Bangladesh Army was formed on 26 December 1971-following the Bangladesh Liberation War consisting of Bangladeshi soldiers and officers from the Pakistan Army and members of the Mukti Bahini. The year 1975 was the turning point year and the darkness of the Bangladesh History as a nation. And the Bangladesh has a history of military governments. The army ran the country for 15 years until 1990. And after 15 years of Military power first in 1991, the new elected Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has turned the nation in the light of Democratic Country. Though the Bangladesh Army played a vital role in the political area for many years, but nowadays they are strongly growing their business sector in all over the country. And very rapidly spread across all the major sectors of the country’s economy. This might be one of the big problems for the small investor. The indigenous peoples in CHT are one of the most victims of military business expansion in Bangladesh. We might say one kind of initiative to use the business sector in the name of “Tourism” as a weapon of ethnic cleansing of the Jumma people and grabbing their lands in the name of development.
However, it is not so hard to identify the business sectors and the wealth of the Bangladesh Army’s. We know that the Bangladesh Army Welfare Trust (AWT) founded in 1998 during the previous rule of the Awami League led by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, using almost the same model as the Pakistani Army. Till from the inception of AWT that they have rapidly expanded their business in a wide range throughout the country. If we look at Pakistan, the military’s Fauji Foundation has a huge involvement in trade and industry. So there is no doubt to say that the Bangladeshi armed force is also strongly following the business model system of Pakistan. On the other hand, the government does not divulge details of the defense budget to the nation, but the sector enjoys a more budget than many sectors including health, but it’s never to be discussed in a public forum or not even in the Parliament. As far we know there is a Parliamentary Committee on Defense, but there tow major policy or procurement decisions are not to be discussed at all. While there had been numerous discussions, debates and suggestions from various trade bodies, pressure groups and civil society organisations on what fiscal measures government should take to accelerate the pace of development, there has been total silence regarding the defense expenditures. The question is why? The citizens of the country, even don’t know where and how will be used the total money of the defense budget.
As evidence let me refer some of the Bangladeshi Army’s business occupied in the country. If we start from the five start Dhaka Radisson Hotel and the nearby the deluxe golf course which attracted the international visitors. Moreover, the AWT has also built another five star Radisson Hotel at the port city of Chittagong. Not only that but they are also running various types of the fast-food shop, a restaurant in different places in Dhaka and outside of Dhaka to affluent the middle-class people. They also run the schools, colleges, medical college, engineering institutions, jute mills, electronics, shopping malls, community center, real estate and travel and much more. The Bangladesh Army’s big business in the country is the Trust Bank (with more than 40 branches around the different pocket of the country), tourism spots in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), garments, textiles and the five-star hotels. We might say the Army’s business has spread in all the major sectors of the economy of the country. My question to the State shall the armed forces should allow carrying out such commercial business activities in a democratic country? But my opinion is that the armed forces agencies are made to defend the country, but not to run any type of business or industry in the country.
According to the BBC report on 15 August 2010 as reported that “while bank official says it played by the rules and received no special favors from the government, its audited accounts – first released in 2007 – caused much controversy. They revealed that the then army chief, Gen Moeen U Ahmed, got loans several times larger than the rules allow. At the time, he was chairman of the Trust Bank by virtue of the fact that he was head of the army. And Bangladesh was being ruled by an army-backed interim government”. Even we can’t imagine in what range of corruption is going on inside the Bangladesh Army’s.
However, on the other hand, the Bangladeshi Army’s were grabbing lands of CHT Jumma indigenous people in the name of “Tourism” development, for example, Neel Giri Tourist sport (acquisition approximately 600 acres), Dim Pahar (approximately 500 acres) of Bandarban district. And others like, Lake Paradise at Kaptai, Rangamati (Navy), Jibtoly resort at Kaptai, Rangamati (Army), Agitator at Baghaichari, Rangamati (BGB), Heritage Park at Changi Bridge, Khagrachari (Ansar and VDP) and the Rui Lui valley on Sajek hill in Rangamati district (Bangladesh Army).
The army, local administration, and the state machineries have been changing indigenous names of places and localities in CHT and giving Islamic and Bengali names. For examples, ‘Kraudong’ was named as ‘Dim Pahar’. In Marma language, the word ‘Krau’ means egg and ‘dong’ means hill. The army named it as ‘Dim Pahar’ translating it into egg hill.
Whereas, according to the CHT Accord and CHT Regional Council Act 1998, the CHT Regional Council has the power and responsibility to conduct overall supervision and coordination, including all the development activities led by Hill Districts Councils (HDCs) and all that falls under its jurisdiction and the subjects devolved upon the HDCs; and supervision and coordination of general administration of the hill districts, law & order and development. But nothing is happening according to the CHT Accord regulations. If the state believed in the liberation war and want to build a secular state there has to be a progressive minded government need to be formed. The Bangladesh government should stop the illegal and the artificial tourism in CHT. And the government should more emphasis on community tourism to save the culture and to save the diversity of the ethnic groups in CHT. The government should learn from the history there is thousands of witness how much disaster might bring when the armed forces become stronger than the state.