Democratization in Bangladesh: An Analysis of Bangladesh Armed Force’s Non-intervention in Politics Influenced by the Participation in United Nations Peace Keeping Operation

Bangladesh Armed Force (BAF) is actively participating in the United Nations Peace Keeping Operation (UNPKO) since 1988. The growing involvement of Bangladeshi peacekeepers is tantamount to its new orientation with the functioning of generic constitutional process. The democratic governance in Bangladesh is also uninterruptedly in place since the popular uprising in 1990. Considering the close proximity of these two facts the article has assessed whether there is any reciprocity in the context of BAF’s nonintervention in Bangladeshi politics and its participation in UNPKO since the 90s. The article has attempted to answer whether one is contributing to the sustenance of the other. The very interdependency between the BAF’s participation in UNPKO and BAF’s nonintervention in the democratic system in Bangladesh has become a political reality. In 2007 BAF was about to intervene the regular democratic political system. Evidence shows that it was the pressure of abandoning BAF from UNPKO has deterred them to become directly involved in politics. Due to the nature of activities in the UNPKO, BAF has been informed with human security approach. In the process BAF has to work closely with the civil administration and local government. The article has explained whether such involvement is instrumental to reduce the gap of the BAF’s understanding about the functioning of civilian and political institutions. The article has also underscored the impact from individual level human security orientation to the BAF’s institutional approach towards the political government. To understand such dynamics the author has conducted a qualitative analysis using mainly the available secondary literatures. The present article is an endeavor to understand the sustenance of Bangladeshi democracy in the context of new civil-military relationship due to UNPKO.
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1. Introduction

The present political reality of Bangladesh shows the BAF’s nonintervention, which is often regarded as disengagement, in the democratic governance has allowed the sustenance of democracy since 1990. Major General Muhammad Imrul Quayes has mentioned in a recent workshop ‘the role of military in Bangladesh in upholding democratic process and supremacy of constitution has been commendable since the democratic process started’ (BIISS, 2011). However, the politics of the post independent Bangladesh has been heavily marked by frequent military interventions. In an article Mr. Ali Riaz mentioned that ‘the nation has experienced at least four successful and at least seventeen abortive coups d’état in the post-independence period’ (Riaz, 1998: 56). The bloody past never witnessed an easy relationship between the civil-political entities and the armed forces of the country. Prof. Jahan explained this matter from a structural point of view. According to her ‘during the post military takeover in 1975 the civil and military bureaucratic elite consolidated their position and perpetuated their rule’ (Jahan, 1980). The governance structure was influenced by the military consolidation. Importantly, post 1990 civil-military relationship has gained a new dimension. ‘Since early 1990s Civil-Military relations in Bangladesh appeared to be at the threshold of a new and auspicious beginning’ (BIISS, 2011). Mahfuz Anam in a commentary mentioned-

‘it took our armed forces 16 years (1991-2007) to recover from the ignominy that Gen. Ershad had brought upon them. It is to their tremendous credit that through sheer professionalism, dedication, discipline and, most importantly, staying out of politics that our Armed Forces regained their reputation and the place in the hearts of our people’ (Anam, 2007).

Subsequently he stated that ‘BAF’s participation in the UNPKO has been one significant component for the military’s new aspiration’ (Anam, 2007). Query is how UNPKO contributed to BAF’s new aspiration? Factually, the basic difference of BAF’s regular activities and the activities under UNPKO is its involvement in noncombat approach, specifically in human security approach. Thus it demands a query whether BAF’s human security involvement during the mission instigates BAF with the new orientation? Or it is merely an outcome of structural evolution of the military establishment. The argument of BAF’s human security involvement as instrumental for new orientation calls for a deeper analysis squaring the structural and subjective impacts of the UNPKO on BAF’s position of nonintervention in democracy.  The present article has analysed BAF’s role in UNPKO and has linked the outcome with the military’s institutional response towards political governance. In doing so the author has used the secondary literatures, mainly books, journals, online literatures and news paper articles. The paper is a part of the bigger thesis that explains the BAF’s influence on the sustenance of democracy and that to integrate human security into Bangladeshi national policy. However, based on secondary information the present article only deals with BAF’s non-intervention in the political democracy and explains whether the human security involvement during UNPKO is contributing in such institutional response.

2. Bangladesh Armed Forces (BAF) and its Position

The definition of the BAF is a statutory one. There are two types of construction of BAF depending on peace and war situation. First, in peace time BAF is consisted with three wings of the security forces. These are the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Air Force. Other wings of the security forces as well as the reserve forces also part of the Armed Force during the war time. The BAF is governed by the Bangladeshi laws include the Army Act of 1954, the Air Force Act of 1957, and the Navy Ordinance of 1961. BAF is under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Other wings of the security forces are managed by Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) can bring any sections of the security forces under the management of MoD by executive order. In such situation those wings of the security forces will be under the same Armed Force’s command of the military headquarter. So any sections of the security forces are under the command of the military headquarter is considered as the armed force of Bangladesh. Often the word ‘Armed Force’ is replaceable by the word ‘Security Force’. There is a particular concern about the position of police and Detected Branch (DB). In ordinarily situation armed force does not include the police and BD. These are the agencies to maintain law and order situation and managed by MoHA. However, during the emergency situation Police and DB can also work as armed force and serve under the military command.

BAF is highly regarded organization of Bangladesh. Journalist Gyasuddin A. Chowdhury has described BAF’s position by saying “the Bangladesh army is a highly motivated nationalist army because of its deep-rooted involvement in the war of independence, and its birth that took place from the power of bullets. The army, which is one of its kinds, was raised and organized by those dedicated freedom fighters” (Chowdhury, 2006). However, the initial civil-military relationship was never easy. During post independent Bangladesh a section of BAF felt that they were not included in the nation building activities. ‘Instead of inducting them into nation building and using their zeal and enthusiasm, mistrust by the politicians prevailed’ (Chowdhury, 2006). As a result section of BAF has been repeatedly intervened the natural democratic process. Though the causes of the coups have varied in later period, but the truth remains same that military intervention was the main factor disrupting Bangladeshi political governance.   

The history of military coup in Bangladesh starched till 1990 has impeded the natural democratic process of the country. In a brief, the year 1975 was really a key period that changed the entire rhythm of civil-military relation in Bangladesh. The most significant coup was on Aug 15, 1975. A civilian court mentioned as verdict that ‘Major Syed Faruque Rahman and Major Rashid as the main organizers of August 15, 1975 coups’ (GoB, Major Syed Faruque Rahman, 1999). ‘The August 1975 coup was followed by two other coups, one on November 3, in which Major Faruque along with Khondaker Mustaque were overthrown and brought Major General Khaled Mosharraf to power. Again a counter coup four days later (November 7) killed General Mosharraf’ (Saaduddin, 2010: 3). L. Schutz argued “this (coup of Nov 7) was led by Col. Taher (who) rescued Ziaur Rahman from captivity but was later executed in a Kangaroo Trial (secret trial) by Ziaur Rahman” (Schutz, 1979).

There were many smaller coups till 1981. Then on 30 April, 1981 Major General Abul Manzur leaded a coups in Southern port city of Bangladesh and killed President Ziaur Rahman. Many quarters accused Hossain Mohammad Ershad, who was the army chief during the coup and later became President, to have covertly organized the coup using General Manzur. However, General Hussain Mohammad Ershad made the final coup and took the state power on 25 March 1982 by ousting the elected government. He was toppled by the popular democratic uprising of 1990 that marks the new beginning of political democracy in Bangladesh.

The coup history should not blame the military only for their intervention in politics. Equal credit goes to some politicians who use military for their political gain. Gyasuddin A. Chowdhury argued that politicians are the one who is dragging military into politics. He suggested that ‘politicians should never drag the army into politics for their own benefit’ (Chowdhury, 2006). Though our present article is not scoped to analyse the role of some politicians pushing military in politics rather to understand the military’s orientation of noninvolvement in politics; we need to identify army’s ideal position under the democratic government.

Gyasuddin A. Chowdhury advised that ‘the army should never take action which is against the constitution and which is anti-people, or carry out deployment as a partisan act’ (Chowdhury, 2006). In line with such ideal aspiration at the current context the military is regarded to safeguard the frontiers, and protect the sovereignty of the country. However, the army performs a commendable job at the time of national disaster and calamities. They also undertook duties in aid of civil power. These are the activities strengthen the democratic government. Since these types of military involvement are growing, question raises whether UNPKO is contributing for such growth? In answering these question we need to analyse BAF’s role in UNPKO and particularly, to the human security involvement in UNPKO.

3. Bangladesh Armed Force’s Role in UNPKO

Bangladesh security forces have gained a formidable international visibility and solid reputation through their successfully participation in UNPKOs. ‘The members from different branches of Bangladesh security forces have joined 45 missions in 35 countries’ (AFD, 2011). Bangladesh’s Army has been involved in United Nations peacekeeping missions since 1988 when 15 of its soldiers were sent to the UN Peacekeeping Operations in Iran-Iraq as Military Observers (MILOBS). BAF’s engagement in UNPKO ought to have a significant impact during its post mission period. Query remains whether such influence remains at the personal capacity level or the human security orientation has implication to the overall institutional approach. ‘BAF’s growing participation in UNPKO and wider recognition positively impacting on the institutional culture’ (AFD, 2011), which is beyond the personal level orientation.

In 2010 Bangladesh has become height troops providing nation in UN peacekeeping operation giving Bangladesh a leading position in the UNPKO. AFD in its supplementary mentioned that ‘on May 29, 2011 the total 10,734 personnel of Bangladeshi security force and police were engaged in 13 missions in 12 countries’ (AFD, 2011). Bangladeshi troops have earned high regards among the peacekeepers for their height professionalism and respectful to the mission mandate in all circumstances. ‘UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised Bangladesh's peacekeeping contributions’ (UN Foundation, 2001). In the UN official website the humanitarian assistance of Bangladeshi peacekeepers is praised and mentioned that, ‘peacekeepers from Bangladesh have been involved in operations ranging from demining in Eritrea or the transport of refugees in Somalia to the rehabilitation of schools and medical facilities in Sierra Leone’ (ONUCI Feature, 2005).

Bangladeshi peacekeepers perform their duties in risky situation. ‘In Somalia in 1995, in the complex and volatile environment when the fate of UN operation became uncertain, Bangladesh contingent displayed unprecedented courage and determination till the end of the mission that enabled safe passage of the UN contingents’ (AFD, 2011). BAF expressed their determination mentioning that ‘we reiterate our commitment to undertake any assignment for world peace under the aegis of the UN’ (ONUCI, 2005). BAF performs its mandate under the operation command of UN with the inspiration from their constitutional commitment for peace and security. Nevertheless the troops still remain under the central command of the Headquarter in Bangladesh. Thus BAF’s learning from the mission is having potential to influence the institutional expression and position. Of course the personal level exposure to the real situation provides orientation to assist people beyond mission’s mandate but the overall reorganisation about the armed forces responsible role gives a kind of onus at the domestic level to maintain neutrality in political events.

4. Reasons for BAF to Join UNPKO

Bangladesh’s participation in UNPKO is to uphold its constitutional commitment to pursue a peaceful settlement of international disputes and respect for international law. Bangladesh’s commitment in fulfilling its UN Charter mandated responsibility has been playing a cardinal role, which is to maintain international peace and security. The AFD Supplementary explained that ‘[u]ntil recently, Bangladesh’s role got prominence in UN system through its constructive engagement in peace negotiation and policy debates in UN headquarters and contribution of UN peacekeepers at the operational level in the conflict zones in the world’(AFD, 2011). This cost more than hundred of its members. Abul Kalam Adbul Momen, the permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, was addressing an open Security Council debate on the UN peacekeeping operations mentioned “we had to brave many odds and difficulties and endure many sacrifices in the process of the fulfillment of the commitment to international peace and security, as enshrined in our constitution, which has been a constant source of our motivation and dedication" (People’s Daily Online, August 2010).

Secondly, the softer approach of UNPKO is also playing a major role encouraging BAF to join the missions. Since UNPKO has been evolving the real characteristic is hard to define. ‘From Hard Man (military) approach to Soft Man (humanitarian warrior) and then New Man (peace keeping) approach have taken consideration of the fact that the mission participants would not be a party of the conflict’ (Chomsky, 1999; Moskos, 1976) The peacekeeping has a solid characteristic that termed as ‘softer approach’ in the conflict having more humanitarianism that achieve the military goal mostly in non-military means. Such approach is quite conducive for a regular force to work in a conflicting zone. Bangladeshi security force being a regular and specialized institution needs to be responsive without endangering itself. Not being actively participated in the hard war the military is relatively safer side. Top of that the flexibility of peacekeeping mandate allows the forces to work with the conflicting parties and remain as referee in the conflict.

Thirdly, the mission work is ‘additional duty’ of the regular security force is sufficiently compensated by UN. Being engaging in the UNPKO the troops receive regular financial benefit that of international standard, which in most of cases are higher than that of the salary they receive in home country. There is hardly any scope for the members of security force to earn extra money during their service period. Thanks to the UN mission a numerous number of individuals from the security force have managed to improve their quality of life by earning from the mission. According to Islam, “it (UNPKO) has provided a substantial addition to the income of the participating army personnel. By rotation a large number of such soldiers and officers have participated in such mission” (Islam, 2010). Thus in addition to the constitutional commitment for the international peace individual level motivation inspires BAF to increasingly participate in UNPKO. Query is how such participation promotes the BAF’s institutional orientation to be disengaged with the domestic politics. In answer to that we need to understand the uniqueness of UNPKO, which is potential to provide new orientation to the regular armed forces. In this regard emphasise comes on the military engagement during UNPKO in noncombat and humanitarian activities, which is characterised as human security approach. The human security engagement during UNPKO is a unique aspect. Now we need unveil whether the human security approach qualify as instrument to bring obvious shift in the military mindset? To answer the query we need to analyse the functionality of human security approach in UNPKO.


5. Functioning of Human Security Approach in UNPKO

The general role of UN peacekeeper is to ‘monitor a peace treaty’ or ‘create a buffer zone’ between two conflicting parties. The traditional role hardly involves interaction with ordinary people addressing their development and security needs. But the new approach for peacekeeping involves more grassroots involvement. The new engagement closely associated with ‘peace-building’ involving human security approach. The Brahimi Report[ii] suggested recommendation reforming traditional approach. Meaning an alternative approach to fill the gaps between today’s reality and the traditional approach of UN peacekeeping would be reconciled that to opt the peace-building with a wider scope. An UN report explained this phenomenon within the present context and stated that ‘history has taught that peacekeepers and peacebuilders are inseparable partners in complex operations’ [UN Document (A/55/305-S/2000/809), 2000: 5]. It is in this integrated composition that most UN peacekeeping operation takes the human security approach. For the regular armed forces involvement with the human security approach is obviously new experience. If this very type of BAF’s engagement in UNPKO allows them to work closely with the civil authority and local government that should be introducing the methods and working approach of the civil authority to the armed forces. In addition to that, such involvement would be providing the best account to the armed forces about the importance of the sustenance of the civilian process to the peace.  

UN peacekeeper ‘interposition’ between the conflicting parties by monitoring cease-fire, supervising the creating and functioning of ‘buffer zone’ is another type of engagement. Alan James explained that by positioning between the conflicting parties, ‘UN peacekeepers seek to defuse and then stabilize the conflict situation’ (James, 1990:4). Such role involves political effort and peace-building tasks. But the political effort needs careful support by the peacekeepers. Yasushi Akashi explained ‘the political aspects as show windows for peace’ (Akashi, 1995: 41). Marrack Goulding has added that ‘the UN peacekeepers seek to help adversaries to overcome difficulties in a coordinated way’ (Goulding, 1993: 452). Thus the interposition role of UN peacekeeping operation invokes military’s serious motivation for working with the political entities but not overstepping in the political space. This noncombat role leads for the political security of the people hence for securing the human security of the affected people. Meaning the military eventually works addressing the potential vulnerability of the conflicting communities by pulling the political process for a sustainable peace. Such engagement provides the necessary skill to the armed forces as an auxiliary to the political process without being part of the process.

In addition to these two arguments of armed force’s orientation with the new approach in UNPKO other major tasks of peacekeepers can be argued that inform security forces with human security approach. First, the role of UN peacekeeper for ‘transition assistance’ functions.  And second, the peacekeepers activities under the ‘humanitarian intervention’. Regarding the ‘transitional assistance’ A. B. Fetherston explained ‘such function is to change the status quo by assisting a state or group of states in executing an agreed political solution to a conflict’ (Fetherston, 1994: 13). To perform these ‘non-military’ functions, the UNPKO has to work with the civilian authorities supporting not only the development activities but also assisting in building the political and government institutions. All these have to happen under the supervision of nonmilitary authority. This very lesson should have a longer impact on the military mindset. In the case of the ‘humanitarian intervention’ the UN peacekeepers remain impartial and defend the victims of conflict. Of course this comes in a special situation with the objective to safe civilians from the impact of the conflict. Ramsbotham and Woodhouse explained that ‘the primary concern of the humanitarian intervention functions is to ease human suffering’ (Ramsbotham & Woodhouse, 1996: 12). Supporting the victim and protecting peace through the presence is a non-combat role and termed as human security engagement. The human security works as functional tool to meet the goal of UNPKO. Thus the involvement of BAF in UNPKO orients them with the necessary orientation of human security and that to equip them with the skill and knowledge about the ways to assist the civilian-political authority without involving in politics. Of course this does not mean that BAF is shifting itself from its core role to protect the national sovereignty and to serve for the development activities of the country. But the obvious combine influence of UNPKO and the success of human security approach in addressing the crucial conflict means beyond the capacity gain for the BAF. There is a transformation of the organizational orientation which is evident from the subsequent actions of the BAF. 

6. Post Mission Response towards Democracy in Bangladesh 

Since the UN Peacekeeping is becoming the significant engagement for BAF is creating opportunity and obstacles during their post mission service. Bangladesh has been delighted by the fact that the security force has been genuinely getting better professional expertise and skills as a direct impact of the mission. On the other hand, the successful presence of Bangladesh peacekeepers in many parts of Africa and Latin American has given a foreign policy boost to the country. Interestingly this has been working as the vender that has created opportunity or entry of Bangladesh’s business and non-governmental agencies at those countries. These are never seen as major impacts of the UNKPO but the structural changes that are taking place within the BAF’s institutional mindset is significant. The obvious reflection of such changes is evident from BAF’s institutional response to the civil-military relationship as well as to the political governance. 

The assessment of the institutional influence needs to be considered with the context of democratic functioning of the country and BAF’s response to the political government. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 democracy has hardly any smooth continuation till 1990. Constitutionally and ideally armed forces are bound to support the democratic process of the country. The preamble of the Constitution stated that ‘[t]he fundamental aim of the State to realise through the democratic process to socialist society, free from exploitation-a society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens’ (Government of Bangladesh, 1971: preamble). But the aspect of military disengagement with politics was not in practice till the 90s. Interestingly, the inspiration of the Bangladesh Constitution is to strengthen the democratic process and respect human rights, which represents vigorously in the UNPKO. As a result BAF receives practical experience of functioning to support the political governance that eventually reflects in their post mission actions.

From the history of civil-military relationship in Bangladesh we have witnessed that never been before 90s BAF has been transparent to the present extend to the political authority. Rather the democratic sprite of the Constitution has been challenged by extra-constitutional process and mainly by the army. ‘The armed forces emerged as the ruling elite in Bangladesh in 1975, first through the bloody coup of August 15, 1975 and finally by throwing away the slender parliamentary façade which hung loose from August 15 to November 3, 1975’ (Ahmed, 1988: 56). Factually, this continued till 1990. Though democracy is prevailing but an indirect influence of security force was still visible near the power circle. The politics in Bangladesh is not free from the fear of military intervention. The event in 2007 has reminded the threat of BAF’s intervention in the politics. However, the information and the media access to the event was much higher degree and that revealed all the detail of the conspiracy against political government. Finally, it was BAF’s involvement in UNPKO has helped them to keep out of politics.

Let us explain the event of 2007. A new conflict situation arose in political field of Bangladesh in 2006. The election under the Caretaker Government[iii] had become nearly impossible because of lack of consensus among the political parties about the head of the Caretaker Government, which ‘shall be based on consensus’ (Government of Bangladesh, 1971: Art. 58B). So the whole country became politically standstill. In this circumstances, the only way in which the major powers/donors could exercise effective pressure was to target where she was most vulnerable – the support of the army. In a article at Economic & Political Weekly, it was mentioned that-

‘The only leverage they had on the army was to threaten loss of oppor­tunities to participate in UN peacekeeping missions, something which is highly coveted by the army in terms of both high status and considerable financial gain. Bangladesh’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions has been widely applauded at home and abroad, in the last several years. Participation in such missions not only enhanced the pres­tige of the Bangladesh army abroad but also helped widen the range of its experience by exposing it to different societies as well as to the practices of the armies of different countries’ (Economic & Political Weekly, 2010).

Thus Bangladesh Army (BA) hadn’t taken the risk to losing such opportunity in UNPKO by taking the political power of the country.  Factually, as the situation became grave, President Ahmed resigned from the post of Chief of the caretaker government, creating a constitutional deadlock. With no other alternative, the BA stepped in and, instead of taking power into its own hand; it installed a civilian Caretaker Government. Commenting on the situation, the BBC reported that, ‘in practice, it was Gen. Moeen General's lead (Army’s lead)’ (Mark, 2008). This opinion was verified by Lieutenant General Moeen Ahmed, the then army Chief, when he stated-

“the country had three options in front of it: the first was to go for elections that was scheduled on January 22, 2007; the second was to proclaim martial law and the third option was to protect the national existence by establishing an acceptable Caretaker Government by quickly promulgating emergency… everybody in the world including Bangladesh at that time was apprehending that martial law was imminent. But we decided not to follow the footsteps of our predecessors and the third option was adopted…” (Datta, 2009: 53).

There were some who believed that the General was not interested in taking over power and others saw the influence of strong international pressure against a military takeover. Bhattacharjee argued that ‘the UN, for instance, indicated that all Bangladeshi troops in the UN Peace Keeping Operations would be withdrawn if the army took over power’ (Bhattacharjee, 2010: 18). In a US Congressional Research Service report mentioned that ‘it has been argued that the military is restrained by a desire not to jeopardise its lucrative involvement in international peacekeeping’ (Vaughn, 2010: 7). The official statement of the U.N. resident representative in Bangladesh has mentioned that ‘the military’s actions in Bangladesh have implications for its involvement in U.N. peacekeeping contracts’ (The Economist, February 2007). The only published report which can be called authentic in this regard is the statement by the then army chief in his autobiography. There he narrated,

“two incidents: one in which important donor govern­ments met and told him that if the army helped in the holding of elections under the then prevailing circumstances, they would ask the UN peacekeeping office to reconsider or bar the recruit­ment of Bangladesh army personnel in peacekeeping operations. The second incident took place subsequently on 10 January 2008, when the undersecretary general of the UN peacekeeping opera­tions, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, conveyed the same ultimatum to the army chief, i e, the participation of the Bangladesh army in peacekeeping operations would be jeopardised if they helped in the holding of elections under the circumstances then prevailing”. (Ahmed, M. U., 2009: 331)

These statements of the army chief have neither been denied nor confirmed by the UN peacekeepers. It should be underlined that an undersecretary general of the UN could not have said this without the explicit approval of the UN secretary general.

This shows the deterrent factor of military’s involvement in politics was rather external. But we shall also not forget the internal motivation of the armed forces behind the BAF’s decision not to be involved in politics. The inside pressure of BAF not to intervene the democratic process is obviously claimable as a matter of ‘orientation’ rather than purely interest factor. Because if it is only the outside pressure that cause to stop the intervention than the same could be effective in previous intervention when BAF had taken the political power in the face of serious international pressure in 1982 or even earlier. Though UNPKO was not an option than military cooperation, higher education, defence support arrangement was still open during those days, where international community obviously barred those as a punitive measure of military takeover. That couldn’t prevent the military engagement in politics. But in 2007, army chief’s statement about ‘their lack of interest’ shows that the internal pressure was a significant factor. The response of the army chief brings the fact to the public that the BA’s decision was not the decision of the army chief’s alone rather it was a combine response. Interestingly, the history of the army coups in Bangladesh has never an outcome of the combine institutional decision. This culture of the armed forces is definitely a shift. Query is whether UNPKO has contributed in such shift.   

We underscore the pressure from the donor or even from the institutional institutes at the level of higher decision makers using UNPKO as a conditional option for not involving in politics. But that high level pressure can make very little persuasion or can prove to be pressure on the individual level. As due to the UNPKO the change of orientation at the individual level has already been there that must has reflected as a combination of inside pressure to the higher decision making command not to intervene in the political process. What makes that possible is to be linked with their learning for both the history as well as from their new orientation about the importance of sustenance of civilian authority. Post 90s history provides hardly any space for the military those who are attempted for the political power.  There is an obvious maturity within the military institution combined by increased transparency to the civilian authority, namely, functioning of the Defence Parliamentary Committee or directly defence reporting to the prime minister from several ranked military officers. Importantly, implementation of these initiatives has support from the military institutions itself. The proof is that fat that the process cannot function without the institutional support. So the very functioning of these new systems of civilian control and increase transparency shows that the institutional position of the military regarding the nonintervention in politics has developed.

Finally, at the individual level the inspiration of being financially benefited through UN peacekeeping works as an inspiration factor not to be enthusiastic about any military take over. But does it only the money that matters or this is just an additional factor to push the non-intervention orientation that they gained from UNPKO? It is worthy to mention that Major General Muhammad Imrul Quayes claimed this ‘nonintervention’ as BAF’s support for democracy. He mentioned that the BA orientation for nonintervention ‘was demonstrated by the military in their constructive role which paved the way for recent transition to democracy after two years of political turmoil’ (BIISS, 2011). In conclusion we can say that whatever was the inside story of 2007 coup attempt but the fact remains same- engagement in the UNPKO was instrumental to restrain BA not to conduct any military takeover. Such trend ultimately is strengthening the democratic process of Bangladesh and providing the military a solid position within a democratic system, where they are not being in the politics.

7. Conclusion

The nonintervention of military to the democratic politics of Bangladesh has been the key to keep it sustain. In 2007 the situation took army very close to takeover of the state power. Over time the BAF has evolved as a state agency balancing their role in domestic affairs. Functional democracy provides strength to the sovereignty. “Democracy … is not, and can never be, a matter of weakening the state” (Luckham, 1994). Functional democracy guarantees desired role for its security forces. Democratic system gives space for all state agencies. The popular pretext of coups of protecting the country is becoming less logical under the functional democracy. The crucial aspect of BAF’s involvement in UNPKO works as a deterrent factor in the intervention of the functional democracy in Bangladesh. Undeniably, the armed forces are inclined to their combat fashioned orientation. But in a peace time involvement BAF is obviously an agency ready to assist the civilian authority on call. The ego-centric organizational outlook often barred BAF to be involved fully in the human security work under the civilian authority. With the growing involvement in the human security work both inside country and outside country has helped BAF to realize the institutional position in a democratic country. Such orientation is vital and key for the separation of their role from politics. As a result the democratic process of Bangladesh is getting confidence. A confident democratic government takes steps fit for the people’s wellbeing and future protection where BAF gained a better institutional chain of command and functional structure. The learning from UNPKO obviously contributed not only promoting internal transparency but also with better skill and capacity where the chain of command remains functional that to prevent the intervention to the national political governance.


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End Notes

[i] This article is a part of the Ph.D. thesis of the writer. The tile of the thesis is “Assessment of the Impact of the Armed Forces Integrating Human Security into Bangladeshi National Policy.”  

[ii] The Brahimi Report was submitted in 2000 to the United Nations secretary-general by the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations as a comprehensive review of the whole concept of peacekeeping operations

[iii] NON-PARTY CARE TAKER GOVERNMENT is under CHAPTER IIA of Bangladesh Constitution. Article 58 B of the Chapter has Mentioned detail about the non-party caretaker government. However, it is worthy to mention that due to a constitutional amendment in 2011 this section has been removed from the Bangladesh Constitution.