For his father’s sins?
On 7 June, six officers of the Bangladesh Army were summarily dismissed. According to the media reports, these officers — Lt Cols Shamsul Islam, Mahdi Nasrullah Shahir and Md Shafiul Haque Chowdury, Major Mahsinul Karim, and Captains AKM Annur Hossain and Habiba Islam. Then, on 23 June, Brig Gen Abdullahil Azmi was summarily dismissed. A fellow blogger wrote to me thus: … as observers and analysts of political power, I think we need to follow these things closely and track them on a continuing basis.
Here is my take on the dismissals.
Let’s start with whether the Government can summarily dismiss somebody. I am not a legal expert, but I have been told that any member of the armed forces — unlike the civilian public service — can be dismissed without being shown any cause. That is, I have been told, the dismissals are not illegal. I am happy to be educated on this point.
Okay, if not illegal, were they still wrong? Under what circumstances can someone be stripped off their livelihood (including pension and other entitlements) without basic rights of self defence? Presumably if someone disobeys a direct and legitimate command, or absconds from duty without permission, these would count as a ground for instant dismissal.
Turns out that the the six dismissed on 7 June may have acted in a way that may count as ‘conduct unbecoming of an officer’, possibly ending in their dimissal. According to media reports, these officers behaved in an extremely rowdy fashion on 1 March at a Senakunjo event. Fully taking into account the context of that meeting, I think these officers’ behaviours, if true, make them unfit to lead armed men. That is, I don’t see anything wrong with their dismissal.
The dismissal of Brig Gen Azmi, on the other hand, seems to have nothing to do with the Senakunjo event, and everything to do with his father’s politics. Azmi’s father is Golam Azam, former head of Jamaat-e-Islami, and an architect of the genocide in 1971.
But what does his father’s politics has to do with Azmi? According to media reports, Azmi was the top of his class in military academy, and has had a stellar professional career. Yes, his father needs to be tried — one hopes, will be tried — for his actions in 1971. But isn’t Azmi’s professionalism enough for a job in the army? Does he need to lose his entitlements because of his father’s sins?
I have heard that Azmi was fired because of ‘Jamaati infiltration’ of the army. If that is so, then he shouldn’t have been summarily dismissed. Instead, he should have been court martialled, and given the appropriate punishments if found guilty.
But I am not even sure if there is anything to the ‘Jamaati infiltration’ story at all. For the past few years, I’ve been hearing that ‘Golam Azam’s son is a big wig in the army, number 2/3/4, in line for being the chief ….’ from a lot of supposedly knowledgable people. Turns out he was just a brigadier.
To put that in the context, Bangladesh army has 7 infantry divisions, each headed by a major general. Then there are another half a dozen or so major generals commanding the artillery, engineering, air defence, medical units, DGFI, NSC, staff college, BDR, Ansar etc. Then there are administrative posts such as the president/PM’s military secretaries, or chief of general staff, or adjutant general et, which are all usually major generals. Then there are a few major generals deputed to the foreign ministry or commanding UN missions. Above them, we have two lieutenant generals and a full general. Add all these up and there were easily 20-25 people above Brig Azmi, and that’s assuming he was the top ranked brigadier.
So he was fired because of Jamaati infiltration? Excuse me if I don’t buy it.
In the Bengali Muslim tradition, the son is supposed to stand at his father’s funeral and acknowledge his father’s debts. Golam Azam owes the nation for his misdeeds, but should the People’s Republic of Bangladesh be governed by the cultural traditions of Bengali Muslims?
The Government has recently announced a body that will probe the promotions and dismissals in the army in the past seven years. Irony, it seems, doesn’t exist in our country.