The new army chief, politicians, and election
Here, comes the question of responsible behaviour by the politicians and professional and non- partisan role of the army in the function of a democratic state. Over the decades, Bangladesh army has transformed itself into a well-trained and internationally acclaimed professional institution which now is the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. The army’s UN operations results in foreign remittance to the country to the tune of more than $ 1 billion. Unfortunately, during the same period, the quality of both politics and politicians has been seeing a downward spiral with rich, corrupt, and muscled people sidelining honest, patriotic, and grass root level political leaders and activists. There are not too many Matia Chowdhury, Nurul Islam Nahid, and Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury with track record of competency and integrity.
The 1/11 and subsequent events are still fresh in people’s mind. The entire country saw how democracy and elections were jeopardised by confrontational politics. While nobody desires that “undemocratic” or “third force” captures power, the nation would have benefited if our leaders did some soul searching as to what kind of reckless acts in the past had catapulted the nation into such undesired state. What also is true is that in the aftermath of 1/11, some army officers did bring harm to the reputation of their institution through overzealous activities and irresponsible code of conduct. The then Army Chief, General Moeen emphasised army’s role as “supportive” to the caretaker government, while he kept on making public appearances and statements inconsistent with the role of an army chief. He sounded like a “State Patron” giving sermons on wide range of issues from politicians having done nothing for the country to why we should eat more potato and less rice.
However, in the end, by ensuring a free and fair elections and preparing a quality voter list, General Moeen could recover the credibility of the institution that he otherwise undermined through his shortsighted acts and poor leadership. The new Army Chief, General Bhuiyan, who was at that time the Chief of General Staff, second most important position in army, reportedly fell out of favour with General Moeen due to his opposition to some of the decisions of General Moeen, and as a result he was transferred to the Defence Staff College.
General Bhuiyan is known to be a disciplined, competent, and professional soldier who has stayed out of any political colour as most of the army leadership. Although the government took a rather long time to make decision as to who would be the new army chief, it is encouraging to see that seniority and competency were more or less respected as opposed to the previous precedence of superseding in an unprofessional manner and for wrong reasons. The writer is a Professor at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka.