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Unformatted text preview: SPECIAL ARTICLE Economic & Political Weekly EPW july 17, 2010 vol xlv no 29 77 The Army, UN Peacekeeping Mission and Democracy in Bangladesh Nurul Islam Nurul Islam ( [email protected] ) is former deputy chairman of the Bangladesh Planning Commission . This article examines the role of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bangladesh in pushing the army in a certain direction with regard to holding elections and supporting political parties. It analyses the reasons why the UN peacekeeping mission has such a strong influence on the Bangladesh army and assesses the implications for future political developments of such foreign involvement. It further argues that whatever the limitations and excesses of democracy, army rule is no solution, rather it is necessary to strengthen democractic institutions and let democratic processes play themselves out. In this sense, the recourse to the army to bring in democracy in Bangladesh was not the best solution to the political impasse witnessed in 2007. D uring the latter part of 2006, when elections were due to be held in Bangladesh, serious disagreements surfaced between the then ruling party, which was due to hand power over to the caretaker government, and the opposition party, over the appointment of the chief adviser of the caretaker government, and of the chief of the Election Commission, as well as the necessary revision of the voting rolls. The opposition con- sidered both these functionaries to be too closely allied with the ruling party and demanded that they should be substituted by neutral persons acceptable to both parties. As the ruling party refused any concessions on these points, the opposition staged protests and demonstrations. The resulting confrontations be- tween the followers of the two parties, as well as between the opposition party workers and the law-enforcing agencies, some- times violent, threatened to bring normal life and economic a ctivities to a standstill. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was determined to hold the elections according to her predetermined schedule. The caretaker government was constituted and the president – who was an appointee of the ruling party – doubled up as the chief adviser or head of the caretaker government. It proceeded to hold the elections. On 9 December 2006, the president de- ployed the armed forces throughout the country in the aid of the civil administration to maintain law and order. On the 3 January 2007, the main opposition party and its allies d eclared that if their demands were not met they would not participate in the elections and would carry on their country- wide agitation and protests. Under these circumstances, elections could only be held by the use of force, including the military force, to violently suppress the opposition parties, which would have tried to obstruct the hold- ing of elections. On 10 January 2007 the army was entrusted with the duty of taking into custody, without any warrant of arrest, anyone interfering in the conduct of elections or in the process of...
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This note was uploaded on 07/31/2010 for the course FIN 201 taught by Professor Hcverma during the Summer '10 term at IIT Kanpur.
- Summer '10