No military takeover, assures Bangladesh Army chief


Dhaka : There is no prospect of a military takeover in Bangladesh, its army chief has assured, saying the interim government was preparing for elections as early as possible.

Support TwoCircles

The army chief, Lt Gen Moeen U. Ahmed, Wednesday said a takeover by the military or their getting involved in politics was out of the question as the army was "not the proper institution" to run a government.

If the army wanted to take power, it could have done so during the chaotic period following Oct 28 last year when there were many such occasions, he told a group of editors.

He also said if the Jan 22 elections had been held, there would have been a civil war-like situation and Bangladesh would have faced a situation similar to that of Somalia.

"But we have resisted all temptations because we do not want to be involved in politics or run the government…The army is not the proper institution for governing the country," Ahmed was quoted as saying by The Daily Star.

He termed the armed forces "subservient" to the civil authority – the caretaker government at present – and they have only acted in aid of the civil government as they had done many times in the past.

On a personal note, the general said, "I have no intention or ambition to be in politics or go beyond my role as the army chief. I am looking forward to my retirement and leading a life as an ordinary Bangladeshi citizen…I may be involved in some sort of social work."

On press freedom, the army chief said if there have been cases of intervention in matters of the press, they have been more of an aberration than rule.

"Junior officers carried out such incidents not acting on the basis of our policies," he said, assuring that the media would remain free to pursue its professional work without interference.

Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed's interim government that took office Jan 12, imposed a national emergency and cancelled the Jan 22 general elections, has been widely perceived, both at home and abroad as being "military-backed" and "military-guided".

The international community was concerned when the government made abortive attempts to exile the two former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina's return home after a tour was prevented briefly, while Zia was widely believed to have struck a 'deal' that would give her and most of the family members a safe passage to Saudi Arabia. However, she prevaricated and later backed out when the Saudi government – after being told that she was being 'forced' – declined to issue visas to the Zia family.

Ahmed, who has been outspoken in his criticism of past democratic regimes for being inefficient and corrupt, said: "We would like to see a competent, honest and committed leadership to run the country in future."

He has been vocally supportive of the drive against crime, corruption and religious extremism being carried out by the government wherein thousands have been jailed and are being prosecuted.

These operations have been variously described in the media as being led by "joint forces" or being "army-led", underlining the leading role of the military and the paramilitary personnel in assisting the police and in the investigations.