An unsigned note is circulating in the social media , asking why the Bangladesh Army Chief General Aziz Ahmed has been dragged into controversy again and again .The note was brought to my attention by Gautam Lahiri, president of the Press Club of India and someone who follows Bangladesh closely in the Delhi press circles. It is not clear who originated the note.It says : “After the assassination of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the most darkest night of August 15, 1975, Bangladesh Army first time has stand up as a symbol of peace, unity, progress, front line warrior in any natural and evils- made catastrophe under the dynamic leadership of General Aziz Ahmed. General Aziz ,a proven loyal and trusted army chief in the history of Bangladesh. ” The distrust, mischievous acts , intra clash of freedom fighters and non-freedom fighters and sponsored clashes by Zia, Ershad, and Khaleda Nizami has almost diminished. The impediments , false phobia ,Pakistani sponsored sermons and doctrines have gone away with the installation of true and objective pro liberation forces ideology .” General Aziz , a born and congenital believer of the ideology of our father of the nation and PM Sheikh Hasina has already shown his patriotism, honesty,boldness, courage and brilliancy during the most critical juncture of Bangladesh in 2013-2014. During that time the General was leading the Bangladesh para-military border Guard of Bangladesh(BGB) as its Director General. “The messy, disarray, chaos, clashes and total strife torn nation was brought back in to a pure normalcy by the leadership of General Aziz. The ruling Awami League under the courageous leadership of Sheikh Hasina has assumed power with landslide victory. The nation has witnessed another general election of 2018 under the direct supervision of the incumbent Army chief General Aziz Ahmed which was undoubtedly a peaceful , transparent ,credible with all opposition’s participation election without any untoward incidents. The ruling Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina has again clinched the victory with full majority in the parliament.”The nation has gone through a number of natural calamities including Ila, Bulbul and Amphan for the last few years but all of the impediments had diligence and brilliantly handled by the army under the leadership of General Aziz. The most dangerous pandemic Covid 19 that has started last march in Bangladesh is being now contained by army in the aid of civil administration. General Aziz has proven again and again his capabilities, loyalties, patriotism and ideology of the father of the nation and PM Sheikh Hasina.”There is no crack or strife within Bangladesh Army. The trio who are holding the spirit of our liberation war and ideology of the father of the nation PM Sheikh Hasina, Adviser to PM Major General Tarique Ahmed Siddiqui and Army chief General Aziz Ahmed are relentlessly working for the betterment of Bangabandhu’s Bangladesh. The obsolete and derailed fundamentalist quarters are making their best efforts to destabilize or to create an unusual situation by publishing false and fabricated news item in different news outlets in order to diminish our pride and glorious discipline forces of Bangladesh Army.”
Easternlink has made no attempt to edit or rephrase the unsigned note before publication to (a) avoid allegations of tinkering and (b) to capture the spirit and thrust of the not.
Some recent articles in Easternlink and Telegraph by this writer in response to a poorly argued article by one ‘Nirmala Saha’ seems to have provoked this unsigned note.
The last paragraph of this unsigned note is a case of contradiction — it claims there is no ‘crack or strife’ within the Bangladesh army but also blames ” obsolete and derailed fundamentalist quarters are making their best efforts to destabilize or to create an unusual situation by publishing false and fabricated news item in different news outlets in order to diminish our pride and glorious discipline forces of Bangladesh Army .”But the note does not explain why a senior officer filed a strong petition to the Prime Minister’s Office challenging his Leave Prior to Retirement (LPR) which was used in my Easternlink piece in its original form as evidence of disquiet within the Bangladesh Army. That article made it clear that the Bangladesh Army has emerged as a strong professional institution after the turbulent initial years and its worth was recognised by the UN through grant of additional Peace Keeping responsibilities.
General Aziz was in news even before he became Army Chief on account of the predential pardon extended to his brother Tofail Ahmed Joseph, who was serving 30-year imprisonment in a murder case and another 12-year in an arms case.
It is well known in Bangladesh military circles that General Aziz’s assuming charge as Chief did upset his main rival and contender Lt Gen Mahfuzur Rahman , now PSO,Armed Forces Division in Prime Minister’s Office.
Easternlink has reliably learnt that some senior officers have ganged up against General Aziz and made a sustained attempt to create a divide between him and PM Sheikh Hasina.
This lobby , strongly patronised by one of the top advisers of PM who is known for his links to Pakistan, has tried to impress on the Prime Minister that General Aziz is “India’s man” and Delhi could use him to topple the elected government if it was unhappy with Dhaka.
” Aziz is well disposed to India because he values the legacy of the Liberation War and though he has strong views on many issues, his loyalty to PM Hasina is never in doubt,” said a senior Awami League politician who enjoys proximity to bbth the PM and the Army chief. He was not willing to be named.
He claimed the anti-Aziz lobby is working to a ‘dangerous strategy’ which seeks to undermine both the PM and the Army Chief.
‘They try poisoning the PM by questioning Gen Aziz’s motives, they try tell our Netri (leader) that Aziz bhai may upstage her , they even push for cutting down the Army’s role and deployment in controlling the pandemic , and some of these conspirators even want Gen Aziz to step down well before his tenure to be packed off to some country with an ambassadorial assignment,”said the senior leader with a long track record of suffering imprisonment and torture when Awami League was out of power.
Easternlink would be happy to name him but can’t because of what he anticipates — “threat to my life because the Pakistani lobby is on the rise and getting increasingly powerful.”
He said the anti-Aziz lobby , by creating a divide between the PM and Army Chief and playing on anti-Indian fears , sought to achieve (a) a decisive say in the appointment of the next Army chief (b) ensure the next chief is from the anti-Aziz lobby and under control of the group which promotes Pakistani interests (c) discredit the Hasina government for ‘failing to control the pandemic’ and discredit Gen Aziz for faling to ‘uphold the army’s prestige and role in disaster management’.
The Awami League leader told Easternlink that there is an ‘eerie similiarity’ between the months before August 1975 and now.
“A small but highly mischievous section of the Awami League and the army, like in 1975, are conspiring to discredit both the government and the army , the PM and the Army chief , by driving a wedge between the two revered institutions . They intend to fish in troubled waters by weakening both and then triggering a military reaction against government and the ruling party through a new army chief if they can place their own man in that position,” the AL leader said.
“We have at the moment a Khondkhar Mostaque who intends to become the country’s president if there is ever a military takeover by anti-liberation forces . He has support from some elements he has foisted in key positions in the party,” claimed the senior AL leader without clarifying who he was talking about.
Bangladesh-watchers may make informed guesses but the ‘Nirmala Saha’ article (Saha is a fake) and now the unsigned note handed over to me by Gautam Lahiri does point to extensive disquiet and some conspiratorial ripple in the Bangladesh military and government that seems focussed on first driving a wedge between the PM and the Army Chief, then discrediting both in the current pandemic situation (by warning the PM to keep the army in check because its on-ground deployment could be a source of problem and by blaming Gen Aziz for failing to provide effective leadership to uphold the army’s prestige) and finally placing their own men in the top job in uniform and upstaging the government .
Meanwhile, promotion of labour unrest through sudden sack of garment workers and popular unrest by creating a civil-military confrontation in handling the pandemic could lead to a ground situation where a clamour for change revives a decimated Opposition that gives Pakistan (and its friends) the chance to reverse the losses of the decade.
The Aziz camp is aware of the conspiracy as evident from the ‘Nirmala Saha ‘ piece and the unsigned note , but it is being increasingly outgunned and outmaneuvered by the influential civil-military-political-business cabal at work .
So BNP’s Morshed Khan can fly off to London in a chartered plane without being stopped at the Airport, critical appointments in the government manipulated to provide space for ‘anti-liberation elements’, strong ‘pro-liberation’ elements dropped from party and government with alacrity, one of the nation’s best professional editors running a highly prestigious news portal revived by a recent investment from abroad now hauled up for trumped-up charges — and so much more.
The Awami League, once the most formidable agitprop parties of South Asia, has been undermined by intrusion of business interests and religious fundamentalists operating under a nationalist cloak. The stage , according to the senior leader, is being set up , as in 1975, for a sudden shock action — with the powers that be not really oblivious to it but somehow caught up in a paralysis , unwilling to act decisively to uphold the spirit of 1971.