Bangladesh Table of Contents
According to senior Bangladeshi commanders in the late 1980s, the military was the only institution capable of providing the nation with honest and efficient administration. In their view, civilian politicians were obsessed with settling political scores, undercutting the influence of the armed forces, and downplaying the military's role in leading the nation to victory in 1971. Moreover, most officers regarded politicians as hopelessly corrupt and incapable of creating confidence in the government's capacity to make the best use of vitally needed foreign assistance. The military disregarded suggestions made by the opposition to curtail its power, such as the formation of a "people's army," the outright abolition of the military, or various constitutional provisions that would circumscribe the military's political influence.
Many Bangladeshi officers asserted that they would prefer to limit their role in administering the country and concentrate on their traditional role of maintaining defense preparedness. They feared, however, that if the military were not in a position to safeguard the national interest, a government controlled by the opposition would mortgage the country's future and, conceivably, destroy the armed forces. Civilian political leaders did not reassure the military on this score. For instance, Begum Khaleda Zia, the widow of Ziaur Rahman and the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has called on freedom fighters in the armed forces to take matters into their own hands and join with her party in ousting Ershad. Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Mujib and the head of the Awami League, has campaigned against "corrupt generals" and threatened to reduce the army to an internal police force if she came to power. Faced with these kinds of threats, the military has consistently supported Ershad's cautious program of retaining the army's watchdog political role in a nominally civilian government.
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Scholarly works on the role of the military in Bangladeshi society include Ashish Kumar Roy's Nation Building and the Army in Bangladesh and journalist Anthony Mascarenhas's Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood. "Bangladesh in the Early 1980s: Praetorian Politics in an Intermediate Regime" by Peter J. Bertocci and "Politicization of the Bangladesh Military: A Response to Perceived Shortcomings of Civilian Government" by Zillur R. Khan also provide useful insights. Basic information on personnel strengths, organization, and weapons can be found in the annual Military Balance. Craig Baxter's Bangladesh: A New Nation in an Old Setting is particularly useful.
There is a rich literature dealing with the organizational history of the Bangladesh military. Included among these are Stephen P. Cohen's The Indian Army and The Pakistan Army, Rounaq Jahan's Pakistan: Failure in National Integration, and Subrata Roy Chowdhury's The Genesis of Bangladesh. Details of the internal security problems during the first years of independence are found in Talukder Maniruzzaman's article "Bangladesh: An Unfinished Revolution?" The Hoover Institution's Yearbook on International Communist Affairs is also a useful source on left-wing political violence in Bangladesh.
Censorship restrictions make the coverage of military affairs in the Bangladeshi press less than enlightening. The Englishlanguage Bangladesh Observer and the Illustrated Weekly of Bangladesh are useful. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service's Daily Report: Near East and South Asia and the weekly Far Eastern Economic Review are probably the best resources for military affairs. Although the Bangladeshi armed forces journal Senani is accessible only to those who read Bangla, it contains useful photographs of senior officers, weapons systems, and military installations. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of September 1988
Bangladesh Table of Contents