Fear of Propaganda in Bangladesh Army

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Generals’ Conference.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina went to Dhaka Cantonment on Sunday and addressed the Generals’ Conference of the Bangladesh Army. In her speech, she made some observations and stated that a ‘vested quarter’ has been spreading ‘baseless information and rumors’.

He comment came at a time when Bangladesh is holding trial of a number of people accused in crimes against humanity during the 1971 war of liberation. The Prime Minister referred to the trial in her speech and said her government has brought the war criminals under the trial process, which was not an easy task and there were many obstacles.

Her indication is close to clear and it is quite simple who the quarter she meant. So she called upon the army to remain vigilant as ‘anti-state conspiracy is being hatched to resist the trial and creating anarchy to stop the trial process’. The Prime Minister urged them to remain vigil so that the junior officers are not victimised by the propaganda of the vested quarters who, what she said, ‘want to create confusion among the members of the armed forces through spreading baseless information and rumors’.

Not many months have passed that the Army had arranged a press conference for the first time in its history to tell the people through media that a number of junior officers were involved in a coup plot and their bid was foiled.

The trial for the crimes against humanity has seen smart information campaign on behalf of the accused and much less has been seen on the part of those who were holding the trial. Their campaign has seen a number of reporting in the international media questioning the process of the trial. Many international human rights organisations voiced concern and lately Turkey, known long as a friendly country of Bangladesh, openly spoke on behalf of the accused. So, the next area of showing strength is obviously the military for those who are against the trial.

In order to counter the information campaign, too little has been done. Just a small example could be lack of an official website. The International Crimes Tribunal has no website of its own and one may get more information from the website of Jamaat-e-Islami, the political party which has seen almost all its top brass on the dock of the tribunal. The info-sphere is full of information provided by those who are accused.

Now the Prime Minister is well aware that propaganda has been playing a major role. But what her government has done so far? Is it enough to call upon the Generals to remain alert so that their juniors do not fall prey to such propaganda? Try to learn something from the opposite camp.

Moral supports are more than huge for holding the trial. But such moral support in home and abroad could be augmented if the pro-trial side was bit smarter to realise the importance of propaganda. Without that her adamant attitude of holding the trial defying all odds may appear as a ‘political vengeance’ as narrated by her opponents.

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Bangladesh Army command to be divided

The Bangladesh Army’s existing command pattern will be rearranged into separate Eastern and Western commands.

The plan has been taken in order to modernise and strengthen the force, Planning Minister AK Khandker told the Bangladesh Parliament on Wednesday.

It seems these plans are more to modernise the force in enhancing their hardware capabilities, but nothing has been mentioned in terms of software side, e.g informational capabilities. The Minister did not disclose anything from that perspective.

Khandker, who is in charge of the defence ministry in the parliamentary affairs, said restructuring of the overall organisational organogram is now at the final stage to introduce the two new command structures in the army.

Welcoming the move, former army chief Lt. Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman said this was the long overdue plan in the army. It would be good for the force if it is now implemented, he commented.

Recalling the overdue plan when he was the chief of staff, he said Bangladesh Army has now seven divisions which may be put under the two new commands and a lieutenant general rank officer might be given the charge of each command.

He said if the new commands are introduced, opportunity will be created to expand the army and make it stronger.

In his scripted answer to questions, the planning minister said an organisational structure of an overall intelligence headquarters will be prepared with efficient manpower and modern electronics equipment for the army.

“Steps will be taken to include manpower with skill in information technology and equipment at the organisational structure of every sector headquarters and unit,” he said.

On purchase of arms and ammunition and equipment, the minister said process is under way to purchase 44 modern MBT-2000 tanks, three armoured recovery vehicles, two weapons locating radars, 18 self-propelled guns, one electronic mate station, two pieces of sound raising equipment, 200 surface-to-surface missiles, 130 short-range anti-tank guided weapons, 10 automatic grenade launchers, seven light mortars, one ground surveillance radar, and 25 machine guns.

The minister said 29 headquarters/units will be formed in the army under a midterm plan and another 25 headquarters/units will be formed under a long-term plan.

For Bangladesh Navy, the minister said the government has moved to purchase two off the shelf [readymade] frigates, two large patrol crafts, two maritime patrol aircraft, and five patrol crafts.

For the air force, the minister said process is under way to purchase 16 fighter planes, three MI-17 SH helicopters, and two air defence radars.

The minister said the government has made the moves to strengthen the defence services to protect the country from external aggression.

Information Link: From the Daily Star newspaper.[http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=238248]

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