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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Army plans to work under three corps


The Bangladesh Army is planning to conduct its activities under three independent corps --- the Central Corps, Eastern Corps and the Western Corps --- with a view to implementing the "Forces Goal-2030", military sources said.
A senior officer of the rank of Lieutenant General will be the chief (commander) of a corps. He will take decisions independently, barring major ones.
Talking to The Independent, a senior military officer not wanting to be named said the Bangladesh Army is planning to conduct its activities under the corps concept, as per the guidelines of the Bangladesh Armed Forces laid down by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1974.
“The process of forming the three corps has already started as part of strengthening its capabilities. After they are formed, the corps commander can take administrative decisions independently, and they will report to the Chief of Army Staff,” he said.
The sources said each of the corps will have a station headquarters and several corps brigades to conduct its activities smoothly.
At present, the Bangladesh Army is operating under nine area commands and infantry divisions --- the Savar Area Command and the 9th Infantry Division, the Cox's Bazar Area Command and the 10th Infantry Division in Ramu, the  Bogra Area Command and the 11th Infantry Division, the Sylhet Area Command and the 17th Infantry Division, the Ghatail Area Command and the 19th Infantry Division, the Chittagong Area Command and the 24th Infantry Division, the Comilla Area Command and the 33rd Infantry Division, the Jessore Area Command and the 55th Infantry Division, the Rangpur Area Command and the 66th Infantry Division and the Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARTDOC) at the Mymensingh Cantonment. The Army also has independent units under direct command of the Army headquarters.
There are 28 cantonments across the country where Army personnel are working, training and living. They are, the Alikadam Cantonment in Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban Cantonment, the Bangladesh Military Academy in Chittagong,  Chittagong Cantonment, Comilla Cantonment, Dhaka Cantonment, Dighinala Cantonment in Rangamati, Halishahar Cantonment in Chittagong, Jahanabad Cantonment in Khulna, Jahangirabad Cantonment in Bogra, Jalalabad Cantonment in Sylhet, Jessore Cantonment, Kaptai Cantonment in Rangamati, Khagrachari Cantonment in Khagrachari, Kholahati Cantonment in Dinajpur, Majhira Cantonment in Bogra, Mirpur Cantonment in Dhaka,  Mymensingh Cantonment, Postogola Cantonment in Dhaka, Qadirabad Cantonment in Natore, Rajendrapur Cantonment in Gazipur, Rajshahi Cantonment, Ramu Cantonment in Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati Cantonment, Rangpur Cantonment, Saidpur Cantonment in Nilphamari, Savar Cantonment in Dhaka and the Shahid Salahuddin Cantonment in Ghatail.
Huge quantities of military hardware, fighter planes and helicopters, sophisticated arms and ammunition and security devices have been purchased to enhance the efficiency and capabilities of the armed forces.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while addressing a “darbar” after witnessing the Army’s winter exercise named “Suchagro Medini” at Paglapir Khalia in Rangpur district on January 14, had said that the Army could be divided into three commands like the three major rivers, the Padma, Meghna and the Jamuna, have divided the country.
On January 30, Sheikh Hasina, while addressing a reunion parade marking the Regimental Commanders’ Conference of the East Bengal Regiment of the Army and the 9th Tigers’ Reunion at the Chittagong Cantonment, had said that the government is making efforts to build up a capable and modern armed force so that it can discharge all duties in the international arena holding its head high.
Earlier, the Premier had said that two more divisions, one in Dhaka and the other in Barisal, would be formed soon.
The Army is the largest of the three wings of the Bangladesh armed forces. Its primary mission is to provide necessary forces and capabilities in support of Bangladesh’s security and defence strategies, including safeguarding the nation’s territorial integrity against external attack.
It may be mentioned that the Indian Army has a regimental system, but is operationally and geographically divided into seven commands, with the basic field formation being a division.

STRAIGHT LINE: the imperative of a counter-terrorism strategy

by Muhammad Nurul Huda

One may wonder if our politico-bureaucratic elite suffer from a lack of tradition on strategic thought. Such a worry arises in the present scenario when we see incipient signs of battles of proxy and low-level terrorism unleashed by the so-called religiously motivated extremists. There is no doubt that terrorism, in all its guises, not only flouts the law, but seeks, through acts of arbitrary and unforeseen violence aimed at the general public, to undermine their confidence in the security that the state is mandated to provide.
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On ground, there is no denying that both state and the international community have found it difficult to frame effective counter measures to adequately tackle terrorist activity. That, however, cannot be a justification for the alleged procrastination on devising an adequate counter-terrorism strategy. The terrorist phenomenon, operating as it does undercover and unseen, represents a mortal threat to democracy everywhere.
A very significant imperative of a durable counter-terrorism strategy is to get the political consensus that such strategy needs. Have we in Bangladesh succeeded in achieving such a political consensus? Doubts would persist because in yesteryears, political establishments were not earnest in equal measure in fighting the menace. To state the obvious, a regime-centric approach does not only expose the myopia on a vital subject of public concern, it also adversely impacts the durability of a strategy with attendant confusion and inaction at the functional level.
Coming to specifics of the strategy, are we ready to legally legitimise the use of technology as a “neutral standard in intelligence gathering”, thus giving the government absolute powers to monitor private communications and access personal information. The United States Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 has done that to ensure airtight surveillance of terrorists. One has to note that in a country almost fanatic about privacy and related issues - with constitutional safeguards for individual liberties - the passage of the US Anti-Terrorism Act 2001 was possible due to overbearing and extraordinary circumstances.
Consultation between political parties across the broad spectrum and resultant consensus on counter-terrorism strategies assumes heightened significance. This is because a subject that affects every single citizen perhaps provides the executive a permanent alternative to the existing penal and criminal procedure code. Even infringes on the right to information must necessarily be accompanied by a wider public debate. The inclusion of the country's entire political spectrum in the anti-terrorist initiative is perhaps the best way to end the turf war that has often marked the executive-judiciary relationship over the issue of special powers and where the judiciary's writ ends and the executive's begin.
In view of incidents over the last two months, it appears that the terrorist attacks form part of a consistent pattern of violent terrorist action, instead of isolated or sporadic action. Therefore, the appropriate step now is to have the conditions for self-defense met. For individual self-defense, the State has to be directly affected. The use of force has to be necessary and proportional to the terrorist attack.
Whatever might be the strategy, at the operational level, it might be impossible to measure the degree of seriousness of an armed strike or to judge the degree of consistency of terrorist strikes or assess, for that matter, how much action is “proportional” to balance the attack. One has to appreciate that the rules of war cannot always be applied to terrorism.
Our strategy should be such that enables the framing of administrative and legal measures which would make all acts of terrorism for political purposes unjustifiable; such arrangements would be “irrespective of the considerations, political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other” that may be invoked to justify terrorist actions.
Experience indicates that the main obstacle to dealing with terrorists in ordinary courts was the intimidation of judicial officers and witnesses by the terrorist organisations. Therefore, to deal specifically with terrorism, the required adjudication may take place outside the purview of ordinary criminal law. 
In dealing effectively with the terrorists, the transgression of individual rights, at times, would be a necessary compromise that citizens would have to be willing to accept in the interest of durable peace. Counter-terrorism measures would necessitate some loss of liberty and human freedom. Our strategy has to ensure that the security forces have every assistance in their task of bringing terrorists before the court and that the integrity of the legal system is maintained.
While proscription could be a significant feature of our counter-terrorism strategy, we could perhaps allow the lawful use of interception as an investigative tool. We could also make use of evidence gathered through such interception admissible as evidence in courtrooms across the country.
Finally, we cannot possibly countenance a situation where all human rights are reserved for terrorists, while governments dealing with the menace are arraigned continuously on grounds of violation of human rights – real or imaginary. What is desirable is perhaps the need to delineate the parameters that harmonise the defense of constitutional values with respect for human rights.  

STRANGER THAN FICTION Politics, terrorism, and the state of denial

by Taj Hashmi

Terrorism has re-emerged in Bangladesh – this time, with more vigour! For the first time ever, Bangladesh experienced suicide bombing in a mosque. On December 25, a terrorist blew himself up and injured a few people during the Jumma prayer inside an Ahmadiyya mosque at Bagmara in Rajshahi district. As per media reports, the dead terrorist was a member of the proscribed terrorist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), purportedly linked with the Middle East-based Islamic State (ISIS).
However, after going through about a dozen leading Bangladeshi newspapers since December 26, I'm disappointed by the sketchy, scanty and half-hearted coverage of this devastating news. Only a couple of analysts have shed any light on the grave danger. The state of apathy about the first suicide attack in the country makes it seem that suicide terrorism isn't that different from any other violent crime the country experiences every day! 
There might be “international instigation” (as suggested by top leaders of the country) behind the resurgence of terror in Bangladesh, but as proven in the past, indigenous terror outfits – the JMB and HUJI (B) – can be as deadly. I believe there's no room for any complacency about terrorism having no place in Bangladesh because it's “not another Pakistan or Afghanistan” or because “Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians fought together to liberate this country”. No country is immune to terrorism, and you don't need foreign hands to stir it up.
Unfortunately, it hasn't yet dawned on our leaders and analysts that suicide terrorism may signal the beginning of the end of any semblance of stability, peace and order in the country. Contrary to the layman's understanding of suicide terrorism, as famous terrorism experts (including Robert Pepe) have argued, “dying to kill others” is a “rational” behaviour. Conversely, there is nothing rational about being smug and denying the unpleasant truth about the existence of indigenous terror groups in Bangladesh. I'm afraid that this overconfidence and denial of the reality might eventually backfire. 
While complacency and the state of denial are counterproductive to effective counterterrorism, so is the prevalent politics of hate, mistrust and acrimony. Heightened political polarisation in Bangladesh has further aggravated the situation to the extreme. Thus, a fractured Bangladesh is least prepared to tackle terrorism. It's not the time to relax and engage in acrimonious politics – as Bangladeshis are doing – just because the police have arrested some JMB terrorists, effectively unearthed some terrorist dens, and confiscated deadly weapons from different parts of the country. We must not forget that law-enforcers aren't the only and most effective antidotes to terror. Terrorism is very different from crime, and isn't a typical law-and-order problem. 
Unbelievably, when there was no credible terrorist threat in the country, we heard people who cried wolf about “impending” terrorist threats that first originated within, and then travelled beyond, Bangladesh. So much so that in March 2000, when President Clinton visited Bangladesh, he cancelled his road trip to the outskirts of Dhaka, to stay away from “potential” Islamist terror attack on his motorcade. And of late, we hear there are no terrorists in the country, that only opposition activists resort to terrorism. Despite local and international security analysts'/ intelligence agencies' cautionary advice, the government seems to have remained in a state of denial, too complacent to take any Islamist terror threat seriously. 
While Islamist terrorists have re-emerged recently, killing bloggers, writers, foreign nationals and Shias, and attacking an Ahmadiyya mosque, with impunity, one wonders how leaders, intellectuals, and ordinary people in Bangladesh can afford to waste time and energy in partisan politics! In less than a year of independence, various factors polarised Bangladeshis between the supporters and opponents of the ruling Awami League party. However, the country was never as fractured and polarised as it's today, since the controversial parliamentary elections of January 5, 2014.
Had this polarisation been only political, due to ideological differences between the followers of the two major political parties – Awami League and BNP (and their allies) – there would have been nothing extra-ordinary or worrisome to take notice of, at all. Leaders of both the groups portray their political rivals – sworn enemies seems to be the right expression – as “liars”, “killers” and “anti-Liberation” people. In view of the above, it seems that ending the various “never ending stories” in Bangladesh is more important than getting united against terrorism! 
One may raise the recent controversy over a statement by Khaleda Zia, the main opposition leader, in this regard. Pro-ruling party leaders, intellectuals, students and others are demanding her trial, and even expulsion from the country, for merely asserting: “There is still a controversy about the exact number of people martyred in the Liberation War”.  While the Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee has asked for a law to make challenging the Liberation War facts a criminal offence, a metropolitan magistrate in Dhaka ordered probe over Khaleda's “sedition charge”, and a former Supreme Court Justice said Khaleda had insulted the Liberation War, which “is tantamount to sedition”.
Unfortunately, people in Bangladesh hear only very sketchy, partisan, doctored and incomplete accounts of major upheavals in Bangladesh. There's hardly any consensus on any man-made disaster that befell this country since 1971, including killing of politicians, intellectuals, military officers and ordinary people. Rumours and conspiracy theories abound. The lack of mutual trust and respect between politicians, and the non-existing transparency and accountability of government machinery have not only stalled democratic transition since independence, but are also responsible for bad governance, violent crimes, and terrorism.

We may agree with a recent piece on Bangladesh in the 
Foreign Policy magazine (“Why the Extremist Threat in Bangladesh Needs to be taken Seriously”, November 7, 2015), which is instructive and illuminating. We can't agree more with the article that partisan politics is at the root of Islamist terrorism in the country: “Political polarisation between the ruling Awami League government and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party is creating space for the rise of Islamist extremism in Bangladesh.” We believe over-polarisation of the over-populated polity and the zero-sum game of politics in Bangladesh – where the winner takes all – contribute to the rise of dysfunctional governance, terrorism and anarchy. And politicians' tendency to put down others, lie, hide the truth, and deny the reality has further aggravated the situation.

It's time that Bangladesh learns how to foster a bi-partisan political culture from advanced democracies. Before denigrating political rivals as enemies and traitors, Bangladeshi politicians must know as to how even relatively partisan Americans (among people in the West) respect political opponents. President George H.W. Bush is said to have told his son that despite their mutual differences, both the Republicans and Democrats were patriotic and that only their ways of running the country were different. During his election campaign in 2012, Republican Mitt Romney went overboard in praise of rival Democrats: “Democrats are more patriotic than Republicans”. 
In sum, instead of putting down political rivals as killers and traitors, if politicians in Bangladesh could respect each other – at least for the sake of showing respect to the millions of voters who elect their political rivals to power – the country would become more livable, democratic and free from any terrorist threat. Partisan, unaccountable and corrupt political system is at the root of terrorism and anarchy. Long-drawn-out terrorism has the potentials to retard growth and progress, and destroy whatever the country has achieved in the last four decades.

The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University. Sage has recently published his latest book, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

KNOT SO TRUE The South Asian Tic-Tac-Toe

by Rubana Huq

It took me ten hours to reach Islamabad from Dhaka via Bangkok. Other options available were via Doha and similar other places. A journey that could have taken only four hours ended up being almost 12. On the 13th hour, after crossing five security checkpoints, and reaching the hotel, I received a text on my phone on February 1 from my children. The text read: “So worried for you. Are you safe?” My safety has never been an issue. The question of being insecure even in the farthest corner of the globe is not applicable here in my case. But then again, I was in 'Islamabad' when I got the SMS. A Bangladeshi diplomat had just been released in Islamabad after he went missing and this had made breaking news. The report also read that this was perhaps done in retaliation. A Pakistan High Commission staff Abrar Ahmed Khan was detained at our end for his “suspicious movement”; therefore, this led Islamabad to retaliate and pick up Jahangir Hossain, personal officer of the press wing at Bangladesh High Commission. This is certainly news and does not make a great story, especially at a time when a few of us were attending a South Asian meeting in Pakistan to focus on economic collaboration. At a time when trust was the most critical issue amongst the South Asian countries, for all of us there, it was imperative to say our stories with utmost candour. Therefore news of this nature shook us up to a certain extent, especially when none of us wanted to broach the subject and risk a diplomatic failure. As recent chronology would have it, Pakistan High Commissioner Shuja Alam was summoned by us on February 2, and then Bangladesh High Commissioner Suhrab Hossain ended up being summoned to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry only 48 hours ago. While Fareena Arshad of Pakistan High Commission had to leave Dhaka in December, the Bangladeshi diplomat Moushumi Rahman was asked to leave Pakistan, right after, on January 5 on a 48-hour notice. This is somewhat an old South Asian story.
In reality, South Asia remains a hostage to all these strategic sub-regional 'tic-tac-toe'. And common people like us wonder whether we are losing out on the regional fast track route, just because we don't know any better and just because   the inner fears of a South Asian often hover around the lines of alignment with only two states, India and Pakistan. These sub regional tensions often prompt silence or indifference. And at the end, many a truth cannot be shared, uttered or even whispered in circles sensitive to diplomacy. However, a few episodes must be aired without fear or obstruction…So here we are.
Strangely the intra-South Asian trade has dipped to 4 percent in 2015. While Modi rigorously tweets about South Asian oneness and names prosperity for all in the region as his vision, while inaugurating the South Asian Games, the rest of South Asia wonders whether any of what he says will ever dispel the fear psychosis that many of us have on being overwhelmed by our big neighbour. The regional irritants, namely bureaucracy, non-standardisation and mindsets, have often resulted in a few negative issues, including the decline in trade. But then there are so many more channels in between the Pakistani and the Indian traders, including Dubai and Singapore. Who could stop trade there? In fact, who even counted? Who could ever stop the trading in the eight border haats that lie in between Bangladesh and India? Who could ever stop the flow of people? Who could ever stop Pakistanis from watching Indian movies and who could ever stop Indians from buying Pakistani shalwar kameez? Absolutely no one.
Yet, the intra-regional trade in 2013-2014 has been 460 million, a full 100 million lesser than the year before. With India formally importing $460 billion and Bangladesh only $460 million, which is 1/10th of 1 percent, isn't there unimaginable potential that exists between the two countries that need to be taken into consideration before we resort to our usual rhetoric of our over-dependence on India? With a huge region to export to, one wonders how Bangladesh only exported $456 million to India, only when the total Bangladeshi export totalled $30 billion, with only 1.9 percent being exported to SAARC, whereas Bangladeshi export to EU was 54 percent, North America 24 percent, rest of Asia 11 percent and to the rest of the world 9 percent.  On another note, Bangladesh imported only 17 percent of its total import from SAARC while the rest 83 percent came from the other regions of the world. Centre for Policy Dialogue reports that only 10 percent reduction in trade related documentation will lead to 7 percent increase in bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh. In reality, there are hard infrastructure issues and soft regulatory issues that dampen the South Asian landscape. But what stands undeterred is the will of the people who make and break barriers, and disallow Felanis being stitched to the fence.
Towards the end of my first evening in Islamabad, I strolled into the malls to check out the products. The very first hushed whisper caught my attention: “Ahhh, Bangladeshi! Aaah Jamdani!” I loved the feeling. It was a warm one, after a long, long time. As a seven year old in 1971, I had never thought that there would be a day when I would be able to freely visit Pakistan and cover my wounds. To be honest, the wound is still very sore and beyond healing, but every time I looked at a young Pakistani, I failed to connect her to what “they” had done to us 44 years ago. I guess that's where the new South Asian conscience needs to emerge, way beyond the burdening historical hurt.

The writer is Managing Director, Mohammadi Group.