Lieutenant General Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan’s appointed as Bangladesh’s New Army Chief

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Lieutenant General Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan’s appointment as the new Chief of Bangladesh Army on June 25 has evoked a keen interest in India and elsewhere. There are two reasons for this interest in an other-wise routine succession–General Bhuiyan succeeded General Abdul Mobeen on his retirement. General Bhuiyan, an Infantry officer, can play a key role in the next general elections likely to take place late 2013 or early 2014. Second, he is first among the new generations of officers who have no organic links with Pakistan Army. He joined Bangladesh Military Academy on March 19, 1976 and was commissioned into the Infantry Corp on November 30, 1976.

Though General Bhuiyan’s political leanings are not publicly known, his role during or after the next elections is likely to be crucial. Such a possibility cannot be discounted considered the events in 2007 when, with feuding political parties creating instability, the army stepped in, took charge as a caretaker government and ruled the country for two years. There is a danger of a far serious political instability this time around with the two major political parties gearing up for a violent political battle.

General Bhuiyan, born on June 2, 1957 in Comilla, Bangladesh and alumnus of Comilla Zila School and Faujdarhat Cadat College, will be closely observed for another reason. Unlike many of his predecessors, he does not carry the burden of being part of Pakistan Army and is likely to have a different temperament and attitude. A glimpse of the attitude of the indigenously trained army commanders was seen the manner in which his predecessor, General Mubeen, dealt with some of the difficult challenges faced by the army-the 2007 emergency and the Bangladesh Rifles mutiny. General Mubeen, despite serious provocations, successfully managed to maintain the chain of command within the security forces and as well as creating a working relationship with the civilian political leadership.

General Bhuiyan has the privilege of attending many professional courses abroad. His foreign courses include Company Commander Course in Malaysia, Course on Peace Keeping for Decision Makers in the Defence Institution of International Legal Studies in Rhode Island, USA. He is also a graduate of Command and General Staff College, USA. Besides, he has participated in a workshop on Initiative for Conflict Management in JFK School of Government, Harvard University and Logistic support Issues in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

General Bhuiyan has a vast field experience and held some of the important positions in the army. Some of the important position held by him are- Platoon Commander in Bangladesh Military Academy, Colonel Staff of 11 Infantry Division, Bogra, Commander of 105 Infantry Brigade, Director of Staff Defence Services Conmmand and Staff College, Commandant of the School of Infantry and Tactics (SI&T) Sylhet, GOC of the 19 Infantry Division, Savar, Chief of General Staff of Bangladesh Army and Quarter Master General of Bangladesh Army.

General Bhuiyan also served as a UN Force Commander during deployment of the Bangladeshi peacekeepers. He received Kuwait Liberation Medal from the Government of Kuwait for his participation in the operation Desert Strom for the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation in 1991. He was promoted to the rank of Major General on 2003 and Lieutenant General in 2010.

General Bhuiyan has the reputation of being a man of principles and a professional army soldier. He is known for having no political bias. It has been claimed that seniority and competency were two key factors for his elevation, which is underlined by the smooth transition.

There are however certain events that can provide a deeper insight into General Bhuiyan’s attitude. During the caretaker regime (2007-2008), Bhuiyan was Chief of General Staff (CGS), the second most important position in the army. He had attracted attraction then for his opposition to some decisions of the then army Chief General Moeen Ahmed. Bhuiyan was transferred to the Defence Staff College as a result. It is said that the AL’s relationship with the caretaker government led by General Moeen was not pleasant and this factor could have played a role in Bhuiyan’s elevation to the top post.

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