The prime minister’s security affairs adviser has blamed a long spell of “undemocratic rules” for the current terrorist threat.Tarique Ahmed Siddique, a retired major general, said, “national interest varied at different times (during such rules) causing severe negative impact of national security”.“That’s why today we witness the impact of the detrimental aspects in the emergence of terrorist influence and extremism in the country,” he said, speaking at a seminar on ‘civil-military relations in democracy’ at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) on Wednesday.The government’s think-tank, BIISS, and the Armed Forces Division (AFD) jointly organised the seminar on the heels of the recent terrorist attack at a Dhaka café that killed 20 people, mostly foreigners.
The prime minister’s international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi, however, said after the attack, “a national unity against (terrorism) has emerged and that is what will enable us to fight terrorism”.He said the Holey Bakery tragedy had “united the entire Bengali nation against terrorism”.“That is the strength of our democratic society, which is well mobilised. Through mobilization we will defeat (terrorism),” he said.Chiefs of the army, navy and air force, director general of the Rapid Action Battalion, diplomats, academicians, and journalists were present at the seminar.Bangladesh experienced military rule between 1975, when the country’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed in a coup, and 199O, when military dictator General HM Ershad was ousted by a popular movement.Director General BIISS Major General AKM Abdur Rahman, in his opening remarks, highlighted the importance of understanding the nature of civil-military relations in South Asian countries, identifying the challenges as well as possible solutions, and developing an effective framework for national development and democracy.Brig Gen Shakhawat Hossain (retd) who was also a former election commissioner said, post-7Os, Bangladesh had “hardly any control over the military”.“Its (military) just developed on its own. There was no control,” he said, proposing reforms that include a cabinet committee for defence.The prime minister will lead the committee, which will have “a collective control” over the armed forces, he said, adding that the “defence policy is people’s responsibility.“It’s not the duty of the military to make the policy. They will only implement it.”Senior secretary for ERD Muhammad Mejbahuddin said since Bangladesh was aspiring to be a developed country, “we should have a formal plan on civil military relations under democratic rules.”“There should be a clear policy on engaging armed forces and also an exit policy spelling out at what level we should disengage them,” he said.President of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nasim Manzoor pointed out the military’s engagement in business and said he found the line between the civil and military relations blurred.To him, there was no problem when the military got involved in business, but “it has to be a level playing field”.