In across-the-board promotions,
the air chief, Air Vice Marshal S M Ziaur Rahman, has been promoted as Air Marshal
while the navy chief, Rear Admiral Sarwar Zahan Nizam, is now a Vice Admiral.
Besides, three major generals have been promoted to lieutenant general rank, and
three brigadiers to major general.
The Bangladesh Army's current strength
is estimated to be more than 200,000 personnel. Its Air Force has more than 7,000
personnel and the Navy, 14,950 personnel as per unofficial statistics.
Principal Staff Officer (PSO) Major General Mohammad Jahangir Alam Chowdhury has
been elevated to Lieutenant General with a new posting. He has been made Quarter
Master General (QMG).
Commandant of the National Defence College (NDC)
Major General Abu Tayeb Mohammad Zahirul Alam has also been promoted as Lieutenant
So is the Chief of the 9th Division, Major General Masud Uddin
Chowdhury, who is also a Lieutenant General now, with new positing as PSO of the
Armed Forces Division.
Deputy Director General of DGFI Brigadier General
Golam Mohammad has been made Director General of the Forces Intelligence on promotion
as Major General.
Brigadier General Mohammad Ashabuddin has been promoted
to Major General and appointed GOC of the 9th Division.
Commander Brigadier General AKM Mujaheed Uddin has been promoted to major general
and appointed GOC of the 19th Infantry Division.
For watchers of South
Asian scene, the development was expected, considering the key role the armed
forces are currently playing in Bangladesh. Hence, it is necessary to study its
Gen Ahmed became a full general only two days after he ruled out
a military takeover of the country's government.
He maintained that the
armed forces were "subservient to civilian authority," in an apparent attempt
to refute the widespread perception at home and abroad that the interim government
of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed is "military-guided."
He also said that
he had no political ambitions and no plans to play a role beyond the army.
His observations, and that the government was working to hold general elections
as early as possible have been welcomed by the mainstream political parties.
Both the Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party hailed Gen Ahmed's observations
and expressed hope that it will help to strengthen democracy in the country by
holding free and fair elections.
"The Army deserves thanks from the nation
for his statement. We also thank him for his conviction and trust in democracy.
We hope that the armed forces will play an invaluable role in strengthening of
democracy in the country," Awami League's General Secretary Abdul Jalil said.
Jalil said the army chief's remarks relating to assisting the present caretaker
government from behind the scenes was the reflection of "everybody's desire."
Bangladesh's armed forces, especially the army, separated from those of Pakistan
in 1971 have a record of intervening in governing ushering in phases of military
or military-guided rule between 1975 and 1990.
While the past interventions
remain a matter of debate, it is fair to note that since 1991, Bangladesh has
had parliamentary democracy, howsoever imperfect.
The intervention, which
it really is if seen closely, has been of a different nature. It is a fact that
during weeks of political turmoil in November-December last year, there were at
least two official attempts made to induct the armed forces in governance, albeit
in assistance to the civil authority, in the run-up to and conducting of the general
Notably, on both these occasions, the army resisted a pro-active
It assumed a larger role only in January, when it became clear that
with 14 parties boycotting the elections, the country was heading for an election
that would have been a non-election and would have only added to the problems,
without solving any.
The Army was in the loop for the momentous decision
to call off the elections and to prevent turmoil, bloodshed and damage to the
country's economy, impose a national emergency. The country also had a new Chief
Advisor and Council of Advisors to run the government.
There is an American
saying that fits what happened here on January 11: when you find yourself in a
hole, stop digging.
The Bangladesh Army did just that: It saw a gigantic
hole opening up in Bangladeshi politics with both major political parties, already
over their heads in the hole, just digging away.
It has become clear only
gradually that Bangladesh Army took away the political parties' shovel, and sent
them home to relearn basic democratic standards. In other words, it took over
the state on one/eleven, as it is called now in Bangladesh, to prevent a bloody
civil strife between the parties and the total breakdown of law and order.
There seemed to be no other alternative then, and looking back, the case for the
takeover seems undiminished to the great majority of citizens of this crowded
but energetic and dynamic nation.
In the intervening four months-plus,
for the most part, the Army seems to have stuck to its principle of eschewing
politics by staying in the background and "assisting" the civilian "caretaker"
in running the government.
It has also delegated to the civilians the monumental
task of reconstructing, on the collapsed and failed ruins of the former political
system, the foundation and the framework of a viable and enduring democratic structure.
The Army is involved in government operations mainly in assisting the civilians
with a serious programme to root out corruption and punish the massive list of
those politicians and others who have profited from corrupt practices.
Part of the reason for the Army's involvement in the anti-corruption campaign
is that the civilian anticorruption unit is still understaffed, under-trained
and under-equipped, and the Army can add some of its intelligence and enforcement
capacity to help it.
Another is that the police is also notoriously corrupt
and needs the Army's oversight. A major reason is that it is the blatantly egregious
corruption which upsets the mid-and junior-level Army officers and enlisted personnel
and thus makes them support the Army's role in politics.
does not take away the fact that the army too has its corrupt elements and those
that are politicized, some of them leaning towards Islamist extremism. This has
been backed by many studies and think tanks.
The moot point is that the
army is the only cohesive institution organized on modern lines and all parties
are agreed to its present role.
There are many unknowns and sceptics abound.
History tells us that the odds of success are slim. Military interventions, even
well-intentioned like this one, almost always go bad - corrupted first by power,
and then, by greed.
Thus, there is little doubt that the present interim
government is "military-backed" but if the implication of the term is to be read
in a positive way, then the inevitable connotation also is: so far.