Bangladesh – Military Coup on the quiet?

This document came to my attention, and is a fascinating account of rumoured events leading up to President Iajuddin’s resignation as Chief of the CTG, and declaring a state of emergency.

Essentially, it is saying that the army decided to stage a bloodless coup because they were threatened by various international actors that if they assisted in the running of rigged elections, they would lose their prestigious and financially lucrative contracts with the UN.

It is written by Dr. Abdul Momen, a professor in Boston, USA who seems to have good sources, but either way, it’s a nice story, and unfortunately all too believable.

What I personally find interesting is how the fate of whole countries can rest on the whims of a few people, who are typically unelected and inexperienced to handle that level and type of power. Indeed, they might be ignorant of it. Power sometimes, I believe, at critical points can become an independent force, and it is all man can do to try and keep some modicum of control before events and unintended consequences propel situations towards human disaster. I’m not sure if we’ve created a way to manage this. I’m not sure if we ever will.

Given that ultimately this power rests, when it’s not active, in ordinary human beings, it’s subject to human faults. This has been exemplified by the crisis in Bangladesh, and The Times published a good round-up today of the impasse, and also a description of the cataclysmic relationship between Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia which is so responsible for holding Bangladesh back. If you thought Blair and Brown didn’t like each other, read this.

In other news, and contradicting the hopes expressed by the military in Dr Momen’s story, the High Court has ruled that fresh elections can’t be held for at least three months, until a genuine and accurate voter list is ready. And today, the last five members of the Electoral Commission, who had been trying to stage the original, doomed election, have bowed to public pressure and resigned.

The interim government is certainly moving at a startling pace towards reforming and repairing the corrupt institutions of Bangladesh. Illegal settlements on government land is being demolished constantly, and Sylhet has turned in to a building site almost over night, with many of the main streets now lacking fronts to all the buildings, as pavements suddenly emerge. More than a thousand people a day are still being arrested. But the government has also agreed to curb it’s clampdown on the media, which is a immensely positive step.

So Bangladesh may have suffered a bloodless military coup last month. Fate might have tossed and turned this country to be finally facing the light again. But until power is restored to a government legitimised by the people, it’s hard to say how Bangladesh will emerge.

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13 Responses to “Bangladesh – Military Coup on the quiet?”


  1. 1 orangensaftnotiz February 18, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    i also wrote about this. two articles are also quite interesting mainly confirming your text:

    +++++++++++++

    The army, not the politicians, now runs Bangladesh
    THE ECONOMIST, Jan 18th 2007, DHAKA

    WHEN Iajuddin Ahmed, Bangladesh’s president, declared an army-backed state of emergency on January 11th and cancelled the election due on January 22nd, neither he nor the foreign governments quietly cheering him on used the word “coup”. Yet that is what it looks like. The army, in the tradition of “guardian coups” from Fiji to Thailand, has stepped in with the usual list of apparently noble goals.
    (Iajuddin) was replaced by Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former central-bank governor and World Bank official. The technocratic administration he heads has so far sent the right signals. A drive against corruption—in which Bangladesh regularly nears the top of world league tables—is under way. The national-security chief, the top civil servant in the power ministry and the attorney-general have all been ousted. A start has been made in separating the judiciary from the executive.

    But restoring democracy remains a tall order. The political system has collapsed. The army insisted the president step in before the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which headed a coalition government for the past five years, could rig the election and secure itself another term. Delaying the vote averted a possible bloodbath. Allegations of election-rigging levelled by an alliance led by the other big party, the Awami League, had led to weeks of often violent protests and strikes. Their charges were, in effect, backed by foreign observers. Both the European Union and the UN withdrew their support for the election. The UN also warned the army against partisan intervention in politics, adding that this might jeopardise its lucrative role in UN peacekeeping operations. This threat helped sever an alliance between the army and the BNP.

    The BNP’s leader, the previous prime minister, Khaleda Zia, is reported to have been taken aback by the state of emergency and disappointed in the generals. But the BNP is unlikely to go quietly, raising fears that the administration might be forced to make fuller use of its wide-ranging emergency powers, which it has so far used with restraint.

    Unless something extraordinary happens to make the parties behave, there will be no return soon to two-party politics. It will take time to fix a voter list bloated with millions of extra names, to issue voter-identity cards, to set up a new independent election commission, and to purge the bureaucracy. It seems unachievable before the July monsoon, which pushes polls back to the final quarter of 2007. Indeed, what would be the fourth electoral battle between Mrs Zia and the League’s Sheikh Hasina Wajed may never happen. (…)

    ++++++++++++++++

    Bangladesh generals plan anti-corruption drive
    from THE FINANCIAL TIMES, January 17, by Jo Johnson

    Five days after (…) Bangladesh’s political drama are only just becoming clear. Few now have any doubt that the country is set for a lengthy period of military-backed technocratic rule.

    Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former World Bank official and ex-central bank governor summoned by the generals on Friday to replace President Iajuddin Ahmed as de facto prime minister, is now framing rules to determine how authoritarian this regime will be. Diplomats say the army charged him with executing a five-point agenda that the generals presented to the president (…)

    Diplomats say the generals’ unpublished five-point agenda consists of a drive to clean up the country’s biased electoral machinery; a pledge to improve governance in the civil service; an anti-corruption drive that would cleanse the nation’s politics; the depoliticisation of the judiciary; and reform of the crippled power sector.

    Western diplomats make clear they have no qualms in welcoming a period of military-backed technocratic rule. Had rigged elections gone ahead on January 22, in the face of a boycott by the Awami League opposition party, most expected a bloodbath. They now want the military-backed caretaker government to clean house, but to do so as fast as possible.

    “The main goal was to stop the election because it could have led to civil war,” says one. “No one regrets what has happened. The army is now the power behind the scenes and if it’s for 18 months, it’s for 18 months. (…)

    With its credibility now on the line, many believe the military will seek deep-seated reform and that this could take a year or more. (…)

    The real question, however, is whether the army is serious about rooting out the corruption that has eroded virtually all public trust in Bangladeshi politicians. (…)

    Most political analysts say that any genuine crackdown on corruption would have to start with the clique of business people around Tarique Rahman, son of outgoing prime minister Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist party. (…)

    To be seen to be even-handed in its treatment of Bangladesh ’s two feuding parties, the army might consider what is called the ‘Musharraf option’. Just as General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan ’s president, exiled Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, leaders of Pakistan ’s two largest political parties after his 1999 bloodless coup, so might martial law lead to the expulsion of Mrs Zia and Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League.

    “I don’t discount the possibility that the generals ask the two ladies to take a holiday,” one Awami League leader said. ” Pakistan is certainly a model that could be followed here, even if they have far deeper grass-roots support than Benazir and Nawaz.”

    If the military decided to go after corruption in the former ruling party, they would have to go after the other party too, he said.

    Either way, western diplomats view the emergence of a political vacuum in the world’s fourth most populous Muslim country with alarm. A nation of 140m people, Bangladesh has been a focus of international efforts to engage with “moderate Islam”.

    +++++++++++++++++++++

  2. 2 Asif Qader February 24, 2007 at 12:25 am

    Fakhruddin Ahmed’s government should be honest and transparent too. They are not above the law. While they are arresting all the corrupt people, I was wandering how come we never hear a thing from Fakhruddin Ahmed’s government about the dropped advisor faiz khan. He had lots of corruption allegations. We were expecting government to give a statement about how this corrupt person been selected in first place. Who inside the current government propose him/ From reliable source we came to know that there was a big amount of money transaction for proposing his name, who got the money? In governments statement , they mentioned they called him in his resident in USA. From reliable source we found out that he lives in Bangladesh, he do not have any resident in USA. Is government covering up something ?

    So how honest is Fakhruddin Ahmed’s government ?????

  3. 3 Onirban April 8, 2007 at 12:04 am

    This is becoming clearer now.. Military used Awami league to capture the power. In fact AL’s movement in 1996 for caretaker govt was also backed by military. After the independence, the military always tried to control the country. There were more than 20 cues including the success/failure. The founder leader Mujiburu Rahman was killed brutally. This was followed by a series of cues. In a stage later in 1978 when all the parties were banned previously by Mujibur Rahman military caged the then army chief Ziaur Rahman in his house and captured the power. Later in a movement Zia was freed and in the absence of any govt or political party Zia presided over the country and opened all parties and the situation was becoming normal again… but later in another cue in 1981 Zia was killed.
    In 1982 military again removed the BNP government and the chief Ershad captured the power. Hasina and AL supported this cue. For 10 years all the people moved against ershad and foiled his military govt.

    After that military took different strategy. They again started using Hasina and Awami league to capture power. They backed AL for caretaker govt movement. AL boycotted election under elected govt although they were used to take part in election under military ruler Ershad. 96 election was a one-party election since it was boycotted by the opposition party ..AL. Military withdraw their support for BNP and BNP left the power.

    Caretaker govt law was passed in the hard pressure of AL since AL made the whole country standstill for their demand.

    Now military started their strategy. Since Caretaker govt was relatively weaker (than elected govt), the army chief gen Nasim tried to capture the power but was catched by then president Abdur Rahman Biswas. AL protested the punishmnet of Nasim.

    Again in 2007 during the Caretaker govt, Military started using Hasina and AL…. they backed their movement.

    This is also becoming true that the islamic extremists were backed by military…

    Military was trying to prove that political parties are not able to rule Bangladesh. Thus Military tried to get supported by UN and America.

    Finally they captured the power.. and again Awami League and Hasina supported them…

    This is the time for military to make Bangladesh like Pakistan or Nigeria…..

    Although Military promised to Awami League that they would send Awami League to power in a staged election… But Awami League never learns… Military always was sitting on their shoulder to capture the power of Bangladesh….

    The military criminals are now proving that the politics is not for BD…

    let us think which is the worst.. politics or military?

    Let us think new about military. They are the most criminal. They wanna dictate BD with their high school knowledge and education

  4. 4 sowula April 12, 2007 at 4:20 am

    What’s in it for the Army though?

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