Country Listing

Bangladesh Table of Contents


Aid-to-Civil Roles


Jawan on a civilian relief operation
Courtesy Bangladesh Ministry of Information

The armed forces back up local authorities in maintaining public order and ensuring internal security. An "aid-to-the-civil- power" function, based on the British colonial code, was used extensively during the united Pakistan era and has been employed by civilian and military governments since 1971.

Military deployments in aid-to-civil roles fall into three categories. The first and most pervasive use of the military is to assist local authorities and police in putting down riots and conducting counterinsurgency operations. Following the British pattern, the military is customarily used only as the "force of last resort" in domestic peacekeeping because it is not trained in routine police functions, such as crowd control. Ordering troops to use force against their own countrymen, moreover, invites public criticism of the armed forces, tarnishes their image as the "defenders of the nation," and undermines military morale. For these reasons, Bangladeshi authorities have traditionally preferred to rely on police and paramilitary forces to quell disturbances. Nevertheless, Bangladeshi regimes have occasionally resorted to using the military for domestic peacekeeping, sometimes for extended periods. Although the army ordinarily bears the heaviest burden in aid-to-civil operations, the air force and navy can also be called on to transport troops to the scene of a disturbance or to patrol areas near ports or air bases.

The military's second aid-to-civil mission entails running essential services or industries whenever public sector employees stage a strike. The military performed this function in the latter half of 1987 when opposition political parties staged a series of general strikes and work stoppages to pressure Ershad to resign. To keep the country running, the military took over a variety of civilian duties, such as managing port facilities, airports, and power plants (see More Opposition Pressure , ch. 4).

A third aid-to-civil mission--the only one the military willingly performs--is disaster relief. Bangladesh has suffered repeated natural calamities which caused thousands of deaths and displaced millions of citizens (see Climate , ch. 2). The military is routinely called upon to transport food and medicine to refugees, as they did during the 1987 and 1988 monsoon floods that inundated more than 50 percent and 66 percent of the country, respectively. The military, however, does not usually perform socalled "civic action" duties, such as building roads, canals, and dams. Following the British pattern of civil-military relations, the Bangladesh armed forces prefer to engage in these activities only when they directly support the military's national defense mission or during extreme emergencies.

Data as of September 1988