Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bangladesh's Marcenary Army And The Stock Market Crash

It seems a serious calamity has finally befallen Bangladesh and only those who live in caves or in the jungle with the wild animals have not noticed. For many indeed, the stock market crashing, not just once but repeatedly, is a veritable nightmare akin to a rollercoaster ride going badly wrong like in one of the sequels to the lucrative film franchise Final Destination in which the passengers of such a horrifying ride all eventually get decapitated or sliced into many bloody pieces. While the average investor in Bangladesh probably feels the harsh and painful sting of having lost his/her entire savings it would appear the vast majority of those in the armed forces have also been badly affected. Things have become so bad that apparently there are ‘rumours of whispers’ within the armed forces that the ‘people’ should be motivated to push the government out of power. Note that it is the ‘people’ who are being urged to do this dirty deed (such a move could be laudable if based on principle rather than pure self-interest) on behalf of the newly impoverished members of the armed forces. It seems that the stock market crashing has for the military the same equivalence of the sky falling or a biblical swarm of locust’s devastating and ravishing the countryside and ruining the entire food stock or even of a Tsunami washing away huge swathes of the coastal regions of Bangladesh. Should we feel sorry for the army officers and soldiers who have lost their shirts (if not their uniforms) in the stock market crash? The answer should of course be a loud and resounding no! One may reasonably wonder if army officers actually have the time to dabble in the stock market and if they do then it should be concluded that they clearly are not doing their real jobs of protecting Bangladesh. If then they lose everything when a bearish sentiment hits the market then their financial losses have logically and solely been caused by their own insane cupidity (i.e. greed) and utter foolishness (i.e. moota budhi othoba hathuri budhi). Did no one in the armed forces learn the lesson of 1996 ? In the face of such idiocy it should now become official government policy that any serving army officer will not be permitted to invest in the share market. It could, however, be convincingly argued that in a capitalist system such a restriction is perverse and irrational. It is my argument that the involvement of armed forces personnel in the share bazaar is a threat to national security and also the discipline of the military as a cohesive and efficiently functioning force. This would be unique to Bangladesh but the role of army officers in the share market has become almost obsessive and similar to an addiction. If a drug addict can be thrown out of the army then why not a share addict? It would be a mistake to blame the share market bubble for having made army officers into mindless money grubbing drones. The malaise within the armed forces actually set in with the United Nations peace keeping missions. Now the sole objective for any self-respecting army officer is to be included on one of these missions. National security and the protection of the country’s territorial integrity have become secondary or even tertiary considerations to these lucrative peace keeping operations as if the role of the army is to make peace. In other words, military officers have now become diplomats and even worse businessmen while they are still in service rather than the protectors of our sovereignty and a force opposing external enemies and other such threats to our national security. It was Professor Mahbubullah of Dhaka University who aptly described the present mindset of the military officers and many soldiers as mercenary. It seems that the armed forces can be bought and sold at a whim (and a price). If in fact the armed forces had any moral integrity then they would not have become involved in the fiasco called 1 /11. At least in midstream they could have replaced the incompetent and greedy Gen. Moin U. Ahmed with someone more able and patriotic. Unfortunately there are few if any such types in the armed forces today. Looking at the veteran officers who were involved in 1 /11 many are now multi-millionaires in dollar terms and a few are allegedly involved in money laundering in the Middle East for powerful persons in Bangladesh and their contacts overseas. Even more shameful than any of this is that military officers disgruntled by the share market debacle have now become active opponents of the government but they could not find the courage to lift a finger when their fellow officers were butchered and slaughtered in Pilkhana like the victims of the gruesome SAW movies. Comically they expect the ‘people’ to rise up now that the share market has crashed rather then doing anything themselves. Such an opportunity has, however, long gone and would probably be undesirable considering the mentality of the officers serving today. Bangladesh will have to wait for a real people’s revolution based on principle and the interests of the country rather than the pauperized imagination of a few army officers.