact that this report revealed the grievances among the officers and soldiers over the 2011 stock market crash, which severely emptied deep-down pockets of the Blue helmeteers,and over AL’s failure to bring the stock market culprits to the book. I have heard one unconfirmed incident where intelligence and army officers forced the windfall gainers of share market debacle to participate in trading at the stock exchange so that they could recuperate their earlier losses. The incident still remains unconfirmed!

Though the report indicated a low probability of a direct military intervention, the threat still remains and even if it could happen it would be stricter than earlier one, as reflected in one of the interviews:

“Next time, if the army intervenes, there will be no backseat driving for the army. ‘Minus two’ won’t be gentle”, said a retired officer.

The report also mentioned that in any kind of political stalemate, the army is seen as an alternative.

All the problems we face in our everyday lives are increasing the risk for another military intervention. But from our part, do we ever really try to understand a problem? Who are behind our problems? Take for example media report on student politics. Photos of armed confrontation between/within student wings often get published on the front page.

But no one ever try to find out who the real actors are and who groom such kind of mafia politics in the campus. Within few days people forget the incident, but the stigma attached to student politics remains forever in everyone’s mind.

In the end, all these negative images demonize politicians and people get frustrated on the political culture, which leads to prepare the ground for an take over of state power by alternate forces like army and radical groups. Leading political economist Abul Barkat correctly describes the situation: as people’s distrust over existing political system grows, extreme religious groups take advantage of the situation and fill the power vacuum.
Iran is the perfect example. Egypt is the recent one that further supports the statement.

The best thing the political parties can do is to engage in a constructive dialogue on how to form an elected interim govt. to hold the next election. But beware of agent provocateurs who will do everything to push the political differences to a point where reconciliation is impossible.


From → Analysis

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