The Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord Implementation in Bangladesh: Ideals and Realities

Successful policy implementation is one of the prerequisites for establishing good governance in any country, especially when the goal is to establish peace. But what happens during the implementation process? In this regard, the paper focuses on the much debated Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord implementation process which granted certain degree of power and autonomy to the Regional Council (RC) to administer and ensure the political, economic and cultural rights of tribal people in the hill tract. Findings indicate that the accord suffers from clear policy standard and objectives and there is a profound lack of political commitment on the part of the government towards the implementation. Moreover, personal and institutional interests of elites (local political leaders, army and bureaucrats), ideological conflict between different tribal organizations, intra-tribal rivalry and relation of distrust between Bengali–tribal people are affecting the implementation of the policy.
Main Article: 

1. Introduction

On December 2, 1997, the two decade-old insurgency problem of Bangladesh came to an end following the signing of an accord between the government of Bangladesh (GoB) and the PCJSS[i]. The accord is popularly known as the Chittagong Hill tracts (CHT) peace accord. Through this accord the long-standing administrative pluralism[ii] between the CHT and the rest of the country was reaffirmed. However, the implementation of the accord remains incomplete as several thorny issues were formulated in an ambiguous manner. The vexing issues were the presence of Bengali settlers as key aspects of the accord, devolution of authority to the Regional Council (RC), an apex body constituted for administering CHT only. But many other factors came up with the implementation of the accord and the future of peace remained in question. In this backdrop, the study examines the process of politics and impediments in the peace building in the CHT in Bangladesh. The paper proceeds with a brief background of the CHT, conflict and the formulation of the accord; statement of the problem, focus of the study and data collection procedure; empirical evidences gathered during the field study with a critical view of CHT accord and explores the factors of non implementation of accord. 

Background of CHT   and A Brief History of Conflict

The CHT occupies a physical area of 5.093 sq. miles, constituting 10 percent of the total land of Bangladesh. The region comprises three districts: Rangamati, Khagrachari, and Banderbhan. Geographically CHT is divided into two broad ecological zones: (a) hill valley, and (b) agricultural plains. There are thirteen ethnic groups in the CHT. These tribal groups have evolved a socio-political-administrative system of their own that is hierarchical in nature. The tribal people are ethnically and culturally different from the Bengali population of the main land and within themselves they are culturally and socially distinct from each other.

The CHT region afforded special autonomy during the British rule but later on during the Pakistan regime, autonomy and the special status of the CHT was denied though it was given to other tribal regions and propitiated the demands of local Bengalis to open up the region for them. During this period, it had become the target of ill-conceived development initiatives with  a master plan adopted for the integrated development of the region based on optimum land use possibilities. In fact, all the development efforts, i.e. establishment of the Karnaphuli Paper Mill, construction of Kaptai Hydroelectric project, commercial and industrial plantation and exploration of natural resources displaced the tribal people and deprived them from their traditional right on land and forest caused them massive sufferings. The construction of the Kaptai dam in 1963 submerged 54,000 acres of settled cultivable land i.e., 40% and 90% of the total acreage of CHT land and displaced 100,000 tribal who were not being properly compensated. The erstwhile Pakistan government spent only 2.6 million of an original US $51 million for rehabilitation. The land that already was scarce was distributed among the refugees from Tripura (CHTC, 1991) further depriving the tribal people of their traditional rights.

After the inception of Bangladesh, the tribal people and their organizations started to mobilize and raise their demand for autonomy for the region. The Bangladeshi period is marked by an augmentation of Bengali-tribal people confrontation. This ultimately led to a constitutional rejection of any nationalities in Bangladesh other than the Bengalis. In fact, the successive governments of Bangladesh viewed the problem from a military and economic perspective rather political and adopted a four-pronged strategy like security, development, demographic and political that only to worsen the situation over the years (Chowdhury, 2001). In this pretext, the tribals formed the PCJSS and its armed wing Shanti Bahini with a force of 15,000 fighters and 50,000 trained youths into different militia units within six major territorial sectors of operation and started armed rebellion against the government of Bangladesh (Adnan. 2004, p24). Following such guerrilla and political advancement and to counter the military offensives, the military officially took up the issue since 1977 and  the Hill Tracts had been turned into an army camp by the government with nineteen infantry battalions, eleven Bangladesh Rifle Battalions, three artillery battalions, one engineer battalion, eighteen Ansar battalions, and four armed police battalions (Adnan, 2004, p25). Numerically, there have been 230 army camps, 100 BDR camps and 80 police camps which make a ratio of one security force member for every fifteen indigenous persons (Arens, 1997, p46). As a part of demographic strategy, over 4, 00,000 Bengali were in-migrated to the Chittagong hill tracts from other parts of the country under the government protection scheme to counterbalance the tribal population. The government sponsored migration programme has been successful to outnumber the tribals in CHT. In 1947, the Bengali population was 2.5% only in CHT, but it is now 50%.(Shahabuddin, 2004).Thus, the conflict that started on the issue of the rights of tribal over land and autonomy took shape of violence and insurgency due to the flawed policies of the past governments and caused lives of more than 8,500 rebels, soldiers and civilians of which 2,500 are civilians and forced 50,000 Chakmas to flee the Indian state of Tripura (Shahabuddin, 2004, p191- 195).

Main Features of the Accord

The CHT accord is the outcome of protracted negotiation process, first started in 1977 during the period of Ziaur Rahman and later reopened during the period of Ershad and continued through out the Khaleda Zia regime but Sk. Hasina made the breakthrough by finally signing the accord[iii]. In fact, several international and national factors paved the way for the negotiation process, i.e.  international donor’s pressure on the government by the 1980’s to end the insurgency problem, end of Cold War by the 1990’s that brought qualitative changes in international politics and democracy, good governance, accountability, human rights and decentralization of administration became the latest fed of development , ousted of military government and establishment of parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh , realization of the government that CHT problem required political solution and lastly formation of the government by AL, a pro Indian political party in 1996, with an election pledge of resolving the CHT problem[iv]. After assuming the state power, AL formed a twelve-member committee to reopen the negotiations and after several rounds of meeting the peace accord was finally signed. The 68-point accord dealt with a variety of subjects ranging from administration to military status, land question, refugee settlement and such. The accord is divided into four parts, namely (a) General (b) Hill Districts Local Government Council (HDCs) (c) the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council (RC) and (d) rehabilitation, general amnesty and other matters. (See Annex -1 for CHTRC)

Statement of the Problem, Focus of the Study and Data Collection 

 In response to the demand for political and economic autonomy of tribal people, a new structure the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council (CHTRC) emerged through the accord. This exposed the CHT to dual governance - mainstream local government and the RC and HDCs including the circle chiefs. The existence of several bodies and layers of administration in the CHT has created conflicts and discord as the rules and regulations are clearly not laid out and proper coordination is lacking between different individuals and institutions. The government has not yet framed the Rules determining the relationship of RC with other local bodies transfers all the listed departments or gave the necessary directives to the concerned organizations. In absence directives and instructions, the district and local level administrations do not comply with the directives of RC as confusion exists over executive authority of RC. In such a context, RC is facing difficulty in exercising its authority to coordinate and supervise the development activities of transferred departments and other institutions in CHT and maintaining law and order[v]. In addition to this, the conflict between different tribal organizations, and demands of Bengali and smaller tribes are putting limitations on the government to empower RC with adequate authority.

In reality, the government is practically controlling the administration
through the Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA), Hill Districts Councils, local level administration and military authorities without adequately sharing power with the Regional Council[vi]. At present, discontent brews on slack implementation of the accord and it has become another source of conflict. In this context, the research made an inquiry with the following research questions: 

  • How far RC has been effective to exercise its authority in CHT?
  • What factors are affecting the devolution of authority to RC?

Focus of Study

The Chittagong Regional Council Bill was placed in the parliament on 12 April 1998[vii] and was passed on 7th May 1998. The law was considered to be effective from 25th May 1998 (Financial Express 7th May 1998) and provided a quasi-autonomous council in the CHT. As per the Act, the council would be formed by the elected representatives of the tribal people and responsible to the Prime Minister and the Parliament. It also envisaged that 15 out of 22 members would be elected from the tribal people and 7 non-tribal residents. The Chairman of the RC would have the status of a State Minister. The members of the RC by indirect mode would be elected by the elected members of the Hill District Councils (HDC) for a period of five years. The members of the RC would elect its chair. The council would coordinate and supervise the general administration, law and order and development activities of three HDCs as well as the administration of tribal law and the dispensation of social justice. The government formed an interim RC of 22 members on September 6, 1998 and the council
was installed in Rangamati on May 27, 1999.


The objective of the study is to scratch the Chittagoan Hill Tracts Peace Accord and its impact in peace building.

Information collection procedure

The study brought together information from different sources. Primary data relevant to the research objectives and question were gathered through interview, questionnaire, participant observation, and focus group discussion in the Rangamati district in CHT (See Annex-2). Secondary data were collected from extensive survey of relevant literatures, different government documents, statements published in newspapers and other magazines, internet etc.

Empirical Analysis of the Findings

Lacuna in the Act

The RC Act didn’t reflect the provisions of the accord properly. In the accord, there is no mention of the government having the authority to dissolve the council, which is incorporated in the Act whereas the provisions like the power of the RC to make bylaws and necessary arrangements in the existing laws for CHT was curtailed. Also, the council’s right envisaged in the treaty to give recommendations and suggestions to amend other laws, provisions and ordinances in enforcing the HDC act was not incorporated in the Act (New Nation 17th April 1998). In this way, the government weakened the RC in terms of power and authority as well as the autonomy of CHT.

MoCHTA, as Ultimate Authority

According to the accord, Ministry of Chittagaon Hill Tracts accord (MoCHTA) was to be created but the actual role in administering the CHT was not written in detail. In reality, the government created MoCHTA with executive authority instead of RC to strengthen its control over the CHT. The Ministry formulates the budgets for RC and others without taking into consideration the demand of RC. The demand of the RC to provide executive power was denied by the past and as well as by the present government. Many of the power and functions of the RC and MoCHTA regarding development activities overlap, which has created a power contest between the two bodies over who has the control. The demand for executive power of RC has been completely rejected by the government since the accord does not stipulate it[viii].

Government as the Violator!

Land is the most important issue in CHT conflict and through the accord, land and land management has been listed in the transferred subjects, but the government has not yet transferred it to the RC[ix]. Instead the government without any kind of consultation with RC acquired land in CHT violating the provisions of the accord and the Acts. The government acquired 28 thousand acres of land in CHT for aforestation, establishment of army garrison, artillery and air force training centre, extension for brigade without any consultation with RC. The acquisition left around 5,000 people of the backward Mro community homeless. Though RC has the legitimate authority to grant licenses to heavy industries, the government, in violation of the accord and Acts, gave the license to establish a fertilizer company in CHT.

Elected or Selected?

The accord provided hope for the resumption of democratic practices in the CHT, as the three HDCs are supposed to be elected bodies which in turn are supposed to be electing the RC. But the elections to the HDCs have not been held to date[x]. Rather the past governments appointed the chairs on political consideration despite the protest by the PCJSS. The chairmen work as agents to promote the government interest in the region. In reality, these organizations lack popular legitimacy, democratic participation and people's confidence. However, till date, RC remains highly political, dominated by PCJSS and government nominated members.

CHT Accord Implementation: A Critical Assessment

According to the critiques and leaders of PCJSS, the important provisions of the accord have not yet been implemented. Among these provisions, the elections of the HDC councils, functioning of the Land Commission and RC still hanging on the air. The PCJSS demanded a road map and time frame for the full fledged implementation of the accord, and the government is taking careful steps in this matter. The RC chairman pointed out that lack of political willingness and apathy of the administration are responsible for the weak implementation of the accord (Dauily Prothom Alo, December 4, 2009). So in this respect, the study focuses on the implementation aspects and tried to explore the factors that are impeding the implementation. In fact, policy implementation is “the process whereby program or policies are carried out, and denotes to the translation of plans into practice” (Howlett and Ramesh, 1995, p153). As it is an ongoing process of decision making by a variety of actors, the ultimate outcome of which is determined by the content of the program being pursued and by the interaction of the decision makers within a given politico-administrative context. It is evident that a wide variety of factors like availability of sufficient resources to the structure of the inter-governmental relations, the commitment of lower level officials to reporting mechanisms within the bureaucracy, the political leverage of opponents policy to accidents of timing, luck and seemingly unrelated events can and do frequently intervene between the statement of policy goals and their actual achievement in the society. Grindle argues that (1980, p5) policy implementation especially in developing countries are very much affected by its policy contents and policy context. Therefore it is necessary to consider both the content and the context or environment in which the administrative action is perused.  Based on these concepts, we explored several factors that are responsible for the present state of implementation. As mentioned earlier, by creating RC, the MoCHTA and strengthening HDCs the accord apparently sought to devolve political and economic powers to the hill people and thereby empower them. But the goals and objectives of the accord were formulated in an ambiguous manner which are conflicting in some cases and lack clarity.  

Firstly, the accord was not exactly converted into an Act and some changes were made which created confusion about RC, whether it is only a supervising and coordinating body without any real power as MoCHTA has the executive authority. Again, confusion arises as to whether RC is just a coordinating and supervising body without any executive power then how could the power and authority i.e. to give license to heavy industries, to sign contracts and to be consulted before making any law regarding CHT etc are vested in it? There is no clear explanation as to whom and on what basis the RC can sign contract. Thus, clarity about the true power of RC remains unanswered. Confusion and ambiguity arises due to the lack of clarity on the issue of executive authority in CHT, which is not clearly communicated to the concerned organizations and individuals. 

Also, confusion exists about RC and its position in the local government set up. The government stated that RC is just a local government unit. As per the constitution, the local bodies should perform within the appropriate administrative unit and accountable to the Ministry but RC is accountable to the Prime Minister and to the Parliament which runs contrary to the conventional practice of local government in Bangladesh. RC has also been challenged for creating regionalism against the spirit of nationalism since special status is given to CHT over 61 other districts that is ultra virus to the Constitution and against the unitary structure of the state (Emajuddin Ahmed, Daily Ittefaq, 14th January, 1998).

It is noteworthy that RC is a first of its kind and absolutely a new unit in the administrative structure of Bangladesh. To make RC operational in the administering the CHT, requires a mundane change in the long established administrative set-up, procedures, and practiced rules and regulations. It has to be restructured and reformulated which is time consuming and requires expertise and experience. But, the present administration lacks the required experience and expertise to design a new administrative and organizational set up for RC, and to formulate rules and regulations to provide such a wide range of services to regulate so many organizations and diverse behaviors. For this, a whole new arrangement has to be made with a different line of command and authority. Such variations make the writing of precise rules and regulations essentially impossible and their timely applications. Also, the high degree of ambiguity and lack of clarity about the actual nature of RC and distorted information about whom or which body is in control of CHT  is further causing delay in formation of the necessary and relevant rules and regulations and timely communication with other organizations.

For effective implementation, it is necessary that those individuals responsible for the implementation understand the policy standard and objectives. Clarity of standard, accuracy of their communication to the implementers and uniformity with which they are communicated by various sources are vital for any policy to be successfully implemented. But, the high degree of ambiguities, complexities and lack of clarity of the policy objectives make devolution of authority to RC very difficult that contradict with the Constitution, and the conventional practices of local government. Actually, the policy was formulated with partial diagnosis of the problem and in inappropriate design that seeps into the policy delivery system and made the implementation very difficult.

Secondly, implementers’ response towards the policy affects the ability and willingness to implement the policy. Here, the role of the government is of immense importance since the government is both a signatory and implementor of the accord. Their cognition - that understands the policy, their direction of their response towards it (acceptance, neutrality, and rejection) and the intensity of the response affect the policy. Therefore, the attitudes of the government are important for understanding the present state of the implementation of the accord.

Though (Awami League) AL signed the accord, it did not make any serious attempts to implement the provisions of RC during its tenure. Instead, the government deviated from the actual provisions in many cases ie. created MoCHTA with executive power, retained the power on the government to dissolve the RC, denial to withdraw the settlers and formation of voter list with permanent residents only. It is alleged that the creation of an institution like RC with exceptional and unprecedented management power was a strategy of the government to bring the tribal insurgent leaders in the negotiation process and to deactivate them by consuming in RC without any real executive power.

It is widely believed that AL signed the accord to serve the purpose of India either by sealing the border to combat the Indian insurgents from escaping to Bangladesh or for having a pliable tribal leadership in the CHT who will cooperate with Indian security needs by not sheltering the separatists from the Indian North Eastern problematic states. The truth is that the Indian and Bangladesh governments stood to gain at the expense of the tribal people who practically got nothing out of the accord[xi]. AL never had true commitment to give autonomy to the tribals rather tried to politicize the PCJSS and to ensure the dominance of AL in the CHT[xii]. The CHTC, in their reports, also questioned the AL government’s real commitment to implement the accord and criticized the government’s continual delays in implementation of the accord and deliberate attempt to twist and ignore parts of an accord to which it is a signatory(CHTC Report, Holiday,19 January,2000)

The perception of the BNP government was shaped by the past experience of its predecessor Zia who persuaded flawed policy i.e. militarization of CHT to solve the problem of insurgency. The BNP government, while in opposition, vehemently opposed the accord, termed it as a black agreement and declared to amend some of the provisions on assuming the power (Daily Star 8 June 1998). According to BNP, one-tenth of the Bangladesh has been surrendered to tribal leadership of RC, which is against the unitary nature of the state and will encourage secessionist movement in other parts of the country (The Independent, 10 October, 1997 and New Nation 12 March, 1998). The BNP and its right wing allies, who are known as anti-Indian, firmly believed that loyalty and integrity of tribal rebel leaders of CHT is more to India than Bangladesh. The BNP government feared that with newly conceded powers, RC would be used to serve the interest of India. To counter balance the domination of PCJSS and suppress their demand for empowering RC, the government created and patronized the anti-accord group United People Democratic Forum in CHT (Prothom Alo, 19 June, 2003). The BNP government like its predecessor violated many provisions of the accord by giving permanent resident status to 26,000 Bengali families (Daily Star, 23 September, 2003).

The BNP also appointed HDCs chairmen on political consideration, acquired land without consulting RC and delayed in framing rules and regulations etc that indicated their lack of positive attitude towards the accord (Daily Ittefaq, 27 October, 2003). The activities of both the AL and BNP governments indicate lack of political willingness and positive attitude towards the accord. No matter which government signed or opposed the accord, in the case of implementation both the parties turned the peace accord into a paper accord.

Administrative barriers

Along with the political actors, the role of administrators is important since they are the ones who implement the policy at the field level. They act both as an actor and institution in the policy universe (Howlett and Ramesh1995). In fact, administration and politics instead of being discrete phenomena are actually interrelated. In both an objective manner and a subjective manner the nature of administration can influence the policy outcome of political system (B. Peters 1984, p11). In CHT policy, the role of administration can not be termed positive since several provisions of the accord highly offended the administrators and their interest. According to the Act, the RC chair with the status of a State Minister has the highest political /administrative rank in the entire CHT. The District Commissioners, realistically speaking, can assume no more than limited coordination role subject to the consent of the RC leadership and will remain in the CHT only to manage protocol responsibilities that highly offended their personal and organizational loyalty and interest. Also two parallel systems, a special arrangement for CHT and other for the rest of the country, raise some problems too. The officials find it quite difficult to perform their responsibilities under RC authority instead of their line ministry. These changes actually cost bureaucrats losing their authority and control in the functioning of the departments in CHT. They feel that the accord ruins centralization and encourages decentralization of the power and authority. Another reason for opposition is the lack of trust and confidence on the RC Chairman Shantu Larma, who they feel, does not have requisite experience and capability to run the complex administration of the CHT. The bureaucrats think that RC only leads to duplication and overlapping and increases the degree of complexity in administering since HDCs are given enough power and authority for self-administration. The lack of interest and support of the bureaucrats towards the RC is causing delay in framing rules and regulations, and sending the directives to the concerns organizations, which only paved the path for denial of the devolution of authority to RC.

Thirdly, along with the government and administration, different environmental factors in the implementing jurisdiction are affecting the implementation too. Since we are captives of social, economic and political circumstances that may with concerted effort over time be mitigated but never fully erased and much of what occurs in the course of an implementation effort can not be changed by policy formulators and implementers (Mazmanian and Sabatier, 1981, p18). Among these factors, the conflict between tribal organizations mainly UPDF and PCJSS is important. UPDF refused the accord on the ground that the provisions are not consistent with their demand of autonomy, do not recognize their identity and rights over land and not constitutionally protected. They viewed that the government, instead of the hill people, benefited from it (The Independent, 1 December, 2001). The ideological conflict between PCJSS and UPDF turned into armed fighting that result in the downslide of law and order situation in CHT[xiii].  According to the Government statistics there had been 61 incidents of armed fighting between the UPDF, PCJSS and the security forces since the signing of the Treaty. The conflict is creating instability in CHT, dividing the people and making the implementation uncertain. 

Moreover, the contents of CHT accord did not satisfy other small tribal groups in the CHT due to the domination of the Chakma tribe in the RC and HDCs[xiv]. The smaller and relatively backward tribes felt deprived and betrayed due to their poor representation in the RC. Though there are 13 tribes only four are represented in RC. The other smaller communities point out that RC should be representative of all communities, not just the larger ones. In its present form, RC is only replicating the Chakma hegemony that it had been purporting to fight and an open invitation for discontentment and in future intra-tribal rivalry in the CHT is feared due to the dominance of Chakmas in the RC depriving the smaller and backward ethnic groups.

CHT vs Bengalis

The most alarming factor in the process of implementation is the Bengali tribal relation in CHT. During the period of insurgency, eleven major massacres of hill people took place whereas Bengali accused PCJSS for killing 30,000 Bengali in the CHT[xv]. Neither tribals nor Bengalis can put their confidence on and trust each other, as trust in persons result from past experiences (Uslaner, 2002, p18-25). The past experiences and incidents of communal atrocities committed by the settlers and tribal insurgents actually sow the seed of distrust among them. The fear of forceful expulsion of settlers, overall domination by tribal and feeling of deprivation has generated resistance among them. The Bengali demanded equal rights and status as envisaged in the accord for the tribal. They also demanded that either the post of the Chairman of RC should be made contestable for all communities or the Vice- Chairman’s post should be created for a Bengali. The denial of the fundamental rights has hardened their attitude towards the implementation. Thus, the Bengali tribal relation, clouded with mist and distrust make the implementation of the accord more complicated if not impossible.

Apart from the conflicting tribal organizations and groups, different groups of elites are also acting against the accord and RC. Since elites are the most important factor in policy jurisdiction and their support or resistance influence the implementation and achievement of its objective in a profound way (Dye, 1998). As discussed in the preceding section, the military was in total control of the CHT administration since the insurgency problem started in mid 1970’s. Though SB action had provided the state with a pretext for this move, it is equally true that a military solution to the CHT issue served the vested interests of the military as well’(Mohsin, 1996:5). The CHT conflict provided the Bangladesh army a sense of mission and purpose, and institutionally and economically benefited them. The army‘s activities in CHT were projected as nation building endeavors and were used to justify the rapid increases made in the Bangladesh army in terms of personnel and revenue receipts[xvi]. It has been claimed that international aid for tribal is in reality spent for the  military[xvii]. In this context, empowering RC to administer the overall administration and development of CHT will ultimately make the military to lose their domination and control in CHT. The policy has offended the personal and institutional interest of the military that are directly and indirectly resisting the implementation by using Bengali settlers as human shield to carry out its operation against the tribals, supporting different anti-accord tribal organizations to polarize the tribal community to create communal tension[xviii]
Like the military, local political leaders do not want to lose their dominance in political and economic arena in CHT. The fear of losing domination under the emergence of a strong tribal political group like PCJSS makes them apathetic to the accord.  They are acting in a manner that actually violates the spirit and value of the accord. These elites participated in the parliamentary election in 2001 with the voter list that was rejected by the PCJSS due to the inclusion of non-permanent residents in the list. They are supporting infiltration of the Bengali in liaison with the government officials and army to increase their vote bank in CHT. These elites wanted rational amendment in the accord and blamed it for being biased to the tribal. They feel the accord violates the rights of Bengalis and demand equal rights and representations in the RC, and HDCs. To ensure political domination, alliance of elites of different political parties is exploiting Bengali tribal relation in CHT, mobilizing political support in favor of Bengali settlers' organizations and creating communal tension. The  elites alleged that the deal encourages racial disaffection and territorial apartheid abhorrent to the fundamental principles of the state, seeks to destroy the unitary structure of the state and sows seeds of parochialism and separatism by dishonestly blending the local government provision of the Constitution to create a semi autonomous regional authority with veto powers on legislative functions of the state at the cost of non-tribal whose right to vote, right to property are severely undermined[xix]. In fact, elites become allies to safeguard each other’s interest at any cost and RC leadership turns out as common enemy of militrocracy, bureaucracy and politocracy in today’s CHT.

Concluding Remark

This study considers how concepts concerning the implementation of policy can help explain the present state of CHT accord implementation and explores that several factors are responsible for the gap between accord and the devolution of authority to RC, a distinctly political institution with an array of powers for the tribal leadership. Though RC is linked with the three HDCs, it is neither an extension of the traditional local administration system in Bangladesh nor part of a bureaucratic network controlled by the national government. Lack of clarity and confusion about the actual nature and authority of RC making the devolution, and formulation of regulation very difficult and generate resistance among different group of elites. The lack of positive attitude and one-sided perceived idea of past governments also affect implementation that is further influenced by elite’s interest and support.

The ideological conflict between tribal organizations, distrust between Bengali- tribal and lack of confidence within intra-tribal group further put limits on the performance of the implementers. The elites, military and politicians are also taking advantage of the Bengali tribal relation by mobilizing political support for Bengali settlers and exploiting the conflict between tribal organizations. These influential factors are creating an insecure policy environment and making the implementation ineffective. The frustration of the tribal leaders prevailing over the present state of implementation of the accord is clear from the following statement of the RC chairman and PCJSS leader, Shantu larma who said that eleven years went in vain after signing the accord[xx]. Such frustration of the tribal community, according to many observers will lead our country to another conflict that might not be easy to resolve after breaking the trust of tribal community and it as suspected spread among other small tribal communities who have been used to counter the PCJSS in CHT. Therefore, it would be wise to implement the accord by building the confidence among different groups and institutions in the implementing jurisdiction where everyone can reach a consensus to establish peace and harmony rather than conflict and opposition. Here, the responsibility rests on both the government and tribal organizations to walk in the long road of peace.


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Annex -1



  1. Subject to amendment and addition of the various sections in the Parbatya Zilla Sthanio Sarkar Parishad Ayin, 1989 (Act IXX, XX and XXI of 1989) for purpose of making the Hill District Council more powerful and effective, Regional Council will be formed comprising the Local Government Councils of three Hill Districts.
  2. The elected Members of the Hill District Councils shall, by indirect mode, elect the Chairman of this Council whose status shall be equivalent to that of a State Minister and who shall be a tribal.
  3. The Council shall consist of 22 (twenty-two) Members including the Chairman. Two third of the Members shall be elected from amongst the tribals. The Council shall determine the modality of its functioning. The constitution of the Council shall be as follows: Chairman 1 person Member (tribal male) 12 persons Member (tribal female) 2 persons Member (non-tribal male) 6 persons Member (non-tribal female) 1 person .Of the male tribal Members, 5 shall be elected from the Chakma tribe, 3 from the Mong  tribe, 2 from Tripura tribe, I from the Murung and Tancha1lgya tribes and I person from amongst the Lusai, Bowm, Pankho, Khumi, Chak and Khiang tribes.
    Of the male non-tribal Members, 2 persons shall be elected from each district.
    Of the female tribal Members, 1 person shall be elected from the Chakma tribe and another from the rest of the tribes.
  4. There shall be reserved 3 (three) seats for the women in the Council and one third (1/3) thereof shall be for the non-tribals.
  5. The Members of the Council shall, by indirect mode, be elected by the elected Members of the three Hill District Councils. The Chairman of the three hill districts shall be ex- officio Members of the Council and they shall have right to vote. The qualification and disqualification of candidature for membership of the Council shall be similar to those of the Members of the Hill District Councils.
  6. The tenure of office of the Council shall be 5 (five) years. The procedure and other matters regarding the preparation and approval of the budget of the Council, dissolution of the Council, framing of the Rules of the Council, appointment and control of the officers and employees, etc. shall be similar to the procedure and other matters as are applicable to the Hill District Councils.
  7. There shall be the Council, a Chief Executive Officer of the rank equivalent to that of a Joint Secretary to the Government and the tribal candidate shall be given preference for appointment to this post.
    1. a) If the post of Chaiffi1an of the Council falls vacant, one person from amongst the other tribal members shall be, by indirect mode, elected Chairman for the interim period by the Members of the three Hill District Councils. b) If the post of a Member of the Council falls vacant for any reason, it shall be filled up by by-election.
    2. a) The Council shall coordinate all the development activities carried out by the three Hill District Councils, and shall also superintend and harmonize all the affairs of and assigned to the three Hill District Councils. Besides, in the event of lack of harmony or any inconsistency being found in the discharge of responsibilities given to the Hill District Councils, the decision of the Regional Council shall final. b) This Council shall coordinate and supervise the Local Council, including the municipalities. c) The Regional Council shall coordinate and supervise the three hill districts in matters of general administration, law and order and development. d) The Council shall coordinate the activities of the NGOs in addition to disaster management and carrying out the relief programs. e) Tribal law and community adjudication shall be within the jurisdiction of the Regional Council. And f) The Council shall be competent to grant License for heavy industries.
  8. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board shall discharge the assigned duties under the general and overall supervision of the Council. The Government shall give preference to the eligible tribal candidates in appointing the Chairman of the Development Board.
  9. 11)The Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation of 1900 and other related Acts, Rules and Ordinances being found inconsistent with the Local Government Council Acts of 1989, it shall be removed by law as per advice and recommendations of the Regional Council.
  10. Until the formation of the Regional Council through direct and indirect election, the Government shall be competent to constitute an interim Regional Council and to empower it to discharge the responsibilities of assignable to the Council.
  11. In making any law in connection with Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Government shall enact such law in consultation with and as per advice of the Regional Council. If it becomes necessary to amend any law which bears an adverse effect on the development of the three hill districts and welfare of the tribal people or to enact new law, the Council shall be competent to apply or submit recommendations to the Government.
  12. The sources of the Council Fund shall be as follows: a) Money received from the District Council Fund; b) Money or profits received from all the properties vested in or managed by the Council c) Loans and grants from the Government and other authorities; d) Grants given by any institution or person; e) Profits earned from the investments of the Council Fund; f) Any money received by the Council; g) Money received from other sources provided to the Council as per direction of the Government.


Table1: List of Respondents

Unit of study Status of Respondents No.
RC Chairman/ Members 03
Administration DC/NDC/TNO 05
CHTD Chairman/Member 04
Bengali Settlers/ Local Students / Civil Society/ Retired Army Official 40
Triba General /Students/Civil society 30

End Notes

[i][i] PCJSS- Parbattya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity. Parbattya Chattagram is the Bangali version of Chittagong hill tracks. It was formed by Manabendra Narayan in 1972 that has waged an armed struggle for the autonomy of the CHT since mid 1970’s.

[ii] The term has been used specifically to explain the differences between the CHT and rest of the administrative unit in Bangladesh. CHT has two parallal systems of administering, the traditional tribal Monarchy system and district administration which is very much uncommon in other parts of the country. The traditional tribal administration system consists of three tired structure introduced during the British system, the Circle, Mouza and Para under the three tribal Chiefs: Chakma, Mong and Bomang. The circle chief is on the top of the hierarchy. Chiefship is a hereditary institution. The Chief is the supreme authority in tribal and social affairs, and is symbol of unity and integrity of the people of his circle. Functionally, he is the administrator, judge and law –maker in tribal affairs and leader in religious ceremonies and festivals.

[iii] For signing the accord, UNESCO conferred Sk. Hasina the internationally prestigious Felix Houphouet –Boigny Peace prize.

[iv] AL had cordial and close relations with India which wholly supported the regime in the negotiations. The defense planner in Bangladesh blamed India for assisting the PCJSS and SB since mid 1970s and using SB to flush out Mizo insurgents of northeastern India from Sajek valley in CHT.

[v] Before peace accord of 1997, there was a provision to transfer 22 subjects/departments to the Council, but it was increased to 33 subjects/departments by the act of 1998 after peace accord. So far only 20 subjects have been transferred to council. The government has not yet transferred local, civil and police administration and the three hill district councils (HDCs) to the CHT Regional Council (RC). Press reports suggest that 255 persons have been killed and more than 1,000 people had been kidnapped after five years of signing the accord. (

[vi] A Report on the Demonstration against the Government of Bangladesh at Paris Consortium 10 April 2002 published by Peace Campaign Group (PCG) p, 12.

[vii] The bill adopted without the BNP in the house who claimed that the bill; contrary to the constitution may give rise to the secessionist movement in different region. The parliament secretariat had received a total of 2,189 amendment notices on the regional council bill, 78 suggesting eliciting public opinion on the bill and 63 for sending the bill to the select committee. (Daily Star, 6 May 1998)

[viii] “Their (PCJSS) demand for executive powers of the RC is unacceptable, as the accord does not stipulate it. The RC would only be a coordinating and supervisory local body. The RC is also under the Ministry. So how two institutions will work in the CHT with executive powers.”- Minister Kalparanjan Chakma.(Dhak Courier 12 March 1999)

[ix] According to the HDC Act, the council will supervise and control the headmen, chainman, surveyor and assistant commissioner of land.The government could not acquire or transfer any land, hills or forests under the control and jurisdiction of HDC to any party without consulting or getting approval of the HDC.

[x] The sub clause C (3) of the accord’s has excluded specially those Bengalees who are living in CHT as tenants by tilling land from others or hiring houses in that region from all the rights and privileges including voting rights in CHT. According to the Act, only tribal and non –tribal permanent residents, who are not tribal but have legal lands and generally live in the hill districts at specific addresses can be a voter but  Bengalee settlers ,officals posted in CHT, security officials can not be a voter. This is in violation of section 19(1) of the constitution and denied the constitutional guarantee of equality of opportunity to the Bengalis within the unitary state. PCJSS demands that voter list be formulated with permanent residents only. Due to such complexity the elections of HDCs and RC could not be held till date

[xi] Bijoy Ketan Chakma  The question of rights of the CHT people (Parbattya Chattagram Jon goner Odhiker Proshno), 2001,

[xii] During an interview with a RC member who was also involved in the peace process revealed that just after signing the accord Prime Minister Sk.Hasina offered Shantu  Larma to join AL.

[xiii] According to a report at least 231 people were killed, 380 were abducted and 400 injured in the incidents of violence between these two groups till September 2002 since signing of the accord Daily Star 19, October 2002.

[xiv] For instance,in Banderban district  Marma people constitute overwhelming majority among tribal population but Chakma  have 10 out of 20 members in the District Council, According to the present composition of RC among the 12 male  tribal members, five are to be elected from Chakma, three from Marma, two from Tripura and one each from Mrung and Tanchangya. Among the two female tribal members, one is to be elected from Chakma and other one from any tribe. The accord did not specify it.

[xv] Udbastu, Issue 23, January – March

[xvi] For maintaining the army in the CHT the state spends an amount of US$ 125 million annually. The Bangladesh military today takes up 22 percent of the total cash current expenditure, the largest single category of cash current expenditure in absolute terms. This figure does not include the food and subsidies that go to the defense expenditure. (Mohsin,1997: 170 -172)

[xvii] The first five-year of the CHTDB plan, for instance was funded entirely by the Western aid, even though, as the PCJSS claimed, 80% was spent on the infrastructural projects such as all–weather roads, bridges, electricity and tele communications especially beneficial to the BDF.

[xviii] A number of Bengalee organizations have been set up in the CHT in recent years namely the Khagrachhari District Samanya Parishad, Parbattya Gano Parishad and Tiger force, a militia composed of Marma and Mru tribesmen whose traditional rivalries with Chakma and hence Chakma dominated PCJSS are clearly exploited for the operation of anti –accord campaign. These proxy bodies are still active in the CHT and backed up by sections of military and civil administration.(Levene 1999:361, and  CHTC Report 1994:32).

[xix] See “Illiberal democracy, CHT Treaty, the Constitution Conundrum” by Sadeq Khan. The Independent 18 January 1998