Bangladesh defense forces got a raw deal

Sheikh Mujib and his Awami League never wanted strong defense forces and played divide and rule to weaken the arm forces. The civil bureaucracy was also never trusted.

After the departure of the Indian army we demanded from the government to raise the defense forces as well as to organize the national defense services system. Against this demand there was a strong propaganda from the government questioning, why a full-fledged defense force was needed for an impoverished peace loving country like Bangladesh? Bangladesh is surrounded by India from all the three sides. And it has got a ‘treaty of friendship’ with India. In such case Bangladesh would fight against whom? If at all any threat came to our independence and sovereignty from any quarter then friendly country India would provide necessary protection under the ‘friendship treaty’. What an absurd logic! In international relations there is no permanent enemy or friend. The equitation of relation is changeable. Moreover the armed forces are the symbol of national independence and state sovereignty. It is therefore imperative to organize national defense forces in phases according to the resources available. After a long tussle the government conceded. The decision was made to organize 5 Infantry Brigades in Dhaka, Comilla, Chittagong, Rangpur and Jessore with the members of the freedom fighters. These Brigades would be converted into divisions gradually. Simultaneously air force and navy were also to be organized. At that juncture question was raised what to do with the 30,000 stranded Bangladeshi soldiers in Pakistan?

Although most of them did not get an opportunity to participate in the liberation war but most of them were patriots and supported the cause of Bangladesh. Their loyalties towards Bangladesh were beyond any doubts. Therefore most of the people thought they should be re employed with due respect and position in the newly formed defense forces. Some held the opinion that Bangladesh defense forces should comprise of freedom fighters only. The repatriated personnel should be retired from the active services as per the defense services rules and acts and employed in the non-military civil organizations. The government took the decision to reinstate them in the active services. At the same time the government decided to give 2 years antedated seniority to the freedom fighters. This was how the Awami League government created a distinct division within the armed forces. Some ambitious and self-seeking freedom fighters supported this government policy. The initiation of a deadly game of divide and rule by the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had taken a big toll from the armed forces of Bangladesh. The country is still suffering from the hangover of that mischievous decision. The government’s decision to appoint Brig. Shafiullah as the Acief of army staff superseding Brig. Ziaur Rahman created desention within the ranks and files of Bangladesh army. Likewise creating many such contradictions Sheikh Mujib tried to weaken the backbone of the nation, the armed forces.

Parallely he also created his political forces Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini with the members of the so-called freedom fighters, earstwhile BLF and Mujib Bahini. Although the government finally had to allow organizing the armed forces but not much initiative or efforts were made to equip the armed forces. On the other hand a comprehensive plan was drawn to make Rakki Bahini much stronger than the army with the assistance of India. Indian army took the responsibilities to train and equip the JRB. Their uniform was exactly like that of Indian army. India provided all the armaments, vehicles, equipments, ration and other necessary materials and supplies. The officers were trained at Dehradoon and the troops were trained by the Indian instructions at Savar in the suburb of Dhaka. It was placed directly under the Prime Minister Mr. Tofayal Ahmed, his political secretary was made the overall incharge. The director general was Brig. Nuruzzaman who was one of the accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case. This Bahini became ill famed very shortly for its atrocious high handedness and ruthless oppression of the people. JRB is one of the main reasons for the unpopularity of the government. The people became very unhappy as Sheikh Mujib gave enormous powers to this notorious force. The same uniform like Indian army also raised suspicion in the minds of the people. They thought it was a clever move by the Awami League, so that they could invite required number of Indian forces in disguise to serve their interests whenever required. Rumors could also be heard from knowledgeable government circles that the government was contemplating to disband the armed forces and replace it with Rakki Bahini. All these developments had an adverse impact and reaction within the armed forces. They became alarmed and disappointed with such a negative attitude of the ruling party and the government. The same ‘divide and rule’ policy was also enacted in the civil bureaucracy. Mr. Tajuddin’s government took a decision that the Indian bureaucrats will reorganize the administration in the newly independent country. But in the face of vehement opposition from the local bureaucrats this plan could not be materialized. But since then the bureaucrats could never earn acceptability from the government. Like the armed forces they also became a suspect in the eyes of the rulers.

Thus Awami League earned displeasure from both the vital institutions of the state. To bring the bureaucracy under their control Awami League got rid of many senior and capable cadre officers and replaced them with their hand picked inexperienced surrogates. 300 party members were selected and sent to Soviet Union for ‘administrative training’. After the training they were inducted into the civil service. They are known as industrial management service cadre (IMS). On the other hand Mr. Syed Hossain, brother-in-law of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became undeclared supremo of the entire bureaucracy and the civil service. He was an erstwhile epcs officer and held the rank of a section officer. He was given accelerated promotions and made a full secretary almost overnight. The entire lots of civil servants were at his mercy. Thus an degeneration also crept up in the civil services. This was also a part of the grand design.

The character of the Bangladesh armed forces was quite unique and unparallel. Most of its members were freedom fighters and imbued with the spirit of liberation war. They were brave, selfless, patriotic and politically conscious. Upright and out spoken freedom fighters never could accept any injustice within their own set up or in the national sphere. They also did not accept any wrong doings of the government during the liberation war. They always raised a voice of protest or even tried to resist anything unjust within their jurisdiction.