Moeen’s admission bears significance
Sunday, 03 February 2008

Army Chief Moeen U Ahmed’s statement that they won’t stay longer is politically significant. It contains both an admission that the army is in power and an assurance that the army will not 'stay longer' in power. Ever since the Fakhruddin Ahmed administration assumed office on the wings of a state of emergency, we have maintained that it is an army-backed/controlled government, despite attempts by the civil façade of the administration and a section of civil society to have the people believe otherwise. The army chief's candid admission certainly vindicates our position and we would like to thank him for that. We would also like to appreciate the assurance that the armed forces would not 'stay longer' in power as prolonged military intervention in governance is not good for the well-being of a state. Good or bad, the interim government and its military mentors have indeed done some notable work. First and foremost, the incumbents have had arrested on corruption and criminal charges certain powerful people, who used to be perceived as being above law, although one cannot guarantee that the ways of detaining them were adequately lawful. Then, of course, they have had such vital institutions of the state as the Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Service Commission reconstituted. Importantly still, they have completed, albeit on paper, the separation of the judiciary from the executive. Regrettably, the initiatives, however well-intentioned they may be, have thus far yielded hardly any positive results. One need not be a legal expert to understand that the judiciary is still very much under the executive's control. Also, the reconstituted Election Commission, which is ordained and expected to create a level playing field for credible and contested elections to the ninth Jatiya Sangsad, is perceived by many quarters to be pursuing an agenda of complicating the political process. Finally, the less said about the government's anti-crime and anti-corruption drives, the better. According to legal experts, the charges brought against the crime and corruption suspects have weak premises and may not hold, if challenged in higher courts. If so, when the state of emergency is withdrawn, even the genuine offenders may well rush to higher courts and get themselves acquitted of the charges brought against them. Moreover, the manner in which the interim government has employed the army-led joint forces in its anti-crime and anti-corruption drives has induced a climate of fear in the business community, which, in turn, has resulted in a sharp decline in investment and business activities, and concomitant fall in export and loss of employment. All along, the prices of essential commodities have spiralled out of the reach of even the middle-income people. Last but not least, amid all these, the interim government has failed to deliver on its primary mandate, ie help the Election Commission hold the stalled general elections within the 90-day constitutional timeframe. In the final analysis, the 'good' work of the government and its military mentors seems to have landed the country in a larger economic and political mess than it was in before the incumbents took over the helm of the state. We have, therefore, reasons to feel relieved by the army chief's statement. General Moeen has hoped that the 'good work' the army has initiated would be carried on in the future. Here, we have a suggestion to make. There have long been whispers in society about the lack of transparency in military procurement, promotion system, etc. No one dares talk about it as it has over the years been treated as a taboo topic. If the army chief really means to do some good work, he should initiate a process to make these areas transparent, and thus making the army accountable to the people at large, who have never hesitated to provide money for a stronger defence force.

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