Sunday, April 14, 2024

PM talks with army officers

Reaffirms punishment to culprits
Julfikar Ali Manik and Sharier Khan

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina observes one minutes silence at a meeting with the senior army officers at Senakunja at Dhaka Cantonment yesterday in memory of the members of armed forces killed during the BDR mutiny. On her left is Chief of Army Staff General Moeen U Ahmed. Photo: PID
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina observes one minute's silence at a meeting with the senior army officers at Senakunja at Dhaka Cantonment yesterday in memory of the members of armed forces killed during the BDR mutiny. On her left is Chief of Army Staff General Moeen U Ahmed. Photo: PID

A large number of army officers yesterday expressed their deepest emotions, frustrations, excitement and expectations at a three-hour grand conference with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina discussing the BDR carnage in which the nation lost at least 73 people, including 60 officers.
At the Sena Kunja auditorium of Dhaka Cantonment, around 700 to 800 officers — from the army chief to second lieutenant ranked officers — discussed with the premier from 11:30am 32 points related to the carnage.
Hasina assured the army that each and everyone of the culprits involved in slaying would be traced and tried. She said the investigation would be free and fair and she would not spare anyone, even if someone of her party is found to have links with such a heinous act.
Responding to an idea from the officers, she agreed on forming a special tribunal for trial of the culprits.
The prime minister heard each and everyone of the officers with patience. She sought their suggestions and empathised with their emotional loss, saying she could feel their pain as every time she visited the Banani graveyard, she also prayed for 17 souls of her near and dear ones who lost their lives during the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975.
Some officers suggested that the army be given the task of a “rebel hunt operation” to track and arrest the mutineers efficiently. Some others however cautioned about such a plan as it could lead to high-handedness in some cases and there were chances of such an effort becoming futile. Nevertheless, the prime minister agreed to the idea.
Sources present inside the conference say some officers told the premier they were not too happy with the way the BDR mutiny was handled and they thought it could have ended earlier by mobilising the army quickly.
Hasina then asked each of them what they think she should have done, and they came forward with their suggestions. The officers added her speech delivered on Wednesday at 2:00pm, five hours after the carnage began, could have been delivered earlier to calm down the mutineers.
They added the general amnesty declared by the PM to the mutineers to bring the situation under control should have been conditional. She could have said that the amnesty would be given if they did not kill officers.
Some officers suggested that each of the families of the slain officers given a high compensation package of Tk 1 crore with a flat or plot. Some others suggested that a more pragmatic approach would be awarding pensions to each of the families of the victims as per the ranks of the officers. This would provide long-term benefit, they said.
As Bangladesh Rifles’ (BDR) image and moral have been shattered, it should be restructured, they said, adding BDR may be disbanded and restructured under a new name like “Bangladesh Border Guards”.
If sufficient manpower cannot be provided for the new force, it may be formed in line with Rab as a composite force comprising army, navy, air force and the police. They suggested that the PM make an organogram and make it functional quickly as the border needs to be guarded quickly. The PM agreed saying that the details would be worked out later.
The army officers felt aggrieved by the electronic media coverage, especially dealing with the Operation Dal-Bhaat under the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led caretaker government.
They said some people in different talk-shows discussed the matter in such a way that the entire army is a corrupt force. The officers said when people spoke at talk-shows, they should come up with specific and solid information before making such comments as a wrong comment hurts the image of the institution.
A credible enquiry is needed so that in future other governments cannot question it. It should be participated by different groups of people to ensure neutrality.
The officers also felt aggrieved by anti-army statements made by lawmakers in parliament. “We are a force serving the nation. If a body like parliament blasts a government organ like the army, it damages the whole institution,” said an officer to the PM.
The officers also expressed their opinion that the army should be kept out of politics. Neither the Awami League, nor BNP should drag army into politics, they said.
They added transfer and promotion within the army should not be politically interfered with and left for handling professionally.
The PM responded to each of the points and questions raised at the conference.
“Everyone returned from the conference with the feeling that since the premier has heard all of their points, there were hopes that she would take actions. However, they also understand not all the problems can be solved overnight,” says a source.
Army chief Moeen U Ahmed thanked the prime minister in the end for her patient hearing.
Among her cabinet colleagues, only Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury accompanied Hasina at the conference.

Courtesy of

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