He has said that most executive power lies with the Armed Forces Division (AFD)
Brigadier General (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain has said the Ministry of Defence largely remains ineffective as he thinks, for the ministry to be functional, there could be a separate minister to run it like the other ministries, said a press release.
Speaking at a lecture program on Sunday, Sakhawat, also a former election commissioner, said collective civilian control should be established over the military to guide it towards achieving national goals and in defending territorial integrity.
He made the statements at the Shaheed Colonel Jamil Ahmed Memorial Lecture 2019 styled "Civil Military Relations (CMR): Current Status in Bangladesh and the Future”, held at the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh in the city.
Sakhawat said: “The Armed Forces Division (AFD), headed by the prime minister, functions like a ministry. The prime minister is also the defence minister, but the ministry remains ineffective with mostly administrative tasks like signing different deals and MoUs. No-one even knows the name of the defence secretary as the ministry is not functioning.”
“There has to be a structural control mechanism in reorganizing the defence ministry to make it a more responsive, controlling and supervising one,” he pointed out.
Sakhawat said the AFD is now a principal government organ for the coordination of all operational matters as well as important administrative matters relating to the Armed Forces.
“Though called the army of liberation, Bangladesh Army maintains the same structures and retains its elite organization till today like any other commonwealth country,” Sakhawat said.
When professional military officers control national politics it is called military dictatorship, he said, adding that a lack of control over the military may create “a state within the state”.
The former election commissioner, however, said control should not be a one-man one or bureaucratic one as it has to be a collective one by people’s representatives, without curtailing organizational and operational freedom.
As part of collective control, the former military officer also said Bangladesh needs to reorganize the present AFD into a Joint Services Headquarters with designated Joint Chiefs of Staff who would be the key professional advising the head of the government.
Chaired by Vice-Chancellor of the National University Professor Harun-or-Rashid, the lecture event was attended, among others, by Shaheed Colonel Jamil Ahmed Memorial Trust Management Committee Convener M Abdur Rahim, UNB Chairman Amanullah Khan, Brigadier General Jamil’s daughter Afrozaa Jamil, and Professor Dr Md Anwarul Islam of Zoology department, Professor Sabbir Ahmed of Political Science department, Dr Shameem Reza and Dr Robayet Ferdous of Mass Communication and Journalism department of Dhaka University.