Bangladesh Table of Contents
Under the Constitution, promulgated in 1972, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces (see Constitution , ch. 4). The services are divided into the army, navy, and air force. In theory, the three service chiefs are coequals in the national command structure; in practice, the army dominates the defense establishment because of its imposing size and its historic role in monitoring or commandeering the political process. In mid-1988 the army constituted 88 percent of the nation's service personnel; the navy and air force accounted for only 7 and 5 percent, respectively.
In mid-1988, each service maintained separate headquarters and was solely responsible for its own training and recruitment programs. There was no joint-service command element to promote interservice cooperation and combined-arms operations. Historically, command-and-control arrangements at the national level have been dominated by the army chief of staff (a lieutenant general; see; table 18, Appendix A). In the past, coup leaders such as Zia and Ershad consolidated control over the country by assuming the powers of the army chief of staff, the president, and the extraconstitutional position of chief martial law administrator. During periods of direct military rule, the navy and air force chiefs of staff (rear admiral or major, general respectively) served as deputy chief martial law administrators, subordinate to the army chief of staff strongman. In the absence of a formal interservice command structure, the cohesion of the Bangladeshi military depends on informal, shifting alliances among senior commanders, most notably within the inner circle of army generals who command the country's six divisions. The military chain of command has broken down on numerous occasions and at every level of command since the country achieved independence in 1971 (see Postindependence Period , this ch.).
Following the British pattern, there is a Ministry of Defence, which is technically responsible for overseeing the military. Even though the Ministry of Defence bureaucracy is predominantly civilian, the military exerts substantial influence over its operations. After seizing power in March 1982, President Ershad followed the practice of his military predecessors by reserving the Ministry of Defence cabinet portfolio for himself. Through the appointment of military retirees and active-duty officers to the Ministry of Defence the military indirectly controls the ministry. Parliament is constitutionally responsible for working with the president and the service chiefs in ensuring the nation's defense. In practice, however, members of Parliament have never played a significant role in either national defense planning or defense budgeting.
The administration of military justice and the military court system is based on three separate but substantively similar service laws that were framed during the united Pakistan era. These laws, in turn, were modifications of British military justice codes, such as the Indian Army Act of 1911. The operative Bangladeshi laws include the Army Act of 1954, the Air Force Act of 1957, and the Navy Ordinance of 1961. These statutes, as amended since their enactment and modified in terminology by Bangladesh, are administered by the respective services. The nomenclature and composition of military courts varies slightly according to service, but court procedures, types of offenses, scales of punishment, jurisdictional authority, appeal and review procedures, and procedures for commutation and suspension of sentences are almost identical for all the services. The military justice system is used for the military in war and peace and is separate from the functions of military personnel acting as civil administrators during periods of martial law.
Data as of September 1988
Bangladesh Table of Contents