The BDR Massacre



More mass graves of army officers have been found today on the premises of BDR Headquarter. Photo-  Shafiqul Islam Kajol, DRIK News, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 28 2009
More mass graves of army officers have been found today on the premises of BDR Headquarter. Photo- Shafiqul Islam Kajol, DRIK News, Dhaka, Bangladesh. February 28 2009

A pre-planned attack and pre-meditated murder:
I watched in stunned disbelief as a BDR soldier (I hate the word Jawan–what exactly is that?) justified the mutiny and shooting of the officers in front of TV cameras.

He said that they were upset about the pay disparity between the Army officers who commanded them, and the rank and file BDR. He claimed that the DG’s wife and lots of other corrupt officers stole from the operation Daal-Bhat (a chain of fair-price shops run by the BDR during 2007-2008). He went on to claim that the first shot was fired by an Army officer, and the rest just spontaneously happened.

There are a few major problem with this story. First, we know from accounts form some officers that not all BDR soldiers participated in this, and some of them died while trying to prevent the massacre. We all saw the red bandannas being worn by the attacking faction. This served as a uniform so they could easily identify friend from foe. Second, now we know that the involved soldiers did not turn in their weapons to the ordnance officer after the Prime Minister’s speech and inspection parade, but falsified the storage records to show that they were turned in.

What where they thinking? Insanity? Complete collapse of reason? Why would a group of soldiers start an armed mutiny and killing spree in a campus surrounded by the general population? They had to know that the news would get out quickly, and that they would be vastly outnumbered by the heavy armor of the Army. By all rational thinking, this was nothing but suicidal. If they thought their demands would be met and everything would got back to barracks to just carry on their duties, they were delusional. All possibility of a peaceful resolution disappeared after the first drop of blood was shed.

Again, this was not something that got out of hand–this was planned and designed. I am ruling out mental incompetency–it is possible in one or two people but not for the large group. At least the leaders had to know that there will be no going back from this–their actions will result in court-martial. Knowing that, why would the still do this?

The weakest excuse was the demand to have an officer cadre of BDR’s own, and not Army officers sent by deputation. Of all our armed forces, BDR has the most interaction with their counter-parts from India and Myanmar. It is unthinkable that the government would reduce the requirements for becoming an officer (which is now HSC and a 2 year course from Bangladesh Military Academy). Did they think their own officer cadre will be their brothers, and that the soldiers in Bangladesh Army enjoy some cozy relationship with their officers?

The leaders of this massacre had no chance of becoming officers in the BDR. When the Army officers came to BDR, they became BDR officers–plain and simple, and I don’t buy that excuse for a minute.

Motivated by money, protesting against the oppression by and corruption of the Army? I don’t think so. People do not take on a suicidal course of action for money. However, I am not ruling out some fanatical elements, or even the influence of mind-altering drugs.

Government knew the extent of the killings soon enough. The Darbar (a open forum–from the colonial times, where the commanding officer hears questions and grievances from the soldiers) started at 9 AM on February 25th, the 2nd day of BDR Week. There were about 3000 soldiers and 165 officers in the hall. After the shooting started around 9:30 AM, one of the officers present, a Major Zayedi, called Maj Gen (Rtd.) Tarique Siddik, the prime ministers security advidser and described the scene.

Unexplained brutality. We saw dead bodies that were beyonett charged. Dead bodies where hacked into pieces and dumped into sewers. There are unconfirmed reports of the DG’s wife being burned alive. There are reports of rape of women, substantiated by the TV images of women coming out in torn clothing. This is from the notes of the son of an Army officer, who wrote from Dhaka:

Wives of the BDR officers(yes, they were BDR officers) were scared to death after they heard about the massacre at Darbar Hall (auditorium). They started breaking into quarters and looting around 12.30 pm. They dragged many women and girls with them. I don’t want to explain any farther.Most of them didn’t know that their father or husband is already dead. But what they didn’t know something even more uglier is about to happen. I would’ve write this whole thing in full details but there are some people I know who will never forgive me if I do so. But these are truths, please try to except it. As I did.

Why this inhuman behavior? Forget Geneva convention–every soldier knows that he might face an enemy in the battlefield, and abusing a dead enemy is simply not done. So why did they bayonet the dead officers? Why did they cut them up? Surely they were not dumb enough to think they can just hide the evidence and claim the officers were never there in the first place? I don’t even want to contemplate the burning alive (regardless of her alleged crimes) or rapes.

Soldiers are trained to kill–that is part of their job description. But this defies all explanation.

The 4:00 PM Deadline: The following is from one of the people involved in the negotiations.
Gen Moeen came to the PM’s residence around 10:30. He was joined by the Navy and Air chiefs around 11:30. By 12:30, everyone in Jamuna (PM’s current residence) knew that more than 10 officers were already dead, and the others may be killed any time soon. Gen. Moyeen informed the PM that the situation in the cantonment was getting explosive: Army officers there were not going to sit idle as their brother officers were being killed. He said that if things didn’t improve by 4:00 PM, the situation may get out of control. This is when the PM asked for 12 volunteers to go in and negotiate.

Jahangir Nanak and Mirza Azam, and other brave men and women. Nanak and Azam were the first to respond, and went into the battle-zone. Nanak returned with a team of 14 BDR soldiers to the PMs residence, but Mirza Azam was kept as a hostage by the rebels to ensure the safety of the 14.

Later, other MPs, including at least two female MPs, also went into Pilkhana. What these men and women did was above and beyond the call of duty. Specially Mirza Azam: he had to know that elements within the Army may act without permission and detain or kill the 14 BDR soldiers, which would have put his own life in jeopardy.

Amnesty: A group of Bangladeshi bloggers were discussing this online as the events were unfolding. We agreed that announcing the general amnesty was probably necessary to defuse the situation, but at the same time (this is before the extent of the massacre was known) argued that killers simply could not be let go scot-free. Here is what Mash said in an email:

Amnesty is a very bad idea. Let’s turn the tables and examine this. Do you want amnesty for Mujib’s killers? I am pretty sure the answer is no. Giving amnesty for pure murder will lead to breakdown of law – as Bangladesh history shows.

That summarizes the sentiment pretty succinctly. The answer to pay disparity or corruption by officers is not murder, and murderers can not, should not, be allowed to go free.

I stated that I will personally profer a pen to Sheikh Hasina to sign the order withdrawing the amnesty.

The government has since clarified that statement and said that the amnesty was extended to the general rebels, but anyone involved in the killings will face trial.

Moyeen under pressure: Gen. Moyeen was under tremendous pressure from junior officers to act with decisive force against the BDR, but he followed the chain of command. We commended Gen. Moyeen for this.

Hasina–this is leadership. Under tremendous pressure, the PM opted for the difficult path of patience. It would have been easy for her to order the Army to go in to the Pilkhana with their tanks and turn the heart of Dhaka into a war-field, but she kept her head. Finally we see some of the steel and lion-heart that her father had.

Khaleda Zia and BNP: One of the first statements from BNP was that it will work with the government and help it to resolve this issue. Later BNP raised their standard refrain of looking for external enemies (which in this case is an entirely valid demand), and overall, BNP behaved like a responsible opposition is supposed to behave.

Escalation scenario. We now know that Mrs. Zia did not spend the night at her Cantonment residence, so it is obvious she was concerned that this could spread further. One early speculation was that this was engineered by the Army so they could impose marital law in the name of keeping law and order. We could have seen hundreds of dead civilians.

What is going on now. Buses and other transportation are being searched by the Army and RAB, and men with crew-cuts are being dragged out and being taken away. We just hope no vigilante justice is not served on them.

What should have happened. BDR’s demands are not new. They staged a mini-munity during the last BNP tenure, but that was quelled without any blood-shed. But the scale of the 2009 mutiny defies all logic. There is obvious finger-pointing towards the DGFI, NSI and MI–were they all asleep?

We know that DGFI was responsible for the arrest and torture of some of the MPs on both sides of the isle. Knowing that, allow me to present some scenarios, and matching recommendations or comments.

  1. DGFI and the other intelligence agencies did not have a clue. Hard to believe, but not impossible. If so, the answer is simple: fire the leadership. That should have been done anyway as soon as Hasina came to power.
  2. DGFI and the other intelligence agencies did know, and did warn the government, but it did not reach high enough. Possible, but unlikely. If DGFI knew, they would not have let their brother officers die
  3. DGFI and the other agencies knew about this plot, but kept it secret to advance their own agenda, or were involved with the planning themselves. Possible, but unlikely. DGFI can not keep their involvement secret after this massacre
  4. DGFI and the other intelligence agencies did know, and did warn the government. The government sat on it in order to discredit DGFI. This is just ridiculous. Again, DGFI would not have just sat back and let other officers die
  5. Other theories: RAW did it, because by weakening the BDR, India gains.
  6. Ulfa did it, because the government is extraditing Anup Chetia to India
  7. ISI did it, because they wanted to stage a full-scale coup and overthrow AL
  8. Jamaat did it, because they want to stop the war-crimes trial

But here is my own conclusion (without any documentary evidence): the leaders of the mutiny were promised some sort of immunity deal by someone very high up–someone they had reason to trust and believe who could deliver on his promise. Follow that trail, and the master-minds will be found.

Field-grade officers are explosively angry. Gen. Moyeen had a series of meeting with the officers, who are demanding a solution (in other words, an eye for an eye). The Officers are very angry and frustrated, and they didn’t even let the govt officials and ministers to attend the janaja of the first seven officers. Reportedly Abdur Razzak and Tofael Ahmed where man-handled at the Cantonment mosque. They are blaming the government for letting the BDR jawans get away.

Was there corruption by the officers? It is well-known, and accepted by most officers, that the 3-year posting to BDR is an opportunity to make a lot of money. Operation Daal-Bhat allegedly resulted in Tk. 40 crore (400 million) profit that never saw the light of day. Some other snippets from a list of allegations:

  • The director general of the BDR has smuggled Tk 30 crore (300 million) to his mother-in-law’s account in the United States. His wife was caught at the airport, but the whole incident was suppressed
  • 22 army officers have embezzled Tk 2 crore of Operation Dal-Bhat through bank signatures of BDR personnel. They embezzled another Tk 60 crore from the profits of Operation Dal-Bhat.
  • A relative of the DG went missing with Tk 50 crore of Nur Mohammad Rifles Public School, but the matter was never investigated.
  • [Former] director general Rezaqul Haider Chowdhury took away Tk 40 crore and that incident was not investigated either.

(before anyone accuses me of dragging the names of good officers who died, remember that just as corruption does not justify killing, death does not wipe the slate clean either. I am not saying everyone was corrupt, but not investigating the corruptions has no excuse either, and both the CTG and AL has at least some of this blood on their hands)

Next steps: This seems obvious to us, but in the land of politics nothing is as it seems. First, ensure justice. Find those with their hands on the guns, find who did the planning, all the way up the chain. Then try them in an open court martial, with reporters present. The country needs to know how deep and wide the rot is.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.


J @ Shada Kalo [] writes using a pseudonym and is best known for exposing government, military, corporate foul plays through whistle-blowing investigative reports.

26 Responses to “The BDR Massacre”

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    Engr Khondkar Abdus Saleque( Sufi)

    Killers must be tracked down and punished in summary court.There should be enough evidence which group was involved in the carnage. No quarter should try to agitate Army to take in their hands.The sentiment andreaction of Army colleagues of deceased officers are well understood. We also can not understand why and how some BDR Jawans could flee when BDR head quarter was surrounded from all sides.
    Restore discipline at all level of BDR is the top prirority now.The officers who escaped carnage must have enough evidence .The trial must not be hurried.The entire episode must be dug deep.We donot want incomplete eye washed type trial.The trial process must be transparent.The killer bR jawans must be throughly investigated to find out local and foreign involvement in the carnage. People must know about the entire episode.

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    Mijanul Akbar

    To whom our soul belongs, truth always replaces the false. This time it will not be different.

    Moin U must go!! Just the notion of taking off the badge doesn’t count. Do it. Your elite force sat idle while your sons got slautered in the same city you live. Your dauthers got raped.

    Maj Gen Tarik Siddique!! How can you sleep at night?

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    The word Jawan comes from persian (later borrowed in Urdu)- meaning “young” (masculine). The BDR inherited the term from its Pakistani origin. It’s a perfectly valid word; I don’t quite understand your hatred for it. (Perhaps you draw a connection between “Jawan” and Bollywood cheesiness?)

    In the army it’s far more common to refer to ranks below commissioned officers as “Shoinik.”

    Thank you for the post. I am trying to find out about the fate of the DG’s daughter.

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    Don’t just look at the action, look behind the intention of the action. There is now no reason to believe that this was spontaneous and about dal-bhaat program and all that; this certainly was planned to sow ultimate discord and create a fissure among key critical institutions (that danger is still there), and ultimately undermine civil, civic and democratic polity. To have retaliated immediately by force would have accelerated that intention faster; one shudders to think two heavily armed and trained forces fighting in a dense part of Dhaka. Thank god, that did not happen. But now the goal should be to filter out the murderers and get to the root source of their villainy. The practice of blood-letting, the culture of conspiracy that characterizes our country must be weeded out before we can deliver on a manifesto of change.

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    Why nobody is saying that — this is the time to move all the cantonments/ army camps away from Dhaka city? They are only creating problems like segregation, traffic jam, wastage of valueable space within the city and raising threats like this. People of the Dhaka or any other city do not need them to stay close. All the cantonments can sustain without staying close to any city. It seems that everyone has forgotten about those civilian people–the rickshaw-puller, the student, the little kid who all died only because of the curse of cantonment location. I know many great cities that do not have cantonments inside; in fact, I do not know any city that has cantonment inside. So please, everyone… think about it.

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    zulfikar ali

    I am afraid truth/evidence of this execution style killing will be lost due to emotions, sheer shock of the situation, total mismanagement of post mutiny and all the conspiracy theories floating around. I saw the name of the six member investigation committee and personally I don’t think they will get to the root cause of it. I am sure few/may be 100 plus BDR soldiers will be tried hurriedly without proper investigation and may get death sentence which will reduce the tension in the Army. General public will learn to cope and move on with their lives. Media will find something else to report on.

    We will never know the truth. It’s very sad.

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    Tanisha: I know what ‘jawan’ means–it is also a Bangla word :-). There are two reasons I don’t like it. First, these are soldiers–the most active, battle-hardened soldiers in Bangladesh. Let’s call them that–be it ‘shoinik’ or ‘shena’. Second, calling a 50-year old a ‘jawan’ seems like a strange thing.

    Onamika: Not sure about the daughter. There was an early report that she was also killed, but that has not been confirmed. Mrs. Shakil’s body was identified last night, but there are problems with identifying some bodies.

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    Javed Zaman

    I am deeply shocked at the gruesome murders at BDR HQs. Only animals of the lowest kind could have done such a despicable act of inhumane magnitude.

    I demand that the government immediately constitute several high-powered bodies including the home ministry, CID, DB, RAB, NSI and DGFI. I am sorry to say that the DGFI and NSI have failed us miserably to pre-empt this murderous act of deadly carnage.

    Especially, a very high profile multi-party, parliamentary investigative committee should be immediately formed headed by the law and home ministers to probe and get into the so-far unfathomable depth of the ghastly carnage. Their findings should be made public.

    I am very much interested to find out how criminals and crooks inside and outside Peelkhana could first plot and then execute such a bloody mayhem at the frontier guards HQ. It would be very helpful to dig at the entire recruiting process over the last 4-5 years to see how criminals and felons could penetrate our two century old prestigious border patrollers.

    How the implants infiltrated the organisation to strike with deadly surgical precision to materialise their evil design at the opportune moment on February 25?

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    The calculated infiltration of certain group into all services and institutions of the country has happened over the last 4-5 years. Its anybody’s guess who they are. The Peelkhana incident is one instance of what these dastardly and villainous groups are capable of. Is there a danger of more, I wonder?

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    The killings are unprecedented in its ferocity and brutality. Economic disparity and discrimination cannot unleash such barbarity (unless one accepts an erupting class struggle in the subcontinent as perhaps articulated by Arvind Adiga fictionally in “The White Tiger” where a chauffeur kills his employer). I think it was possible for these soldiers to kill their officers remorselessly because they answered ultimately not to their officers but to other and invisible masters. And that is why I say it is important to investigate the motive of the action than continue to describe or decry the action.

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    Zeeshan Ali

    The newly elected government has brilliantly handled the whole case. The army has also behaved as a very disciplined force under strict civilian control. But tragically enough belligerent wayward recalcitrant rowdy elements within the BDR indulged in a murderous rage killing many of our brightest sons.

    It is now clear from accounts of many alive army officers and their wives that PM’s witty intelligent initiatives on that fateful day had definitely saved their lives. The immoral cowards were heard by many army officers inside Peelkhana saying that they would kill all if the army moves in to kill the scoundrels.

    The killings occured in the early hours of the first day of murderous madness. PM’s negotiation had saved many lives that were held hostage for the two horrendous days.

    Many of the officers who were set free after tireless intrepid efforts of Sheikh Hasina’s Home Minister Sahera Khatun and many other ministers and MPs of the ruling party have stated in clear terms that the PM’s timely rapid response and reaction to the fast devleoping events on 25 February actually saved their lives. Many of the army officers and sadly enough the orphaned children and widows have personally thanked the PM and her cabinet for rescuing them.

    If the army had not showed tremendous commendable patience and restraint we surely would have lost many more of our valiant officers and their next of kin. On top of that thousands of inhabitants of Dhaka city may have died and part of the city may have been razed to the ground.

    Khaleda Zia and Delwar Hossain at this critical time should behave responsibly and not try to fish in troubled waters.

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    The recent comments by Khaleda Zia, after remaining in limbo and in hiding while the carnage was unfolding, criticizing the amnesty and other moves are not only disingenuous but downright suspicious. Here, for once, she and her cohorts can show some political civility.

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    Begum Zia and her party-men really suck! Why did she hide her for two days by staying in an unknown place? Why didn’t she and her party members didn’t get involve in solving the problem? And now, she’s is uttering BIG words!

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    Abdul Wadud

    I am disgusted at the intelligence failure of the defence forces. This is the worst failure in a string of murderous events since 1971.

    I ask the authorities to call back NSI and DFI former senior officers from lucrative foreign posts especially Washington, DC and European capitals appointed during the last 5 years and they be thoroughly debriefed to gauge the depth of the unpardonable failure. They must be held accountable for the irreparable loss the nation has suffered.

    Like America and any other civilized country we must put a civilian in charge to monitor the activities of these clandestine impotent organisations that devour a huge chunk of taxpayers’ money but fail to guarantee national security.

    The military bases should also be taken out of major cities so that civil life is never ever jeopardized again.

    The ferocious brutal act on 25 Feb bear all the marks of a highly professional international terrorist organisation. They must be hunted down with global cooperation immediately. The animals if not grabbed and punished will strike again. Our intelligence is ‘FAILED’ class.

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    The gruesome murder/torture/dismemberment of army officers and their families are akin to those carried out by Pakistan Army in 1971 on innocent Bangalees. Unfortunately, for our nation, those criminals of 1971 were never brought to justice. Can we hope this time the government will not fail in its duty to bring to justice, those involved in the killings directly or indirectly by meting out sentences in accordance with the law?

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    Md. Shohel Hossain

    BDR Massacre is shamefull event for the Bangalees. We are greatly shocked at this killing. Govt. should take proper steps of the criminal & the criminal of war of 1971.

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    Shahab U. Ahmed

    Be it hereby known: Major General Shakil U. Ahmed was NOT corrupt! Godforesaken Bangladesh, yet again, suffers an irreparable loss! If anybody want further info about Gen. Shakil, An Officer and a Gentleman,feel free to get in touch with me personaly!

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    Md Abul Kalam

    Bismillah hir rahmanir rahim. Really it is a pathatic matter for their family, us, country enen nation. I am not overcome the massacre. Our beloved army personal died by culpit attacker. I donot aslape not atall. I pray for Almighty Allah to their family.

    My comments regarding BDR massacre:

    1. This is failure of RSU(Rifle Security Unit). RSU have 20-25 cover post of other unit location. But they did not sending proper massage to the Commanding Officer or Director General.

    2. Persons of BDR whos are punishment(Court Martial or out of services) during the Maj Gen Shakils perior, the were grouping along with the service personal and they are attack with them named as killing grpup.

    3. We haird that (remure) Mrs Naznin Sakil(DG Madam) is doing bed behabiour with the BDR jowans and maximum jowans were court martial for recommanditions of DG Madam. This is one of the matters.

    Thanks all.

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    This is a shame for us that bdr is simply dirty and nasty more than pakistan army.but here are few quistions in our mind i.e.

    1.When DG called PM on phone and seeking help why the PM didn,t react quickly?

    2.DG also seek from General M.U.Ahmed and he also don’t react timely? Why?

    3.Why the power had been cut off that helped mutinys to dissapear?

    4.Colonel Gulzer seeked help from RAB,Why RAB don’t move?

    5.Why the Home minister didn’t ask about the officer while she went inside pilkhana at that night?

    6.How the truth will revail?

  20. Author Image


    Whatever it is they should not kill all officers and also they should not torture family members of army officers. U all may know that how they tortured Mrs Shakill. Can any civilized people do that they raped then burned one women with her children. I don’t know what happend to Col Mujulur’s family. His son SMS that BDR set fire at their house but he could able to come out as he may shot by BDR. How they raped even 12 yrs girl? These are animals. They just detroy reputation of our country and it seems they even don’t respectness for their mother and sister. I am looking forward to see PM’s judgement. Otherwise there will no Col Gulzer will come to save our lives from JMB anymore

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    Mohoshin Chowdhury

    This is totally impossible to express the feelings really, just deepest respect from the bottom of my heart to the bravest Officer who laid down their lives for the country and greatest love for their family. We are always with you. May Allah bless you!

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    not nec

    it was not a big deal for army to control the situation. if army launched operation within 1400 hours the bdrs couldn’t do that much massacre and the image of army would not be damaged by the media.

  23. Author Image

    Khondkar A Saleque

    One year whistled by.very little could be traced out about the conspiracy behind such a massaccare which could lead to further major destruction, more killings if not handled with diligence by PM Hasina.Yet we lost so many talented Army Officers.Some of us lost some good friends, several families lost their dear ones.
    We have noticed BDR Jawans who used the guns are under trials. May be some will be executed. But what about men behind the scene? What were the roles of Opposition at that time? Why leader of the opposition Khaleda had to stay out of Cantonment? What she was doing for 48 hours?Who organised processions in favour of BDR killers?
    Such a major incident can not happen without deep rooted conspiracy.Even Government commitee recommended for further detail enquiry.Why that was not done? If BDR carnage is not fairly and transparently probed we can not eliminate possibility of further similiar incidents in future. We demand for detail judicial probe or probe by all party parliamentary committee.
    We pray for salavation of departed souls. Let God bless victim families to bear the loss.

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    an officer;a gentleman

    i m given with a rifle whose life is expired bt still i m maintaining it.i m given with a compass of 1965 bt still it is class A coz of my maintainence.i m given with 16700tk salary where i spnd 12000 for buying food and other expences.i cant go for leave 4 last six mnths.for what i m doing all this people?coz so that when a war breaks out u r at a safe place till my last drop of blood.for what i m doing this to see my family being tortured?where are u people?why dnt u ans?

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