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Examples Good and Bad.

It is generally believed that South Asia has finally bid farewell to military rule. However, it was recently revealed that Bangladesh experienced a coup attempt from a group of army officers. The failed coup recently involved low and mid-ranking officers having links with the banned Islamic organization, Hizb ul-Tahrir. With the recent growth of Islamism in Bangladesh, further powered by rising public fury over the poor performance of the country's two main political parties, the failed bid succeeded in shaking the Bangladeshi nation out of its reverie and sending a strong message to the political establishment to clean up its act. What makes the coup so different is that the plotters were low and mid-level army officers inspired by religious zeal and not top generals guided by ambitions of power. What is ominous is that it was religious motivation that reportedly fuelled the putsch.

In recent years, Bangladesh has been plagued by extremism and the activities of groups like Hizb ul-Tahrir have gained momentum. Ever since Bangladesh emerged as a separate state some 40 years back, it has seen three army coups as well as a number of mutinies.

It has been observed that many countries experience political volatility in the period following their independence. Bangladesh saw extreme violence in its early years, such as assassination of the Awami League leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and several of his family members by a group of army officers. In fact, the country's own military is said to be the biggest source of its instability. The root cause for this can be traced back to the days when the Bangladeshi army was cobbled together from forces that were either part of the Bengali elements in the Pakistan Army then stationed in East Pakistan or were those secessionists who called themselves the Mukti Bahini and were backed by India. This produced a disjointed force lacking order and discipline and having inbuilt fractures.

While there are a reported 800 soldiers in Bangladesh still awaiting trial for their role in an earlier mutiny, the newly revealed alliance between religious groups and some elements in the Bangladeshi army could prove to be much more lethal and there may be many more such attempts potentially threatening democracy in the country.

The other major nation in South Asia with a history of military coups, namely Pakistan, also currently finds itself in a situation where the democratic government and the armed forces do not see eye to eye on issues of governance and foreign policy. Fortunately, any religiously-motivated elements that may have existed in the rank and file of the Pakistani military have been successfully weeded out. However, while in the past the military may have found it expedient to take over the reins of power in times when civilian rule had broken down, this time the armed forces are watching the situation from a safe distance and are encouraging change of government only through democratic means. That certainly sets a good example for other nations in the region.

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Publication:South Asia
Geographic Code:9BANG
Date:Feb 28, 2012
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