Bangladesh Army rises to the occasion


That secular, liberal democratic forces in Bangladesh are far from well-entrenched was once again proved in the past two months when a small group of mid-level officers in the Bangladesh Army with extreme religious views tried to instigate a coup against the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina.
In a rare occurrence, the Bangladesh Army came out with a public statement on the abortive attempt. Making the announcement, its spokesman, Brig. Gen. Muhammad Mashud Razzak, said 14-16 mid-level army officers might have been involved in the bid.
The spokesman said retired officers Lt. Col. Ehsan Yusuf and Major Zakir had been arrested.
The main plotter of the coup was identified as one Major Zia (Syed Mohammad Ziaul Huq), now on the run, had been actively engaged in plotting and executing of the conspiracy through social media networks and mobile phones.

A day after the announcement , Bangladesh’s elite counter-terrorist force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested five members of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir from Dhaka, after the army said it had foiled a coup attempt. Sources said Major Zia-ul-Haq was linked to the extremist religious group.

A detective of the RAB was injured during the arrests, some media reports said.

The Bangladesh army had said in its announcement that Major Haq’s links with Hizb-ut-Tahrir are proved, as the extremist outfit distributed leaflets reading the ‘Tale of Major Zia-ul-Haq’ soon after his remarks about his ‘detention’ were posted on Facebook.

Major Haq was posted at the Mirpur Cantonment, near the capital Dhaka. Sources say plotters belong to an anti-India group, and felt Dhaka was getting too close to New Delhi.
According to the Bangladesh army, Major Haq met a senior officer on December 22 and tried to provoke him into using the army against the state. The officer immediately informed the appropriate authorities, and his leave and transfer orders were cancelled.  
Major Haq sent an email late last month alleging, among other charges, an Indian plot to turn Bangladesh into a client state.Maj Haq and his fellow plotters have been against the recent growing closeness between Dhaka and New Delhi.
And email and Facebook posting circulated n Bangladesh by this group of disgruntled and fanatic officers is both scary and revealing for its anti-India stance. It said in part: The BDR carnage was a planned massacre on the Army to  eliminate many of the bright, upright and capable officers to render it unable to defend the independence of Bangladesh anymore. Some of the corrupt political leaders including few of the Generals and Senior Officers were the local players beside the neighboring foreign Intelligence Agency, RAW. This is an open secret to all ranks of Bangladesh Military Forces and the mass population by this time. The collaborators of BDR massacre are now trying to save its key planners by hiding the real issues, launching mass cases against BDR soldiers, killing those who know the facts. The whole massacre was about a step ahead to make the country a surrogate state of India like ‘Sikkim’. These patriotic martyred officers were one of the major obstacles of this vice (sic) plan.

“Some of the top brass of Bangladesh Army e.g. present CGS, General Moinul, DG DGFI, Maj General Mamun Khaled, Logistic Area Commander Maj General Reza Noor, Brigadier General  Motiur, ADG, DGFI and many others have sold their loyalty to RAW to serve their purpose in this country. DGFI has become, by this time, an active tool of neighboring Intelligence Organization, RAW to achieve this objective of making this country a surrogate state. Some of the senior officials of DGFI are in fact receiving regular salaries and benefits from RAW for doing the job on their behalf.”
The coup attempt was in fact unravelled by the combined efforts of Indian operatives and Bangladesh intelligence, highly-placed sources in both countries said.
The Facebook rant was in fact prompted by the fact that top RAW officials were in Bangladesh helping their counterparts to solve the mystery and get to the root of the conspiracy.

The email and facebook entry had this to say: “Every week 2/3 officers are being arrested / abducted by DGFI with different plea. Recently, Maj Zia …was arrested and now he is fleeing with his life here and there. On the other hand, some of the serving officers are interviewed by joint team of RAW and DGFI in Chittagong and elsewhere. Nobody knows, how many officers are arrested and abducted in different divisions till now as they have successfully created a mistrust among the officers to not to share these kinds of information.”

Investigators said the coup plotters believed that Indian agents and their collaborators were bent upon erasing the Muslim identity in Bangladesh. “…They have a plan to erase the Muslim identity of this Army and the mass population at large. Specially, within Army, the Generals and senior officers who are with the ‘RAW controlled group’ have demonstrated unbecoming attitude towards many of the Muslim practices. Some of those Generals forcefully made young officers to shave their beards,” the plotters said in the email.

The conspirators cited recent Indo-Bangladesh agreements to enhance their mutual cooperation to point towards an Indian conspiracy to subsume Bangladesh’s identity.
“ The signs and symptoms of this vice plan of turning this country into another ‘Sikkim’ at national level are: giving away transit facilities to India without any financial benefits by destroying many of the river channels and road systems, reducing the presence of the Army at the Chittagong Hill Tracts, erasing ‘bismillah’ and ‘reliance upon Allah’ from the constitution, security operations of Indian security forces in Sylhet and elsewhere inside the country denying the rights of an independent state, formulating women and education policies against the religious customs and norms of mass population, saving the culprits of share market scandals, zero resistance against illegal ‘Tipaimukh’ dam, no resistance against regular killing of innocent Bangladeshi population by Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) and destroying the whole economic system of the country…”
Therefore, the plotters said: “The mid-level officers (Lt Col and below) have decided to rise up in this grave situation of the Army and the motherland itself. Otherwise, the Bangladesh Army and the independence of this country are at a stake.”  
Clearly, resentment against India and the decision of the Awami League government to return to secular, democratic norms in governing the country, have a section of middle-level Army officers up in arms.
As Haroon Habib, veteran journalist and a Mukti Yodha, wrote in The Hindu: “Bangladesh is no stranger to military interference in state affairs. It has endured many coups and mutinies in its 40 years of existence, as well as long spells of military rule. Ambitious generals have used the army to implement their designs. As it was part of Pakistan for 24 years, Bangladesh also has the passed-on legacy of the military meddling in politics.
In the first such intrusion, the founding father of the country, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with most of his family members, was assassinated in August 1975. The tragedy reverted the nation’s normal course from secular democracy, which was the guiding force of the 1971 War of Liberation. The coups and counter-coups following the 1975 bloody changeover for two decades were instrumental in the destruction of democratic institutions and the rehabilitation of the fundamentalist elements that were defeated in the historic national war.”
That the coup attempt was ‘nipped in the bud,’ as a senior Awami League functionary described it, has come as a big relief to both New Delhi and Dhaka. But what is more significant is the stand taken by the Bangladesh Army. In a statement announcing the abortive coup, the Army said in a rare statement: “In the past, different evil forces banked on [the] Bangladesh Army which grew out of victory in the Liberation War to create disorder and gain political advantage. Sometimes, they succeeded and, on some occasions, they failed. Even so, as an organisation, the Bangladesh Army has been carrying the burden of the disrepute such forces have earned in the past. The professionally efficient and well disciplined members of [the] Bangladesh Army would like to say, ‘We do not want to bear this liability on the shoulders of our organization’.”
Cleary, unlike in Pakistan, India’s Western neighbour, the Army in Bangladesh is not interested in reversing the democratisation of its country’s polity.