Elections were to be held in Bangladesh in late 2008 under a newly formed caretaker government. But before the transfer of power to the caretaker government, there was a sharp rift between the ruling party and the opposition over the appointment of the caretaker government's chief adviser and chief election commissioner and the updating of the voter list. The two who were supposed to be the chief advisers, and who were appointed as the chief election commissioners, were evaluated by the opposition, who were very close to the ruling party; They are not neutral or independent enough to make fair and neutral elections. Thus, they should be replaced by an acceptable person to both parties. But the ruling party has refused to make any concessions acceptable to the opposition and its allies on these issues. Due to this, the opposition party and its allies started protesting. Clashes between law enforcement forces and activists of the two parties continued. These conflicts sometimes become violent. This threatens to disrupt normal life, including economic activities.
However, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is determined to hold the elections according to the pre-determined schedule. A caretaker government was formed. The president, appointed by the ruling party, also took on the role of chief adviser to the caretaker government. The work of the election ceremony continues. On December 9, 2008, the President deployed armed forces to assist the civilian administration in maintaining law and order. On January 3, 2008, the main opposition party and its allies announced that they would not run in the by-elections if their demands were not met, and that protests would continue across the country.
In this situation, it was possible to select only by force. If the opposition wanted to disrupt the election, it could only do so by force, even by using military force. On January 10, 2008, the military was given the power to arrest and detain without warrant anyone who tried to disrupt the election or voting process. In other words, the responsibility of conducting the election was clearly handed over to the army so that the election results could be brought in favor of the government.
Throughout the last few months of 2006, major powers such as the United States and the European Union, as well as senior officials from those countries visiting Bangladesh, have repeatedly called for an agreement. They held one meeting after another with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Efforts to reach an agreement between them did not work. At the same time, the UN Secretary General expressed his concern over the current situation and called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
However, Khaleda Zia was not in the mood to bow to the pressure of donors. Donors could have cut off aid for logical reasons if economic life had stalled before and after the election. These countries were not just major bilateral donors; They also have the power to influence the decisions of multilateral organizations, which are the most important source of external assistance to Bangladesh. It is noteworthy that despite Bangladesh's heavy reliance on foreign aid, Khaleda Zia decided to resist or ignore the direct pressure from donors. However, there remained a latent threat to cut off donor aid.
As Khaleda Zia has seen in past experience, the legitimacy of the governments that have come to power in the past through military coups has not made it difficult for donors to maintain normal relations with them. Khaleda Zia may have thought that there was no reason for donors to treat her government differently if her civilian government came to power through controlled elections in the absence of the opposition and with the help of the military. That can be assumed. He firmly believed that he had the unconditional support of the country's military authorities and that they were loyal to him. The high-ranking officials of the army were appointed by him in his time.
Moreover, Khaleda Zia may have thought that the international community has a positive attitude towards her. He represents an unadulterated Western and conservative party with no direct precedent for Islamic militancy or leftist thinking. After all, he is well-liked by conservative governments in the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia. These Arab governments are close allies of Western democracies (the United States and the European Union, for example). So, donors can stop helping, which he did not sincerely believe.
The worst case scenario was that the flow of aid was reduced for a short period of time. Donors inevitably had to reconsider this decision. Because, just because the style of conducting elections is not desirable, there would be a lot of pressure on them not to deprive a poor country like Bangladesh of assistance. The policy of punishing the deprived people of poor countries by stopping aid for the dictatorial misdeeds of the rulers has not gained much popularity in the past in Western democracies.
However, humanitarian assistance, which is mainly for the benefit of the poor, such as social security programs, was less likely to be stopped by donors. Adequate internal resources were created in Bangladesh to meet the urgent running costs of the public sector. On the one hand, there was a strong reliance on foreign aid for short-term development expenditure, and on the other hand, accumulated short-term aid was controlled by the government.
At this stage, it is pertinent to raise the question of why the donor community was so keen on putting pressure on the military to intervene to end the political stalemate and violence if it failed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Why are donors so interested in this political turmoil that they have to actively intervene? Many countries of the world are going through such a crisis. Donors do not seem to be interfering everywhere. Some of the reasons for donor intervention in Bangladesh can be considered:
First, political conflict and consequent socio-economic instability will seriously hamper the development of a very poor country, and thus make the poverty situation even more deplorable. If the situation of a country with a population of more than 150 million in South Asia is fragile, it will not be conducive to peace and stability in the region or in the region. In addition, this situation will jeopardize donor development assistance programs. There is an institutional interest in providing assistance to influential donors and individuals in donor countries. They want to see political and economic stability in this regard.
Second, an alternative but related reason is that the circle of Islamic countries from Pakistan to Malaysia to Indonesia is also within the perimeter of that circle. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border region can be called the epicenter of extremist Islamic ideology. There are (a) a large number of Islamic schools, which regularly receive a lot of resources from the Gulf countries. Rumor has it that most of these institutes introduce extremist ideology, and (b) they have a number of training centers to teach terrorist tactics, where members are recruited from many countries. Due to the region's close ties with Bangladesh, if the country falls into political turmoil and subsequent socio-economic instability, the risk of extremist ideology spreading from the region increases and Bangladesh can act as a roadblock for the rise of extremist groups in Southeast Asian countries. A number of violent groups have already been identified in Bangladesh and neighboring countries.
Third, a number of Maoist groups are active in the northern Indian states of Bangladesh and separatist groups in the northeastern states of India. They are continuing the political movement against the central government of India. If the state apparatus becomes fragile due to instability in Bangladesh, the scope of activities of these groups may become wider and the supply of arms and ammunition required for their struggle may be easily matched. The situation that could arise if all the elements described here come together would threaten the peace and stability of South and Southeast Asia — a major concern for the rest of the world, including the developed world and the West. They have far-reaching and extensive trade and investment interests in Asia.
UN peacekeeping intervention
The only effective way to put pressure on the major powers or donors in this situation was to target his most vulnerable place, the support of the military. The only advantage of donors over the military was the fear of losing the opportunity to participate in UN peacekeeping missions. These missions were highly enticing to the Army for the high status and economic gain of working in these missions.
In the last few years, Bangladesh's participation in UN peacekeeping missions has been highly praised at home and abroad. Participating in such missions has not only enhanced the prestige of the Bangladesh Army abroad, but has also helped them to broaden their experience in interactions with different societies and cultures and to become acquainted with the traditions and practices of different countries' armies. Moreover, the participating army members have been able to earn a significant amount of extra income. In turn, many army and army officers have taken part in such missions (see attachment table).
What is the evidence that the UN peacekeeping mission has put such pressure on the government? Many reports and rumors have been published in the press in this regard, which have not been acknowledged or protested by the concerned parties, especially the United Nations.2 Some time ago, in a debate in the National Assembly, some ruling party MPs accused the UN . They said it was done using the Dhaka office of the United Nations
The only reliable report published in this regard is the autobiography of the army chief.4 There he describes two incidents: In one, the governments of important donor countries met with the army chief and said that if the army assisted in holding elections in Bangladesh at that time Will request to reconsider or prohibit the taking of troops. The second incident he mentioned happened on January 10, when Jean-Marie Jihenno, the under-secretary of the peacekeeping mission, asked the army chief to accept the same unavoidable condition, meaning that the Bangladesh Army's participation in the peacekeeping operation would be jeopardized if the army assisted in the election. These statements by the Chief of Army Staff have never been accepted or protested by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Without it, such an intervention by Jean-Marie Jihenno, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, could not have taken place without the consent of the Secretary-General.
Boycotting opposition parties and holding elections that were unacceptable to them posed a major threat to political unrest and instability. Given the role of the military in internal political developments such as assisting the caretaker government in such an election, the question arises as to whether the UN peacekeeping mission does not have the authority to do so, or whether it has the authority to do so. . It is not possible to come to a conclusion on this question based on what is known about the UN peacekeeping operations from outside or from published documents. However, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, decides to send peacekeepers to any place or country where there is a problem of conflict or civil war. The General Assembly also approved the membership of the peacekeeping mission and the necessary resources. Once approved, the implementation of these decisions is left to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The department was tasked with recruiting a sufficient number of members for the peacekeeping force and forming forces by recruiting troops from countries interested in sending troops to these activities.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has invited UN member states to send troops to Afghanistan. Only a member state can decide whether or not to send troops, and even if so, how many. The department decides how many troops a country needs in peacekeeping operations and in which areas troops need skills and special knowledge to work in peacekeeping missions. However, it is also understandable that even if a country wants to send troops, it may not be able to meet the required qualifications due to the lack of skills, capabilities and experience of that country's armed forces.
And not all countries want to send troops. In fact, the demand for troops in UN peacekeeping missions has increased significantly in the last few years. The United Nations has repeatedly faced difficulties in mobilizing the required number of troops. Take 2006, for example. The difference between the approved and deployed army members that year was 18,000. The number of troops deployed was 6 thousand. In November 2008, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicated that it would approach major military suppliers such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan if faced with the challenge of a shortage of troops. These countries have been deploying large numbers of UN peacekeepers since 1998.
Thus, in light of this, it seems that the UN Secretary-General (and his Under-Secretary-General) does not need any approval from the General Assembly or the Security Council for such work. Because, from what is known about the UN peacekeeping operations, it seems that all such UN organizations are not involved in the decision-making or selection process of how many troops a country will contribute to the peacekeeping operations. It is a matter between the countries that send troops and the UN Secretariat, that is, the Office of the Secretary-General. The Office of the Secretary-General relies heavily on a number of important donors for funding peacekeeping operations. So these countries have to be under effective pressure
As the UN Under-Secretary-General set a deadline for the army chief, according to the army chief's confession, he thought deeply about the various paths open to him. On the one hand, he could have used force to assist the government in the election process, which in turn could have deprived the military of the opportunity to participate in UN missions. On the other hand, he could have interfered in changing the nature and structure of the interim government, which would have postponed the election.
According to the army chief, army officers at all levels are looking forward to the opportunity to take part in UN peacekeeping missions. From here, members of the armed forces can make up for the shortfall in their meager salaries and benefits from the government by earning large sums of money. According to him, if this opportunity was missed, there would be widespread discontent among the general army and the discipline would be endangered or broken, just as discipline within the armed forces had broken down in late 1975. The opportunity to join the peacekeeping force was essential to motivate the armed forces and keep their morale high. Considering all this, the army chief came to the conclusion that he had no choice but to do something
It is not clear from the description of the Chief of Army Staff whether the donors specified the nature of the intervention. According to his account, there were two ways for him to intervene. One is to suspend the constitution as in 1975 and 1972 and impose martial law and establish a full-fledged army government. The other was that the army could do something within the formal limits of the constitution or within the disguise of the constitution and could persuade or persuade the president to declare a state of emergency under his authority. In this case, the government was made up of civilians chosen by the army; They ran the administration with the help and patronage of the army, so that the army could remain the source of all decision-making and all power. In this situation, the presence of the army in charge of day-to-day administrative work was not visible; Its stated objective was to hold elections in the shortest possible time and to re-establish the parliamentary democratic process. Rumors were heard that, although a section of the military wanted, donors opposed the suspension of the constitution and the imposition of martial law. However, the autobiography of the army chief did not shed any light on this issue. Failure to agree within the military to take power directly or openly by imposing martial law, or opposition from donors, for whatever reason, ultimately leads to an indirect path.
The military appointed an interim civilian government, which will conduct an election under the supervision of the Election Commission, after making changes to electoral laws and regulations and preparing new voter lists.
Army and UN peacekeeping missions — some questions
In light of the above analysis, two pertinent questions may arise: Are the total salaries and allowances paid to the members of the army insufficient for recruitment into the army and running a contented and vibrant army? In the opinion of the army chief, then the only recourse is the opportunity of additional income from peacekeeping activities? In this context some more questions may be raised. When the Bangladesh Army had no participation in peacekeeping missions till the end of the eighties of the last century, what was the state of enthusiasm and morale in the army? 9 Was the salary of the Bangladesh Army inadequate at that time? Were they deprived? And was the army angry or unhappy then? Or were they fairly satisfied but later on, after enjoying the opportunity of extra income through peacekeeping missions, they became accustomed to it and began to consider it as a part of their expected income? It became a matter of increased expectation rather than a necessary or vital incentive. So, it was very unexpected that the fear of blocking the path of peacekeeping missions to keep the army happy and satisfied became such a serious matter.
However, the armies of many poor countries do not join UN peacekeeping missions or even if they do, their participation is very limited. It will be interesting to see how they have been able to come up with an incentive framework for the military that will allow them to maintain a satisfied army with sufficient morale to fight.
The total salary and allowance of the members of the armed forces of our country is less than the members of the armed forces of other countries — this argument is not relevant here. This argument applies to all public sector employees in Bangladesh. Whether it is a military or civilian administration, the salaries and allowances of its members depend on the level of income of the country and the availability of resources to meet all government expenses.
In this context, one can consider that the salaries and allowances of the members of the armed forces are more or less in Bangladesh than in developed or developing countries, subject to all other government service sectors or administrations. What does it mean to compare the salaries and allowances of 10 members of the civil administration or law enforcement and BDR with their salaries and allowances? People with a good understanding of these issues are convinced that the privileges they receive as members of the military in purchasing health care, education, housing and other facilities, such as consumer goods and other household items, are far greater than those in civil administration. No information about the total salaries and allowances of the army personnel with various benefits is easily available in the social sphere.
It has been suggested that it is not correct to compare the salaries and allowances of the armed forces with the salaries and allowances of the civil administration. After all, civilian officials can make up for their shortfalls through corruption and bribery, but the armed forces have no such opportunity. In this case, it can be argued that the process of purchasing equipment and weapons and supplies in the defense sector is not free from corruption. In fact, a study conducted by Transparency International around the world has shown that corruption in the defense sector is very high. Because, such work happens a lot more behind the scenes and in an opaque process. This trading market is not very competitive. Such agreements are usually made with the governments of the two countries or with a government and a large multinational defense contractor and equipment manufacturer. However, the probability of corruption in the purchase of defense equipment and insecurity of the armed forces is primarily for senior officials in the armed forces, where officials at all levels are considered to be the beneficiaries of corruption in the civil administration.
There is a strong belief that envy and resentment among government sector workers, including those in other defense-related sectors, is due to the fact that other public sector employees (to some extent police officers also do not have the opportunity to gain economic benefits by participating in peacekeeping missions). One of the reasons for their dissatisfaction with the recent Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) insurgency was the lack of opportunity to participate in UN peacekeeping missions. Although they had the ability to work in the UN mission or enough training or it was possible to get such training.
Above all, it is unthinkable that in the coming days there will be an opportunity to participate in regular UN peacekeeping missions. What will happen in the future if the chances of participating in peacekeeping missions are reduced or completely shut down for some reason unrelated to the internal affairs of Bangladesh?
For example, in 2009 about 10,000 troops joined these missions; If the total number of army members in the country is about one lakh 50 thousand, then that number is about 6 percent of the total army members. This is not the case with Pakistan or India. Their troop numbers in peacekeeping missions are slightly larger than ours. But the armies of both the countries are much bigger than Bangladesh in terms of size
After all, the involvement of a large part of the armed forces in peacekeeping missions means that at any given moment, the size of the usable force is virtually less than the expected capacity. As such, the country's defense needs are exposed. On the other hand, it can be said that the size of the army is larger than the size of the army that is essential for defense.
In this case, if the total salary-allowance is considered insufficient to support an army of good morale, then the matter should be discussed in a coordinated and systematic manner. In order to increase the salaries and allowances of the army members, either the total defense expenditure has to be increased or the size of the army has to be reduced to keep the expenditure unchanged. The exact size of the army must be determined in light of a country's defense needs and resources. Again, the size of the right army to meet the demand for defense depends on the characteristics of the external threat, what kind of activities it can engage in, and the characteristics and capabilities of the country from which it has to defend. The country's defense needs include deterring the threat of internal subversive activities by extremist groups and providing protection against such activities. Extremist groups are now heavily armed, and their subversive activities have been on the rise in recent times. There are various ways to question the size and composition of the army to meet different types of security needs. Properly assessing security needs is essential and ultimately a matter of political decision. This is because the question of alternative use of insufficient resources due to the government is involved.
The significance of participating in UN missions in domestic politics
If peacekeeping missions are so important to the military, and if their participation is a matter for the donor countries to decide, then it could be argued that donors should intervene whenever the military is willing to intervene to shape Bangladesh's political landscape. As seen in the beginning of 2006. They can not only determine when the troops will intervene, but also the nature and duration of the intervention.
What effect would such intervention by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs have on the potential for such interventions in the future?