:: Lieutenant Imran A. Chowdhury (Retired) ::
“The army is the true nobility of our country” as once told by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. I guess I have to also endorse the same factual expression of our Bangladesh army. It is perhaps one of the finest, the slickest and the most professional outfit that Bangladesh has.,Our country is so blessed with this soldiery, those who have been shielding the population and the territory, and ousting the invaders since the inception during our glorious Liberation War. This is the only institution where the edifice of the Father of the Nation’s epic monumental speech of duty, professionalism, devotion, honesty and humility for its young officers still reverberates among its rank and file to date. This was the choice of profession that both of the adult sons of the nation’s leader pledged their services to. This journey of half a century was not entirely a bed of roses. There were tumultuous events and catastrophes that the nation and the army have had to weather through.The army has been extremely resilient in its resolve at all times to live up to its motto, ” In War, In Peace, We are Everywhere for our Country.”
It’s no surprise either that, during this unprecedented catastrophe of the Covid pandemic and the total economic meltdown of world affairs, followed by another natural calamity, The Cyclone Amphan, the only Messiah of dependance and angel of strength was the Army. Yet again it has been the vanguard to protect the populace, the assets, KPIs and, above all, the dignity of the nation. The Government decided to mobilise the army to aid civil power, right in the nick of the time with regard to the pandemic lockdown. That was perhaps one of the most prudent decisions of all. The promptness and efficiency of our army was, in this horrendously crucial plight of the people, absolutely admirable.
Within days, the deployment of the army reached almost every nook and cranny in the whole landscape of the country, from Mongolia to Longla, from Ishwardy to Monohordi and from Kurigram to Chattogram, from the Bay of Bengal to the Modhupur Jungle. This was a Herculean task to plan and execute logistics, accommodation, transportation, rations, fresh provisions and, above all, was the responsibilities and duties for the rank and file which was a very deliberate one. There were some striking exertions – the collective leadership of the whole army from a non-commissioned officer to a junior commissioned officer and commissioned officers, every one of them was omnipresent with the troops in almost all activities, shoulder to shoulder, in monitoring, rehabilitating, donation distribution, relief, and, above all, invigorating a sense of belonging, a message of safety, the importance of life, the destructive nature of the virus, the significance of good hygiene and how to remain resilient to the infections of this disease.
The top brasses, under the dynamic leadership of the incumbent Chief of Staff, were working round the clock to monitor, guide, lead, assess, augment and analyse the modus operandi to encounter this monumental challenge.
There was a 16-point directive issued by the planners, the AHQ, under the direct skipper-ship of the General. This instruction was one of the most well thought-out rules of engagement that the Army has ever issued during an aid to civil power scenario. Since the deployment the army has cleaned the roads to desanitise, reaching out to the public to maintain social distancing, stressing the importance of quarantine, arranging transportation for the migrant workers, providing food and relief for the those unfortunate ones who do not have any work to earn their daily bread and butter. These are momentous tasks, such as a regular army is not accustomed to carry out under normal circumstances. Yet these responsibilities were accomplished like clockwork.
The country started to face unprecedented economic meltdown, the wheel of the economy almost ground to a halt. There is no social safety net arrangement to fund this kind of lockdown. The army opted to donate one day’s salary to the coffers of the Government to arrange emergency relief and food banks for the poor citizens of the country.
The army initiates medical activities to set up makeshift community-based COVID testing and briefing centres in the remotest villages of the country. Operation COVID Shield, as declared by the Prime Minister. The army spearheaded it as a war against the pandemic. Despite the handicap of the mammoth population boom, there was not enough army manpower to fetch the 160+ million population with circa 100,000 personnel. This was an elephantine job at hand. However, with sheer zeal, leadership, impetus and enthusiasm, the army has been capable of performing this assignment. However, the country is still not out of the woods, and a worse situation may come upon the country at any time in the near future.
Despite a mushroom growth of private medical centres, hospitals and clinics over the last decades or so, during the most crucial health and life saving situation these so-called organisations buckled into a frenzy of cowardly melodrama. How ironic? Serving humanity during a pandemic ought to be the motto of a hospital or a clinic, but their appalling behaviour and shutting the doors on dying patients was despicable. On the contrary, the combined military hospitals of the army yet again came to the rescue of the nation from this embarrassment and have become the bastion of humanity and served the citizens during their most precarious phase of life. Today, these army medical installations are the first port of call and the only choice for the virus-stricken patients. There are in excess of 800 COVID patients ( on the day when I am penning this article) and in excess of 150 patients are being seen on a daily basis. Even the worst anti-martial critics who have spent all their professional lives possessing negative vibes about this epitome of organisation have been treated by the same CMH and the many individuals concerned paid their ultimate tribute for the service, treatment and expressed satisfaction, as if swallowing a bitter pill whilst doing so. This is by no means to undermine anyone in distress, however, the truth and integrity must be ascertained at all times. These have been the bedrock of our army – professionalism, patriotism, passion, and principle.
The country has been through so many impediments over the years and has struggled with investments for its integral apparatus at times. However, it is worth mentioning here that every penny and farthing invested in the army has been value for money. The army is struggling with manpower constraints, and the extra demand for skilled medical professionals abroad is causing stress. But the army is managing and coping with everything as an army should. This kind of overarching deployment at home, abroad and in the United Nation’s peace-keeping force has never occurred before in the history of the Bangladesh Army during any Chief of Staff’s tenure. Nothing has been able to deter him from his duty of care and honesty. Still, he is organising the armed forces Institute of Pathology to arrange COVID testing for all retired personnel and their families. This is perhaps the first instance where a CAS has been so caring as to extend the army resources for its ex-colleagues.
The army has proven time and time again that It is capable of shielding the nation in war and in peace at all times. In conclusion, it is fair to say that the Bangladesh army is a nobility and a compliment to the national amour-propre.