Dhaka under unique martial law

By Sunita Paul

People may try to argue with the fact that the small nation in South Asia is under a civilian government, which enjoys support from the army. They may even argue that both the President and the Chief Advisor (chief executive) of the country are non-military figures. And it is a fact too. In that case, how someone could define Bangladesh being ruled under an unique form of martial law? Let us take some glimpse over some of the facts.

According to local and international news media, the tenure of General Moeen U Ahmed as chief of army staff has been extended by one year from June 15, 2008 to June 15, 2009 'in the public interest'.

The president, Iajuddin Ahmed, extended his service tenure, until further order, in the public interest, said Inter Service Public Relations quoting a notification issued by the ministry of defense on Sunday.

General Moeen was appointed chief of army staff to a three-year term on June 6, 2005. He was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general with effect from June 15, 2005. Later, he was elevated to four-star general on May 24, 2007.

Well, it is clearly mentioned in the statement issued by the public relations wing of Bangladesh Army that General Moeen's tenure was extended in public interest. What is the basic reason of such public interest? To give an extended life time to an over ambitious General to be in under cover political activities and finally ending as the President of the republic?

It is widely known in Dhaka that General Moeen is taking part in various activities such as addressing public meetings as well as writing books on his political theory, which are quite beyond the normal regulations of Military Service Rule. He is even making orders to the President and the Chief Advisor of the republic on a regular basis, which shall also not prove him to be a mere chief of army. Very recently Moeen intervened in the case of death sentence of a former freedom fighter and asked the President to grant him Presidential mercy. This was not done silently. Rather the General told a gathering in a small town on Sunday that he (General Moeen) asked the President of granting mercy petition and he even assured the people that the person concerned shall not be hanged. Look into his confidence! He knows for sure that none has the power to turn down his requests (in fact orders).

Go to Bangladesh; ask anyone a simple question who is governing the country. Even someone holding high position shall not be able to respond to this question. Why? Because the country is run by virtually no government. The Chief Advisor is powerful to some extent, while the army chief is almost leading a parallel government. The President is nothing but a puppet. This can only be compared with the status of a failed state.

Former chief justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman said on Sunday that it was axiomatic that military interference in politics and administration could not benefit a country. It may be mentioned here that, Justice Rahman was the chief executive of the Interim government in 1996.

"The present government will have to shoulder the responsibility for the undemocratic situation it has created in the country by altering the democratic system," he said.

Expressing his concern over not holding the much promised general election in 2008, Justice Rahman said, 'the thought of the day is transfer of power to an elected government after holding elections to the ninth parliament within this year; but there are worries about whether it will take place'.

From the realities as well as remarks from the think tanks and intellectuals in Bangladesh, it can be easily presumed that the country is in reality under unique form of martial law. The latest extension of the army chief reminds us the proto type happenings in Pakistan for past few years. The difference is, in Pakistan, army was in direct administration, while in Bangladesh, army is in power under a garb of so-called civilian administration. There is no basic difference. Rather, such under cover martial law is even worst than direct military rule. Because of such cloudy situation, Bangladesh has already reached the status of a failed state. And, in such states, not only there are numerous problems for its people, but a huge risk for the international community; as such countries are always the safe havens of Islamist militancy. It was already reported that Al Qaeda has expanded its network up to Bangladesh through various channels. It is high time for the international community and global players to take up this issue with due urgency. Any ignorance on this matter may ultimately turn Bangladesh into the most notorious hub of global terrorism.

It may be mentioned further that, United Nations may not like to continue patronization to any army in the world, which might be liable for destroying democracy and democratic institutions.