Bangladesh Army has turned into one of the biggest conglomerates in the country over the years following its engagement in different types of commercial businesses, according to a BBC documentary.
The first episode of the nine-part documentary titled "Fouji Banijjo" (Military in business) was broadcast on BBC radio program "Probaho" last night focusing on commercial efforts of Bangladesh army and its nature of business.
“The business imperial of Bangladesh army is growing day by day,” said the documentary.
The property value of the projects and commercial efforts related to Bangladesh Army is estimated to be at least Tk 3,000 crore, the documentary said.
Every five sacks of cement out of 100, used for construction works in the capital or other part of the country, come from different institutions belonging to the army.
The name of Bangladesh Army is now connected with businesses like fast food, shoe, cement, hotel, bank, CNG and electronic materials while they have several other ventures under consideration.
Despite several months attempt, the documentary through its investigation could not get any official statement from Bangladesh Army regarding the history and nature of their involvement in businesses, the documentary reported.
The documentary only identified Sena Kalyan Sangstha (SKS), which runs several business units or projects as the earliest foundation of the army.
SKS was established with the objective for the welfare of retired army personnel and their family members, it said.
Pakistani researcher and author Ayesha Siddiqa in her book titled "Military Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy" said that Pakistan government had established business industry in early 1950's with the money of the British government, which was kept for war-returned soldiers.
It implies that the Pakistan army had a strong political power with which it tried to become a force involved not only in ensuring sovereignty but also contributing to the socio-economic development of the country, the documentary said citing the book.
After independence in 1971, the SKS began its journey only with Tk 2.5 crore. Within four years, the tiny investment turned into Tk 100 crore, the documentary said.
SKS's business area has expanded over the last 38 years and it owns shares in real estate and four international service-oriented businesses.
The documentary said Army Welfare Trust, established in 1998 during the tenure of the then army chief Lt Gen Mustafizur Rahman, is doing brisk business than SKS.
Both Bangladesh Army and Air Force of the armed forces division are directly involved in businesses.
Following huge interest in businesses by both the forces, the government handed over several government loss-incurred-institutions to them.
“The trust or institutions related with Bangladesh army do not deviate from the fundamental characteristics of capital in a capitalist society,” the documentary added.
The organisations under SKS are--Mongla Cement Factory, Diamond Food Industries, Sena Garments, Chittagong Flower Mills, Savoy Ice-cream, Chocolate and Candy Factory, Savoy bread and Biscuit Factory, Sainik Lamps Distribution Centre, Amin Mohiuddin Foundation, Sena Kalyan Commercial Foundation, Sena Travels Ltd, SKS commercial Space, SKS Trading House, SKS Bhaban, New Hotel Tiger Garden, SK Textile.
The organizations under Army Welfare Trust are--Army Shopping Complex, Sena Hotel Development Ltd, Sena Filling Station, Trust Bank Ltd, Trust Filling and CNG Station, Kurmitola Golf Club, Savar Golf Club, Water Garden Hotel Ltd.