Bangladesh


Bangladesh
/bahng'gleuh desh", bang'-/, n.
republic in S Asia, N of the Bay of Bengal: a member of the Commonwealth of Nations; a former province of Pakistan. 125,340,261; 54,501 sq. mi. (141,158 sq. km). Cap.: Dhaka. Formerly, East Pakistan.

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Bangladesh

Introduction Bangladesh -
Background: Bangladesh came into existence in 1971 when Bengali East Pakistan seceded from its union with West Pakistan. About a third of this extremely poor country floods annually during the monsoon rainy season, hampering economic development. Geography Bangladesh
Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and India
Geographic coordinates: 24 00 N, 90 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 144,000 sq km land: 133,910 sq km water: 10,090 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Iowa
Land boundaries: total: 4,246 km border countries: Burma 193 km, India 4,053 km
Coastline: 580 km
Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 18 NM territorial sea: 12 NM continental shelf: up to the outer limits of the continental margin exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Climate: tropical; mild winter (October to March); hot, humid summer (March to June); humid, warm rainy monsoon (June to October)
Terrain: mostly flat alluvial plain; hilly in southeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m highest point: Keokradong 1,230 m
Natural resources: natural gas, arable land, timber, coal
Land use: arable land: 60.7% permanent crops: 2.61% other: 36.69% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 38,440 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: droughts, cyclones; much of the country routinely inundated during the summer monsoon season Environment - current issues: many people are landless and forced to live on and cultivate flood-prone land; water-borne diseases prevalent in surface water; water pollution, especially of fishing areas, results from the use of commercial pesticides; ground water contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic; intermittent water shortages because of falling water tables in the northern and central parts of the country; soil degradation and erosion; deforestation; severe overpopulation Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: most of the country is situated on deltas of large rivers flowing from the Himalayas: the Ganges unites with the Jamuna (main channel of the Brahmaputra) and later joins the Meghna to eventually empty into the Bay of Bengal People Bangladesh -
Population: 133,376,684 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33.8% (male 23,069,242; female 21,995,457) 15-64 years: 62.8% (male 42,924,778; female 40,873,077) 65 years and over: 3.4% (male 2,444,314; female 2,069,816) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.59% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 25.12 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 8.47 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.75 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.18 male(s)/ female total population: 1.05 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 68.05 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 60.92 years female: 60.74 years (2002 est.) male: 61.08 years
Total fertility rate: 2.72 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.02% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 13,000 (1999 est.)
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 1,000 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Bangladeshi(s) adjective: Bangladeshi
Ethnic groups: Bengali 98%, tribal groups, non- Bengali Muslims (1998)
Religions: Muslim 83%, Hindu 16%, other 1% (1998)
Languages: Bangla (official, also known as Bengali), English
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 56% male: 63% female: 49% (2000 est.) Government Bangladesh -
Country name: conventional long form: People's Republic of Bangladesh conventional short form: Bangladesh former: East Pakistan
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: Dhaka Administrative divisions: 5 divisions; Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi; note - there may be one additional division named Sylhet
Independence: 16 December 1971 (from West Pakistan); note - 26 March 1971 is the date of independence from West Pakistan, 16 December 1971 is known as Victory Day and commemorates the official creation of the state of Bangladesh
National holiday: Independence Day, 26 March (1971); note - 26 March 1971 is the date of independence from West Pakistan, 16 December 1971 is Victory Day and commemorates the official creation of the state of Bangladesh
Constitution: 4 November 1972, effective 16 December 1972, suspended following coup of 24 March 1982, restored 10 November 1986, amended many times
Legal system: based on English common law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President A. Q. M. Badruddoza CHOWDHURY (since 12 November 2001); note - the president's duties are normally ceremonial, but with the 13th amendment to the constitution ("Caretaker Government Amendment"), the president's role becomes significant at times when Parliament is dissolved and a caretaker government is installed - at presidential direction - to supervise the elections head of government: Prime Minister Khaleda ZIA (since 10 October 2001) cabinet: Cabinet selected by the prime minister and appointed by the president elections: president elected by National Parliament for a five-year term; election last held 1 October 2001 (next to be held by NA October 2006); following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins the most seats is usually appointed prime minister by the president election results: A. Q. M. Badruddoza CHOWDHURY elected president without opposition; percent of National Parliament vote - NA%
Legislative branch: unicameral National Parliament or Jatiya Sangsad; 300 seats elected by popular vote from single territorial constituencies (the constitutional amendment reserving 30 seats for women over and above the 300 regular parliament seats expired in May 2001); members serve five-year terms elections: last held 1 October 2001 (next to be held before October 2006) election results: percent of vote by party - BNP and alliance partners 46%, AL 42%; seats by party - BNP 201, AL 62, JI 18, JP (Ershad faction) 14, IOJ 2, JP (Naziur) 1, other 4; note - the election of October 2001 brought a majority BNP government aligned with three other smaller parties - Jamaat-i-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote, and Jatiya Party (Naziur)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (the chief justices and other judges are appointed by the president) Political parties and leaders: Awami League or AL [Sheikh HASINA]; Bangladesh Communist Party or BCP [Saifuddin Ahmed MANIK]; Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP [Khaleda ZIA, chairperson]; Islami Oikya Jote or IOJ [Mufti Fazlul Haq AMINI]; Jamaat-E-Islami or JI [Motiur Rahman NIZAMI]; Jatiya Party or JP (Ershad faction) [Hussain Mohammad ERSHAD]; Jatiya Party (Manzur faction) [ [Naziur Rahman MANZUR] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization AsDB, C, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77,
participation: IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, MONUC, NAM, OIC, OPCW, SAARC, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNOMIG, UNTAET, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Ahmad Tariq KARIM consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York FAX: [1] (202) 244-5366 telephone: [1] (202) 244-0183 chancery: 3510 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Mary
US: Ann PETERS embassy: Madani Avenue, Baridhara, Dhaka mailing address: G. P. O. Box 323, Dhaka 1000 telephone: [880] (2) 8824700 through 8824722 FAX: [880] (2) 8823744
Flag description: green with a large red disk slightly to the hoist side of center; the red sun of freedom represents the blood shed to achieve independence; the green field symbolizes the lush countryside, and secondarily, the traditional color of Islam Economy Bangladesh
Economy - overview: Despite sustained domestic and international efforts to improve economic and demographic prospects, Bangladesh remains a poor, overpopulated, and ill-governed nation. Although more than half of GDP is generated through the service sector, nearly two-thirds of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculture sector, with rice as the single most important product. Major impediments to growth include frequent cyclones and floods, inefficient state-owned enterprises, inadequate port facilities, a rapidly growing labor force that cannot be absorbed by agriculture, delays in exploiting energy resources (natural gas), insufficient power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms. Economic reform is stalled in many instances by political infighting and corruption at all levels of government. Progress also has been blocked by opposition from the bureaucracy, public sector unions, and other vested interest groups. The newly-elected BNP government, led by Prime Minister Khaleda ZIA, has the parliamentary strength to push through needed reforms, but the party's level of political will to do so remains undetermined.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $230 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5.6% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,750 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 30% industry: 18% services: 52% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: 35.6% (FY95/96 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 3.9%
percentage share: highest 10%: 28.6% (1995-96 est.) Distribution of family income - Gini 33.6 (1995-96)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.8% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 64.1 million (1998) note: extensive export of labor to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Malaysia; workers' remittances estimated at $1.71 billion in 1998-99 Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 63%, services 26%, industry 11% (FY95/96)
Unemployment rate: 35% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $4.9 billion expenditures: $6.8 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY99/00 est.)
Industries: cotton textiles, jute, garments, tea processing, paper newsprint, cement, chemical fertilizer, light engineering, sugar Industrial production growth rate: 6.2% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 13.493 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 92.45% hydro: 7.55% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 12.548 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: rice, jute, tea, wheat, sugarcane, potatoes, tobacco, pulses, oilseeds, spices, fruit; beef, milk, poultry
Exports: $6.6 billion (2001)
Exports - commodities: garments, jute and jute goods, leather, frozen fish and seafood
Exports - partners: US 31.8%, Germany 10.9%, UK 7.9%, France 5.2%, Netherlands 5.2%, Italy 4.42% (2000)
Imports: $8.7 billion (2001)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, textiles, raw cotton, food, crude oil and petroleum products, cement
Imports - partners: India 10.5%, EU 9.5%, Japan 9.5%, Singapore 8.5%, China 7.4% (2000)
Debt - external: $17 billion (2000) Economic aid - recipient: $1.575 billion (2000 est.)
Currency: taka (BDT)
Currency code: BDT
Exchange rates: taka per US dollar - 57.756 (January 2002), 55.807 (2001), 52.142 (2000), 49.085 (1999), 46.906 (1998), 43.892 (1997)
Fiscal year: 1 July - 30 June Communications Bangladesh - Telephones - main lines in use: 500,000 (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 283,000 (2000)
Telephone system: general assessment: totally inadequate for a modern country domestic: modernizing; introducing digital systems; trunk systems include VHF and UHF microwave radio relay links, and some fiber-optic cable in cities international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Indian Ocean); international radiotelephone communications and landline service to neighboring countries (2000) Radio broadcast stations: AM 12, FM 12, shortwave 2 (1999)
Radios: 6.15 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 15 (1999)
Televisions: 770,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .bd Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 10 (2000)
Internet users: 30,000 (2000) Transportation Bangladesh -
Railways: total: 2,745 km broad gauge: 923 km 1.676-m gauge narrow gauge: 1,822 km 1.000-m gauge (2000 est.)
Highways: total: 201,182 km paved: 19,112 km unpaved: 182,070 km (1997)
Waterways: up to 8,046 km depending on season note: includes 3,058 km main cargo routes
Pipelines: natural gas 1,250 km
Ports and harbors: Chittagong, Dhaka, Mongla Port, Narayanganj (2001)
Merchant marine: total: 34 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 269,932 GRT/379,271 DWT ships by type: bulk 2, cargo 26, container 3, petroleum tanker 2, refrigerated cargo 1, includes s foreign-owned ship registered here as a flag of convenience: Singapore 5 (2002 est.)
Airports: 18 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 15 over 3,047 m: 1 2,438 to 3,047 m: 4 1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 914 to 1,523 m: 1 under 914 m: 5 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 3 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 under 914 m: 2 (2001) Military Bangladesh -
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, paramilitary forces (includes Bangladesh Rifles, Bangladesh Ansars, Village Defense Parties, Armed Police Battalions, National Cadet Corps) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 37,303,372 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 22,139,736 (2002
service: est.) Military expenditures - dollar $559 million (FY96/97)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.8% (FY96/97)
GDP: Transnational Issues Bangladesh - Disputes - international: only a small portion of the boundary with India remains undelimited; discussions to demarcate the boundary, exchange 162 miniscule enclaves, and allocate divided villages remain stalled; skirmishes, illegal border trafficking, and violence along the border continue; Bangladesh has protested India's attempts to fence off high traffic sections of the porous boundary; Burmese attempts to construct a dam on the border stream in 2001 prompted an armed response halting construction; Burmese Muslim refugees migrate into Bangladesh straining meager resources
Illicit drugs: transit country for illegal drugs produced in neighboring countries

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officially People's Republic of Bangladesh

Country, south-central Asia.

Area: 56,997 sq mi (147,570 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 133,377,000. Capital: Dhaka. The vast majority of the population are Bengalis. Language: Bengali (official). Religions: Islam (official; mainly Sunni), Hinduism (more than 10%). Currency: taka. Bangladesh is generally flat, its highest point being only 660 ft (200 m) above sea level. It is characterized by alluvial plains dissected by numerous connecting rivers. The southern part consists of the eastern sector of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. The chief rivers are the Ganges (Ganga) and the Brahmaputra (there known as the Jamuna), which unite to form the Padma. Though primarily agricultural, the country has been unable to feed itself. The monsoonal rains that occur from May to October produce extreme flooding over much of Bangladesh, often causing severe crop damage and great loss of life; a cyclone in 1991 left 130,000 Bengalis dead, and several in 1997 were extremely disastrous. Bangladesh is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president and its head of government the prime minister. In its early years Bangladesh was known as Bengal. When the British left the subcontinent in 1947, the area that was East Bengal became the part of Pakistan called East Pakistan. Bengali nationalist sentiment increased after the creation of an independent Pakistan. In 1971 violence erupted; some one million Bengalis were killed, and millions more fled to India, which finally entered the war on the side of the Bengalis, ensuring West Pakistan's defeat. East Pakistan became the independent nation of Bangladesh. Little of the devastation caused by the war has been repaired, and political instability, including the assassination of two presidents, has continued.

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▪ 2009

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 142,547,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed

      If the year 2007 was a period of doing, the year 2008 was one of undoing for Bangladeshi politics. The steam with which the 2007 military-backed interim caretaker government had started its antigraft and political-reform program—by accelerating the widespread arrest of politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption involvement— suddenly ran out in 2008. One by one, politicians who had been behind bars for months were released on bail.

      The height of the new direction occurred when former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina Wazed and Khaleda Zia, the topmost leaders of the two main political parties— Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), respectively—were released from jail. Hasina was discharged on parole in June, and Khaleda was released on bail in September. Both leaders were freed in the expectation that their parties would take part in elections slated for December.

      The trials of the politicians that did occur were quick, and the verdicts were almost predictable and identical; for all but a few, jail terms of 13 years were handed down, and spouses were sentenced to 3 years. Some defendants were sentenced for having possessed liquor; in a Muslim society alcohol consumption was deemed a crime.

      The caretaker government, which had initially embarked on a “Minus Two” policy to rid Bangladesh's political arena of Hasina and Khaleda, changed course and encouraged the two battling begums to establish a dialogue on peaceful coexistence; the government also continued to purge politicians who had earned a public perception of corruption. Much of the credibility of the caretaker government was dented, however, when Khaleda's son, Tarique Rahman, who was imprisoned on corruption charges, was released on bail in September.

      Meanwhile, in July the authorities established new electoral rules, which, among other reforms, mandated that political parties register to take part in elections and that voters could reject all proposed candidates and select a “no vote” option. That same month the Election Commission undertook an $80 million overhaul of the country's voter list, which was purged of 13 million names. More than 80 million voters were fingerprinted, photographed, and later issued identity cards. The election took place on December 29 and resulted in a lopsided victory for the Awami League, which took 230 of the 299 contested seats; the BNP won only 32.

      On the economic front, it was a year of slight recovery from the previous year's torpor. Imports grew by 26% during the 2007–08 fiscal year, and exports climbed by 16%, although much of the rise resulted from high international commodity prices. Revenue earnings grew by a robust 27%, mainly owing to income-tax collection. Nevertheless, high commodity prices prompted a rise in inflation, which peaked to double digits despite a good agricultural output. A number of food riots occurred throughout the country, putting fresh wage pressure on industries.

      A huge blow was dealt to the $8 billion “manpower” export as Bangladeshi workers in a number of key Middle Eastern countries staged violent protests against low wages and exploitation. Several of these countries, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, decided to stop taking in any more workers from selective sectors in Bangladesh. Thousands were also deported.

Inam Ahmed

▪ 2008

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 140,661,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Chief Advisers Iajuddin Ahmed (interim), Fazlul Haque (acting January 11–12), and, from January 12, Fakhruddin Ahmed

 As Bangladesh prepared for elections on Jan. 22, 2007, apprehension mounted, and many feared that the outcome would be marred by bloodshed. The opposition Awami League (AL) and its allies were poised to boycott the event because the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its coalition allies had selected the head of the caretaker government entrusted to run the election and effectively controlled the election commission. Prior to the balloting, however, the head of the caretaker government, Iajuddin Ahmed (who simultaneously served as president), resigned and implanted a new caretaker government. The election was canceled; a state of emergency was declared; and basic human rights were withheld. For the first time in its history, Bangladesh saw two successive caretaker governments (a neutral administration created to oversee elections) formed without elections' being held.

      Backed by the military, the new caretaker government, under Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, launched a purge to free the country from corruption. The first to be arrested were the most recent government ministers and lawmakers who were perceived by many as untouchable. The dragnet also fell on AL bigwigs who ruled from 1996 to 2001. Most of the influential politicians from both parties were behind bars—either convicted of corruption or awaiting trial. One of the most prominent to be charged with graft was Tarique Rahman, the eldest son of former BNP prime minister Khaleda Zia.

      The caretaker government embarked on another mission, popularly known as the “Minus Two Formula,” to rid the country of the battling begums—Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wazed (president of the AL). Though the government initially tried to exile both of them, it lifted a ban on Hasina's returning home from a tour outside the country and rescinded an order that Zia seek exile in Saudi Arabia. Both were later arrested (Zia on corruption charges and Hasina on extortion charges). Meanwhile, election and political reforms were being put in place prior to elections to be held by December 2008.

      The volatility of the situation in Bangladesh was highlighted in August when a brawl between a few university students and some soldiers on a petty issue turned into countrywide violence. Students and other civilians (mostly small traders and hawkers who had been evicted from footpaths earlier in the year) bashed scores of cars and vandalized shopping malls. To quell the violence, the government imposed a curfew and made numerous arrests, including those of top academicians.

      Fakhruddin Ahmed's government faced perhaps its biggest challenge in soothing widespread public discontent over rising prices for essential products. Officially, in June inflation stood at 9.2%, but steeper price hikes were reported for food items. Other worrying signs surfaced on the economic front. Exports dipped year-on-year in June (from 27.84% to 9.52%); the ready-made-garment sector (which accounted for 75% of export earnings) faced an order dearth; knitwear exports decreased; and woven exports barely made the target. Banks complained of a slowdown in credit applications; investments were low; and the real-estate sector reported a 70% dip in sales. In addition, two back-to-back floods caused more than 1,000 fatalities, along with huge losses to infrastructure and crops. Thousands more deaths were caused by a cyclone that struck southern Bangladesh in mid-November.

Inam Ahmed

▪ 2007

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 138,835,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Khaleda Zia and, from October 28, Ahmed (interim)

      Bangladesh experienced yet another chaotic year in 2006, with political turmoil, public rage over economic policy decisions, and Islamist terrorism setting the tone.

 In January a little-known village in the north, Kansat, erupted in violence as thousands of people took to the street, demanding a regular power supply and an end to corruption by power-company authorities. Two protesters were shot. By April three more uprisings had occurred, and 18 more villagers had been killed by police. Finally, the government, humiliated and politically dented, called for a truce and accepted the protesters' demands.

      In August another incident occurred, in the remote northern town of Phulbari, after the government badly handled a coal-mine deal with the newly formed British company Asia Energy, which intended to extract coal by open-pit mining on a 59-sq-km (23-sq-mi) area, an action that would have dislocated some 50,000 people, many of them indigenous, and posed risks to the environment. After the government continued to ignore the concerns of the locals and Asia Energy prepared to implement its plan, a huge protest rally was organized. Demonstrators went berserk, and law enforcers opened fire, killing five. As a result, the Asia Energy office was attacked and vandalized, houses were torched, and anarchy ensued. Though the unrest subsided after two government emissaries announced that the deal with Asia Energy would be scrapped, Bangladesh earned a reputation internationally as an undesirable place for investment.

      The investment sector took another beating when thousands of labourers in the ready-made- garment industry—one of the most competitive in the world because of low labour costs—filled the streets, demanding a raise in wages and the payment of back wages; they torched or ransacked hundreds of factories, including some foreign-owned ones. The monthlong agitation and chaos pushed the country's main source of foreign-exchange earnings to the brink. Though tensions cooled when a committee was formed to establish a new wage, discontent still simmered.

      The violence was overshadowed, however, by the arrest of the country's most-sought-after Islamist militants—Bangla Bhai and Sheikh Abdur Rahman—the alleged masterminds of the Aug. 17, 2005, attacks, in which some 500 bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in 63 of the country's 64 districts. The impact of their arrest was somewhat negated when an internationally known Islamist terrorist organization—Harkatul Jihad (Huji)—openly flexed its muscles in the capital, and the government remained silent.

      Politically, Bangladesh witnessed an electrifying year. The ruling alliance handed over power to an interim caretaker government headed by Pres. Iajuddin Ahmed on October 28 in preparation for general elections scheduled for January 2007. The opposition, however, in an attempt to force the removal of election officials whom it viewed as biased, staged a four-day strike in Dhaka in November that paralyzed the country.

      On the economic front, despite a growth in exports of 21.3% from January to June and an 24.9% increase in remittances from migrant workers, revenue collection fell short of the target by 1.6%, owing to a slowdown to 12% (from 20%) in import growth in the first six months of the year. As a result, the government was forced to secure bank loans of $886 million.

Inam Ahmed

▪ 2006

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 137,636,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia

 For Bangladesh the year 2005 was a rude awakening from a mode of denial. On the morning of August 17, the country was shaken as more than 500 bombs went off within a span of half an hour in a precisely coordinated manner in 63 of the country's 64 districts. At every bomb location, leaflets were recovered belonging to a banned Islamic militant group, Jamaʾatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Though casualties were minor—2 deaths and slight injuries to 100 persons—it was nonetheless a moment of embarrassment for the government, which had flatly denied local and international media reports saying that terrorists linked to al-Qaeda were organizing in Bangladesh. Though the government finally admitted that JMB was behind the blasts, it also suggested that there were “foreign forces” behind such a well-organized attack plan. The government subsequently embarked upon an antimilitant drive and apprehended some 170 terrorists, but this effort created a stir among the country's Islamic political parties, two of which were coalition partners in the government. The parties warned that harassing mullahs in the name of catching militants would not be tolerated.

      Earlier in the year, the killing on January 27 of S.A.M.S. Kibria, an Awami League (AL) party leader and a former UN undersecretary-general, shocked the country. Two grenades were tossed at him at a rally in the northeastern district of Habiganj. At least 3 other people were killed, and some 50 more were injured. The government's already rocky relationship with the opposition AL only worsened in the wake of the attack. The AL, angered by an unfinished probe into an earlier grenade attack that had killed 21 people at another party rally in August 2004, remained skeptical about the government's commitment to investigating Kibria's murder. Charges were ultimately brought against 10 people, 8 of whom had connections to the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Kibria's family rejected the investigation, however, saying that the masterminds of the attack were still at large.

      Bangladesh once again came under international scrutiny when reports surfaced that the Ahmadiyya community was being persecuted. In particular, Islamic fundamentalist parties Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikyo Jote demanded that the government declare the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims in the fashion of Pakistan, but the government—which had banned the Ahmadiyya religious book in 2004—remained silent to the demands. The persecution of the Ahmadiyyas evoked international reaction, including one from the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Christina Rocca, who during a visit to Dhaka in May expressed her concern over the treatment of the Ahmadiyyas.

      On the economic front, Bangladesh came under severe pressure from a few sides. Despite a healthy 8.71% growth in exports from January to June, as well as a 32.1% rise in foreign assistance and a 14.13% rise in remittance from overseas workers in fiscal 2004–05, the country's foreign-exchange reserves dwindled to $2.73 billion in September from $3.02 billion in June. This followed a sudden 18.45% jump in imports during the January–June period. Inflation rose to 7.35% in June from 5.5% in January. In September the government increased state-controlled fuel prices by 18%, stoking fears of a further price hike and demand squeeze. As a reaction to inflationary pressure, the government embarked on a tighter monetary policy.

Inam Ahmed

▪ 2005

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 135,255,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia

      Tumult and violence characterized politics in Bangladesh again in 2004, with the division and mutual mistrust between the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the main opposition Awami League deepening. The Awami League stunned the nation by announcing that the government would have to step down by April 30, 2004, and that all was set for a new regime to take over on that date. The government launched a massive arrest of opposition supporters, but the deadline passed without a stir. Much more serious was a terrorist attack on an Awami League rally on August 21. At least 13 grenades were exploded, killing 21 people and seriously injuring more than 200, though the main target, Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina, escaped. The opposition was quick to blame the attacks on the government, which in return blamed the Awami League itself. International police joined the local investigators, but by year's end the identity of the attackers and the motive for the massacre were still unknown. Earlier, on May 7, Ahsanullah Master, an Awami League deputy, had been shot dead at a party conference in Tongi, and a second deputy, Momtajuddin Ahmed, was assassinated on June 7 in Natore. The British high commissioner in Dhaka had survived a grenade attack in Sylhet on May 21. In all these cases the attackers' identities and motives remained shrouded in mystery.

      The political situation took on an even more sinister edge with the emergence in April of a Taliban-like anticommunist Islamist group named Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, in the northwest of the country. This group, led by Azizur Rahman, called “Bangla Bhai,” was reportedly responsible for a wave of vigilante-style terrorism and the execution of some 15 persons whom it had deemed “outlaws.” The group's organization and goals were murky, but there were (unproven) allegations of links to the government, and an official investigation found no evidence that such a group existed.

      Parliament was also affected by the deep divide between the government and the opposition. The Awami League boycotted Parliament for most of the year, and parliamentary committees could not function because of the absence of the opposition. A new political party, Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, was formed during the year by former president A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury. Chowdhury's son and another legislator deserted the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and joined the Bikalpa Dhara.

      Bangladesh's economy was clouted by five months of devastating floods that caused an estimated $2.1 billion in damages to agriculture and infrastructure. Damages were minimal, however, from the December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami. It was expected that GDP would be about 5%, down half a percentage point. During the first quarter of the fiscal year (July–September), revenue collection was 8.3% short of the target. Monetary growth showed an upward trend. Inflation inched up on price increases for essential items and upward adjustments of energy prices. In August the annual average inflation increased to 5.9% year-on-year. The upward trend in exports continued with year-on-year exports rising by 26.4% in July–August. The IMF released a $74 million installment for its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility.

Inam Ahmed

▪ 2004

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 133,107,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia

      The year 2003 began in Bangladesh with a controversial bill proposed by the government indemnifying the members of the armed forces who had taken part in the anticrime drive known as Operation Clean Heart. This drive consisted of house raids, severe interrogation, and arrests without warrants, and at least 40 suspects died in the hands of the authorities. The indemnity law was intended to prevent any legal action by the victims' families and was greeted with both national and international criticism.

      Important laws passed during 2003 included those promising speedy trials and tribunals, a ban on money laundering, and improvement in the status of women. The independent judiciary mandated by an earlier Supreme Court judgment experienced more delays as the government bargained for more time to prepare an appropriate law. The government submitted a draft of the long-awaited independent-anticorruption-commission bill to Parliament in July but withdrew it for further modification after discussions with experts and the public. For the third year in a row, Bangladesh was ranked at the top of Transparency International's list of most corrupt countries.

      The general political atmosphere of the country continued to worsen, with the relationship between ruling and opposition parties deteriorating further. More hartals (general strikes) were called, and more boycotts of the parliamentary sessions took place, with increasing indications that the opposition might stage more street protests and stir up agitation. It had already called upon the government several times to quit power. The situation became more confrontational when corruption charges were filed against the leader of the opposition in connection with the purchase of a navy frigate from South Korea.

      The higher judiciary, which had been known in Bangladesh for its independence, became the subject of controversy regarding the appointment of some judges, including that of the chief justice. In an unusual move the Supreme Court Bar Association observed two days of work stoppage as a mark of protest.

      On the financial front, Bangladesh boldly and surprisingly opted for a free-floating foreign-exchange rate. The fact that the taka did not suffer any significant erosion of value following this move boosted the confidence of investors, both local and foreign. The government also suspended 45,000 employees of state-owned enterprises, with a target of 94,000 over the following two years.

      The export sector, after a miserable performance the previous year, regained its position and recorded a positive growth rate of 9.39%, compared with –7.44% in 2002. Foreign-exchange reserves stood at $2.49 billion in September 2003, up from $1.73 billion over the previous year. Remittances from abroad, which were one of the main sources of Bangladesh's foreign-exchange earnings, took a dive to –0.8% in the third quarter, compared with 34.15% in the same period in 2002. Inflation stood at 5.14% in July 2003, compared with 3.55% the previous year.

Mahfuz Anam

▪ 2003

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 133,377,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
Presidents A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury, Jamiruddin Sircar (acting) from June 21, and, from September 6, Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia

      The year 2002 was marked by the continued standoff between the ruling four-party alliance government, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and the opposition Awami League. Arbitrary arrests, detention without charges, torture in custody, and police raids of the homes of opposition leaders continued. In response, the opposition staged occasional hartals (countrywide general strikes) and boycotted Parliament for most of the year.

      The most dramatic political event of the year was the forced resignation on June 21 of Pres. A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury, who was accused of having neglected to pay homage to BNP founder Ziaur Rahman on the anniversary of his death. In a move that some viewed as unconstitutional, the parliamentary wing of the BNP passed a resolution that removed him from office. It was the first time in the country's history that a ruling party had forced its own nominated president to resign. Parliament Speaker Jamiruddin Sircar served as interim president until Iajuddin Ahmed, a highly respected scientist from the University of Dhaka, replaced him on September 6.

      Some tough new laws were enacted during the year. On March 13 a law was passed that provided for capital punishment for the crime of throwing acid on women. Parliament passed a law on April 9 that would speed the sluggish judicial process; some cases had taken years to resolve. In the environmental sector, the government banned the production and use of highly damaging polyethylene bags and wrapping material and decided to phase out air-polluting two-stroke auto rickshaws (three-wheeled scooters); they would be replaced with compressed-natural-gas-driven vehicles. Millions of television viewers bemoaned the closing of the country's first and most successful private television station after the high court ruled that the issuance of its license had been faulty.

      On the economic front, the government-owned Adamjee Jute Mills—which employed 36,000 workers—was shut down following losses of $171 million over the past three decades. Though many feared that the closure would result in serious social and political repercussions, their worries proved unfounded. Economic indicators were mixed. Bangladesh's gross domestic product growth rate fell to 4.2% from 6.04% a year earlier; industrial growth was stalled at 4.1%; and export earnings slipped to $5.98 billion, a 7.44% reduction. By August the foreign-exchange reserve had risen significantly from $1.05 billion to $1.82 billion, helped by the 38.9% increase in remittances from Bangladeshi workers abroad. Inflation jumped from 1.59% to 2.39%, and agricultural growth decreased (from 2.6% to 1.9%), most likely as a result of the drought in the early months of the year and the severe flooding that later submerged nearly half the country. The fiscal deficit—more than 6% of GDP in 2001—was reduced to 4.3% in 2002.

      On the international scene, the most delicate issue facing the government was whether to export gas. Two government committees suggested that priority be given to domestic use, but the government remained under considerable international pressure, especially from the U.S., to export.

Mahfuz Anam

▪ 2002

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 131,270,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
Presidents Shahabuddin Ahmed and, from November 14, A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Latifur Rahman from July 15, and, from October 10, Khaleda Zia

      In a stunning upset in the parliamentary elections held on Oct. 1, 2001, the four-party opposition alliance headed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won a two-thirds majority, taking 214 of the 300 seats. The Awami League (AL), which had run the country since 1996, suffered its worst-ever defeat, securing only 62 seats. The BNP itself claimed 191 seats. In order to isolate the AL and capture the bloc votes of the religious parties, the BNP had allied with the Jamaat-e-Islami Party, which took 17 seats, the Jatiya Party (4 seats), and Islami Okiya Jote (2 seats). The election saw a massive voter turnout that was estimated at nearly 75%. Women turned out in heavy numbers and were thought to have had a decisive impact on the outcome. The AL rejected the election results, however, and declared that it would boycott Parliament and not cooperate with the future government.

      During much of the rest of the year, violence dominated the news. The trouble began on January 20 when 4 people died and 50 were injured in a bomb blast in the capital, Dhaka, during a rally of the Communist Party of Bangladesh. Then on April 14 in Dhaka, a bomb killed at least 9 people and injured some 50. On June 16 an explosion in the AL party office in Narayanganj (on the outskirts of the capital) killed 22 people. During the close of the election campaign, more bomb blasts occurred, killing several people in the districts of Bhola and Sylhet. In none of these instances were the culprits detected and punished.

      Relations between Bangladesh and India took a totally unexpected turn on April 17 when Bangladesh's border security force suddenly took control of an outpost at Padua, which had been under Indian occupation for 30 years. In retaliation, Indian troops crossed into the Bangladesh territory on April 19 and tried to capture Boroibari, another border post. The clash resulted in the death of 16 Indian soldiers. A serious strain on relations with India followed, and Bangladesh returned Padua to Indian control. Signs of tension remained, however, with intermittent border incidents continuing throughout the year.

      Just two days before presidential elections were to be held on November 13, independent candidate Mohammad Raushan Ali withdrew from the race; running unopposed, Foreign Minister A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury was named president by the Election Commission.

      The news from the economic front was mixed. Bangladesh achieved a gross domestic product growth rate of 6.04%—its highest ever—while the inflation rate remained at an impressive low of 1.59%. Industry also grew at 9.1%. As in 2000, agriculture performed exceptionally well, and with another bumper crop, Bangladesh turned its food deficit into a food surplus. This was a significant change, with both economic and psychological implications. For the first half of the year, exports grew at an impressive 14% following a yearlong lean period, but they slowed down after July, triggering fears of recession. Throughout the year government borrowing remained at a high level, and the foreign-exchange reserve hit its lowest point ever at $1,050,000,000 in July.

Mahfuz Anam

▪ 2001

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 129,194,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Shahabuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed

      The stalemate in politics that prevailed in Bangladesh in 1999 continued in 2000. The opposition made a brief appearance at one session of Parliament in a move to save its membership, which, under the constitution, would be nullified after a continued unexplained absence of 90 days. If anything, the relationship between the government and the opposition worsened; the latter was subjected to increased police and legal action as well as to frequent personal attacks, which became sharper and cruder.

      In February the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which gave an already powerful police force the power to make discretionary arrests, came into effect. The positive feature of the PSA was that cases would be tried and settled within a three-to-four-month time frame, compared with taking years in ordinary courts. The most dangerous feature of the PSA—later dropped—was that those awaiting trial would be held in prison without bail. Under tremendous public opposition, media criticism, and behind-the-scenes pressure from Pres. Shahabuddin Ahmed, the government slightly softened the PSA a few months after passing it into law. By year's end, however, the PSA had made no visible impact on the rising crime rate. The most embarrassing factor was the direct involvement in criminal activities by some ruling-party stalwarts and some district-level leaders who became Mafia-style dons of several district towns.

      The most positive diplomatic development of the year was the first-ever visit by a U.S. president to Bangladesh. In March Pres. Bill Clinton arrived for a day trip in the first leg of his South Asia tour. U.S.-Bangladesh relations were further strengthened in October when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed visited the U.S.

      In a landmark decision the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Defense recommended the revocation of the 1981 court-martial judgment against 37 army officers, 13 of whom had been hanged. They were convicted of the assassination of then president Ziaur Rahman, founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which was the archrival of the ruling Awami League. The judgment was declared “illegal” and in “violation of both the constitution and Bangladesh Army Act.”

      The best news came from the agricultural sector. The highest-ever aman rice harvest (10.1 million metric tons)—followed by another record boro rice harvest—kept the economy afloat and helped to contain inflation around 3.8%. The economy was severely strained by a massive Tk 25 billion (51 taka = $1) revenue shortfall that increased the fiscal deficit by 5.3%. In addition, government expenditures exceeded the budgeted amount by Tk 5 billion. As a result, the government was forced to borrow from the banking system a record Tk 39,340,000,000. In August the taka was devalued by 6%, the largest devaluation since 1975. Shortly thereafter, petroleum prices rose about 15%. Direct foreign investment dropped from $308 million in 1998 to $150 million in 1999.

Mahfuz Anam

▪ 2000

Area:
147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 127,118,000
Capital:
Dhaka
Chief of state:
President Shahabuddin Ahmed
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

      Politics in Bangladesh took a far more confrontational turn in 1999 than in the previous year. In an effort to force early elections, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party formed an alliance in January with two smaller opposition parties, one led by former president Hossain Mohammad Ershad and the other comprising Islamic fundamentalists. When municipal elections were held in February, the opposition alliance boycotted the polls, a decision that allowed the ruling Awami League (AL) to win crucial positions and shut out the opposition from important urban institutions.

      In March Rafiqul Islam Bir Uttam, Bangladesh's home minister, whose duties included maintaining internal security, was replaced with AL veteran and political heavyweight Mohammad Nasim. Nasim's get-tough policy, coupled with an amnesty offer, persuaded many members of the Sharbahara Party, a violent leftist underground group, as well as members of other left-wing groups, to give up their arms, surrender to the police, and enter the government's rehabilitation program. This resulted in a considerable improvement in public safety in the northern districts of the country, where the group had operated for over a decade.

      During the year the AL lured to its ranks two opposition MPs by offering them posts as state and deputy ministers. Such “floor crossing” was prohibited by the country's constitution. The Parliament speaker, however, ruled that the defections did not constitute floor crossing. The matter was eventually referred to the Election Commission, which ruled against the Parliament speaker, and the two MPs lost their seats. This incident further eroded the opposition's dwindling faith in the speaker's neutrality and widened the gulf of mistrust between the government and the opposition.

      Perhaps the most controversial government action in 1999 was its attempt to buy eight Russian MiG-29 jet fighters at a cost of $124 million. No clear reasons were given for such an expensive military purchase. The deal was temporarily halted by the High Court on a petition from an opposition MP, who claimed that the proposed purchase violated set procedures.

      On the economic front, the government led a remarkable comeback in agricultural production following massive flooding in 1998 that left more than two-thirds of the country under water for two months. A postflood bumper crop, brought about by a timely supply of seeds and fertilizer and a massive injection of farm credits, resulted in a 3.4% increase in food grain. The bumper crop also helped push gross domestic product growth to a peak of 5.2% during the year. Industrial growth fell, however, from 9.5% in fiscal year 1998 to 2.5% in fiscal year 1999; this decline contributed to a nearly 14% drop in exports. Declining government revenue, coupled with a significant increase in public expenditure to pay for flood reconstruction, led to a record public deficit, a problem that was likely to have severe repercussions in the future.

Mahfuz Anam

▪ 1999

      Area: 147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 127,567,000

      Capital: Dhaka

      Chief of state: President Shahabuddin Ahmed

      Head of government: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

      Bangladesh in 1998 was once again hit hard by the forces of nature, suffering the worst floods of the century in a two-month period ended in mid-September. About two-thirds of the country was left under water, more than 1,000 people were killed, and more than 30 million people were left homeless. Some 300,000 cases of diarrhea were reported, many of them among children. The situation was further compounded when the vital road between Dhaka and the port of Chittagong was flooded for more than a month, which adversely affected the country's ability to export. According to government officials, the country's rice crop was completely destroyed, and Bangladesh would need at least two million tons of grain to tide it over to the end of the year. The government sought $879 million in foreign aid for emergency relief and postflood rehabilitation, including $240 million worth of food. In the wake of the floods, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed said that the government would build an approximately 50-km- (30-mi)-long embankment to protect the capital from floods.

      On February 10 the Shanti Bahini rebels, a guerrilla group that had been fighting a more than 20-year insurgency for greater regional autonomy for the indigenous population of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in southeastern Bangladesh, surrendered their weapons under the terms laid down by an agreement between them and the government in December 1997. As part of the agreement, the government declared a general amnesty for all armed rebels in the CHT and for individuals previously active in the political wing of the Shanti Bahini. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, rejected this agreement and refused to return to Parliament unless the government rescinded the accord. Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the government on March 2, the BNP decided to end the six-month boycott and return to Parliament on March 9. The leadership of the BNP made this decision because of the party's inability to attract widespread popular support for its stance on this issue and the increased division within the party over this matter. On April 15, however, the BNP walked out of Parliament in protest against the introduction of four bills concerning the December peace agreement with the Shanti Bahini. The BNP accused the government of acting unconstitutionally by attempting to push the bills quickly through Parliament without sufficient debate and of violating the March memorandum. Nevertheless, with its majority in Parliament, the government was able to pass the four bills at the beginning of May.

      On June 9 the BNP organized a 25,000-strong "long march" from Dhaka to Chittagong in opposition to the peace agreement. This led to the country's largest popular uprising in two years, with demonstrators using the event as an opportunity to vent their general disapproval with the government's policies and with the increased level of corruption, political violence, and human rights abuses against opponents of the government.

      On November 9 a civil court sentenced to death 15 of 19 people accused in the 1975 murder of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder of Bangladesh and father of the prime minister. Five of the defendants were present at the trial and the rest were tried in absentia. The judge ordered the sentences to be carried out in public by firing squad. The verdict led to widespread violence at antigovernment rallies in Dhaka and major regional centres, resulting in two deaths and more than 200 people sustaining injuries.

      In June the Bangabandhu Bridge, the longest in South Asia and the 11th longest in the world, was opened. The $1 billion structure stretched 4.8 km (3 mi) across the Jamuna River.

CLAUDE RAKISITS

▪ 1998

      Area: 147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 125,340,000

      Capital: Dhaka

      Chief of state: President Shahabuddin Ahmed

      Head of government: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

      Although the political situation in Bangladesh in 1997 was relatively stable compared with the previous year, the Awami League (AL) government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed was, nevertheless, confronted with strong opposition from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), headed by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, and from the main Islamic fundamentalist party, the Islami Oikyo Jote. The BNP, the Islami Oikyo Jote, and a breakaway faction of the National Party, which supported the government, led a nationwide general strike on August 24 in protest against fuel price hikes of as much as 63%. At least 150 people were injured in clashes between protesters and police during the strike. The BNP attempted to increase the political pressure on the government when all its members stormed out of Parliament on August 30 in protest against the prime minister's economic policies.

      The political climate had been inflamed in January when the High Court ruled that the government had acted lawfully in repealing a long-standing indemnity ordinance that had protected those accused of being involved in the 1975 coup in which Pres. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of Sheikh Hasina, was assassinated along with nine members of his family. The trial of six of the accused began in May. This issue took on personal overtones for Zia, whose husband was accused by the secretary-general of the AL of involvement in the 1975 coup.

      The government and the Parbattaya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS), the political wing of the Shanti Bahini, a guerrilla group that had been fighting a 24-year insurgency for greater regional autonomy for the indigenous population of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeastern Bangladesh, achieved a major breakthrough in bilateral talks in May, and on December 5 the PCJSS and the government signed a peace agreement. A new administrative system would substantially address desires for autonomy, and a general amnesty for all members of Shanti Bahini was proposed.

      On May 19 more than 1.5 million people in Bangladesh were rendered homeless and at least 100 persons were killed when a cyclone struck the southeastern region of the country. The effects of the storm were compounded by the tidal waves that accompanied it, with more than 50 islands and districts affected by the flooding that followed. On July 13 floods again swept the same area of Bangladesh, killing at least 57 people and leaving a quarter of a million homeless. On September 27 another cyclone ravaged the southeastern part of the country. Although more than 600,000 people had been evacuated before the storm hit the coastal areas, at least 60 people were killed, hundreds were injured, and thousands were once again left homeless.

      Following up on their landmark treaty for sharing water from the Ganges River, which came into effect on January 1, Bangladesh and India agreed to share the flow of a second common river, the Teesta. The government's decision to grant Indian vehicles transit rights through Bangladesh was, however, rejected by the opposition parties in Parliament. This led to a daylong strike that resulted in one death and more than 100 injuries in clashes with the police.

CLAUDE RAKISITS

▪ 1997

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth, Bangladesh is situated in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent, on the Bay of Bengal. Area: 147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 123,063,000. Cap.: Dhaka. Monetary unit: taka, with (Oct. 11, 1996) an official rate of Tk 42.10 to U.S. $1 (Tk 66.32 = £1 sterling). Presidents in 1996, Abdur Rahman Biswas and, from July 23, Shahabuddin Ahmed; prime ministers, Khaleda Zia until March 30, Mohammad Habibur Rahman until June 23, and, from June 23, Sheikh Hasina Wazed.

      Prime Minister Khaleda Zia decided to hold parliamentary elections on Feb. 15, 1996, despite the threat by the Awami League (AL), the main opposition party, to boycott the polls unless she stepped down and allowed a caretaker government to take power before the voting. Before the election at least 13 people were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes between the opposition and government security forces. The AL's call for a boycott was heeded, and fewer than 10% of eligible voters turned out for the polls. About a dozen people were killed during the election. The electoral commission invalidated the results for 100 of the 300 contested seats because of fraud.

      Following opposition-led paralysis of the Bangladeshi economy and fearing possible military intervention, Zia offered to step down in favour of a "nonparty" government that would conduct new elections. Sheikh Hasina Wazed (see BIOGRAPHIES (Hasina Wazed, Sheikh )), the AL leader, rejected the offer and demanded instead that the Zia administration be replaced by a caretaker government.

      On March 26 Parliament passed a law allowing the formation of a caretaker government, and former chief justice Mohammad Habibur Rahman was chosen to head it. New elections were set for June 12. Surprisingly, this election campaign was not marred by widespread violence. Voter turnout was as high as 73%, and, according to international observers, the elections were conducted fairly. Nevertheless, Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) claimed that there had been fraud and demanded new elections in 100 constituencies.

      Having won a plurality, with 146 seats out of a possible 300 (to the BNP's 116 seats), Sheikh Hasina was asked to form the new government. In an ironic twist of history, however, the AL had to rely on the support of Hossain Mohammad Ershad's Jatiya Party for its parliamentary survival. The AL had been instrumental in forcing Ershad out of the presidency in 1990. Moreover, Ershad, who had been serving a prison sentence for corruption and abuse of power, had been accused by Zia of complicity in the overthrow and subsequent assassination of her late husband, Gen. Zia ur-Rahman, in 1981. In her first Cabinet, Sheikh Hasina included Anwar Hossain Manju, the secretary-general of the Jatiya Party.

      In December Bangladesh and India signed a 30-year treaty to share water from the Ganges River, a sign of improving relations between the two countries.

      (CLAUDE RAKISITS)

▪ 1996

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth, Bangladesh is in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent, on the Bay of Bengal. Area: 147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 120,093,000. Cap.: Dhaka. Monetary unit: taka, with (Oct. 6, 1995) an official rate of Tk 40.20 to U.S. $1 (Tk 63.55 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Abdur Rahman Biswas; prime minister, Khaleda Zia.

      Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government continued to come under virulent attack from the Awami League-led opposition in 1995, as it had in the previous year. Accusing the Zia government of mismanagement, the opposition continued to demand the immediate resignation of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the holding of fresh elections under a neutral caretaker government. A compromise proposal by Commonwealth mediators, led by former Australian governor-general Sir Ninian Stephen, had brought hope of a breakthrough, but the plan was rejected by the opposition in October 1994. The proposal called for the formation of an 11-member Cabinet headed by Zia, to include five opposition leaders and one technocrat acceptable to both sides. In December 1994 all opposition members resigned from Parliament. In late November 1995 Pres. Abdur Rahman Biswas dissolved Parliament, with elections likely to be held in January 1996. The opposition rejected Zia's offer to step down one month before the voting and threatened to boycott the elections unless a caretaker government was installed before the polling began.

      Meanwhile, the violent antigovernment protests and strikes that plagued the country in 1994 persisted throughout 1995. A three-day general strike that began on January 2 paralyzed the capital, Dhaka, and led to demonstrations in which at least 50 people were injured. Later that month two people died when police clashed with jute and cotton workers in the country's second largest city, Chittagong. Violent strikes by jute and textile workers in Dhaka and the southern city of Khulna in February resulted in the deaths of seven people and injuries to more than 100 others. In mid-March the opposition organized a two-week program of agitation in Dhaka and other major cities. It culminated in an eight-hour siege of the prime minister's office by over 5,000 demonstrators. In that incident more than 250 people were injured in clashes between security forces and protesters. The political violence continued into December.

      Zia was confronted with another political crisis in March when farmers staged violent protests against the government for having caused a severe fertilizer shortage. According to a government-commissioned study, the shortage was caused by excessive exports of urea, which depleted local buffer stocks, even though there already was a shortage of fertilizer. This crisis added further grist to the opposition's accusation of government mismanagement. Zia quickly dismissed Industry Minister Zahiruddin Khan on April 4 and forced into early retirement the chairman of the Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corp., which operated the fertilizer factories owned by six states. Although Zia accused the opposition of creating "an artificial fertilizer crisis for political gain," the crisis was sure to cost the BNP at the next elections.

      Bangladesh was once again battered by natural disasters. May rainstorms devastated coastal areas, killing more than 100 people and leaving at least one million homeless. These same storms caused an outbreak of malaria and diarrhea that subsequently claimed the lives of an estimated 1,100 people. Monsoon storms in June and July caused further massive flooding, adding more than 200 additional names to the year's death toll from natural disasters.

      (CLAUDE RAKISITS)

▪ 1995

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth, Bangladesh is in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent, on the Bay of Bengal. Area: 148,393 sq km (57,295 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 117,404,000. Cap.: Dhaka. Monetary unit: taka, with (Oct. 7, 1994) an official rate of 39.50 taka to U.S. $1 (62.82 taka = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Abdur Rahman Biswas; prime minister, Khaleda Zia.

      Bangladesh—a country routinely battered by storms, floods, and political violence—had a measure of good news in 1994. In 1991 some 130,000 people had died in a ferocious cyclone. When a similar cyclone battered the same southeastern coast in May, only 233 persons were killed, thanks to disaster defenses the government had built at a cost of millions of dollars.

      On the political front, there were about a dozen antigovernment protests across the country. A general strike called to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia shut down the capital, Dhaka, and four other cities for days. The main opposition parties—the Awami League, the Jatiya Party, and the Islamic fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami—accused the Zia government of mismanagement and demanded new elections. Zia, who had won a five-year term in 1991 in the first peaceful transition of power since Bangladesh became independent of Pakistan in 1971, rejected the demand as "unjustified and unconstitutional" and said that her party, which occupied a majority of the 330 seats in Parliament, would continue to govern until the scheduled March 1996 election. All 154 opposition legislators reacted by boycotting Parliament for most of the year. The government resigned en masse in December.

      Zia's government faced the people's wrath in September when nearly 9,000 doctors walked out of 1,850 state-run hospitals and rural health centres. They demanded that the government double its spending on health care and provide more medical facilities. The government insisted it could not afford to increase the $150 million national health care budget. There were sporadic strikes in November and a police mutiny in December.

      Bangladesh attracted international attention during the year over the issue of freedom of expression. Taslima Nasrin (see BIOGRAPHIES (Nasrin, Taslima )), a 32-year-old physician turned author, first gained notoriety for her novel Lajja ("Shame"), which depicted the oppression of local Hindus and other minorities by Muslim extremists. A crisis developed when a newspaper reported that Nasrin was calling for a thorough revision of the Qur`an, Islam's sacred scripture. Nasrin denied ever having made such a sweeping statement. She did, however, acknowledge that she would like to see Islamic laws amended to give more rights to women.

      When Nasrin was charged under a 19th-century law forbidding acts that offended religious sensibilities, the case was viewed by many in the context of Islamic fundamentalism, which seemed to be gaining favour among the predominantly Muslim population even though Bangladesh operated under a secular constitution. Those who were most uncompromising demanded that Bangladesh become an Islamic state and that it adopt the Muslim code of criminal justice. The most extreme segments of a society that denied equal rights to women demanded her execution. Nasrin was arrested, then released on bail pending her trial on charges of insulting Islam. The streets of the capital were filled with tens of thousands of religious fundamentalists demanding that Nasrin be put to death. Extremists offered $5,000 for her life. She eluded all the dangers she faced at home by fleeing to Sweden in September. (DILIP GANGULY)

▪ 1994

      A republic and member of the Commonwealth, Bangladesh is in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent, on the Bay of Bengal. Area: 148,393 sq km (57,295 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 115,075,000. Cap.: Dhaka. Monetary unit: taka, with (Oct. 4, 1993) an official rate of 39.49 taka to U.S. $1 (59.83 taka = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Abdur Rahman Biswas; prime minister, Khaleda Zia.

      Bangladesh served as host to a seven-nation summit of South Asian leaders in April 1993 to improve the image of a nation perhaps best known for its grim battle against hunger, disease, overpopulation, cyclones, floods, and political violence. These factors often caused the otherwise fertile country of 115 million people to be one of the poorest in the world. For Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the summit of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, and Bangladesh came as a showpiece for projecting her country's potential.

      Twenty-two years after its independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh in 1993 had some success stories to tell. During the year the economy grew by 5%, up 1.4%. The annual per capita income also increased to $210 in 1993 from $170 in 1990. Meanwhile, the rate of inflation, which had been as high as 61% in 1974, came down to 9.3% in 1990 and further down to 3% in 1993. Although the population kept rising, the rate of growth was cut to 2.03% in 1993 from an average 3%. The use of contraceptives increased to 40%, compared with 7.7% 18 years earlier.

      The production of grain, mainly rice, was estimated at a record 19.6 million tons in 1993. This was only 200,000 tons less than the nation needed to gain self-sufficiency in food grains. To many people the 1993 figures might appear meaningless in a predominantly agrarian nation where more than 55% of the population lived below the poverty line (meaning they could not afford two meals a day) and half of the labour force was either unemployed or underemployed. But it showed great progress from the early 1970s, when the world termed the newly independent Bangladesh a basket case for its almost negative economic growth, total dependence on foreign aid, and growing population.

      Although Zia, whose Bangladesh Nationalist Party had swept the 1992 elections, was successful in projecting a better image of her country, her battle to remain in power continued throughout 1993. A new challenge came from Islamic fundamentalists, who staged several street protests to overthrow the democratically elected government.

      The opposition Awami League led a series of strikes and antigovernment rallies throughout the year. On January 24, bombs exploded at a rally of Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina Wazed who said it was an attempt on her life. Two days later a dawn-to-noon nationwide strike paralyzed the country. The opposition staged more nationwide strikes in July and August to protest alleged government corruption.

      To add to the woes, 27,000 nurses went on strike in August to protest the appointment of a bureaucrat to head their administration. The strike was called off a week later.

      On the international front, Dhaka's relations with Malaysia, India, China, and Pakistan improved with growing trade relations. On January 10 repatriation of stranded Pakistanis began with the airlifting of 300 Muslims who had chosen Pakistan as their homeland. About 500,000 Urdu-speaking Muslims lived in Bangladeshi camps awaiting repatriation to Pakistan.

      The issue of Muslim refugees from Myanmar (Burma), however, strained Yangon-Dhaka relations. On March 20 soldiers from Myanmar attacked a Bangladesh border village, killing one man and wounding five others. On May 12 UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata visited Bangladesh and toured refugee camps. Over 250,000 Muslims had fled to Bangladesh to avoid persecution in military-ruled Myanmar.

      Former Bangladesh president Hussain Mohammad Ershad remained in prison in 1993 and faced 19 more charges, ranging from corruption to possession of illegal arms. Ershad was ousted on Dec. 6, 1990, after a series of street protests against his rule. He was convicted on three different counts and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

      (DILIP GANGULY)

* * *

Introduction
Bangladesh, flag of   country of south-central Asia, located in the delta of the Padma (Padma River) (Ganges (Ganges River) [Ganga]) and Jamuna (Brahmaputra (Brahmaputra River)) rivers in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent.

      The riverine country of Bangladesh (“Land of the Bengals”) is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and its people are predominantly Muslim. As the eastern portion of the historical region of Bengal, the area once formed, along with what is now the Indian state of West Bengal, the province of Bengal in British India. With the partition of India in 1947, it became the Pakistani province of East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), one of five provinces of Pakistan, separated from the other four by 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of Indian territory. In 1971 it became the independent country of Bangladesh, with its capital at Dhaka.

Land
 Bangladesh is bordered by the Indian (India) states of West Bengal to the west and north, Assam to the north, Meghalaya (Meghālaya) to the north and northeast, and Tripura and Mizoram to the east. To the southeast, it shares a boundary with Myanmar (Burma). The southern part of Bangladesh opens into the Bay of Bengal (Bengal, Bay of).

Relief
      Stretching northward from the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh constitutes roughly the eastern two-thirds of the deltaic plain of the Padma (Padma River) (Ganges (Ganges River) [Ganga]) and Jamuna (Brahmaputra (Brahmaputra River)) rivers. Except for small higher areas of jungle-covered old alluvium (rising to about 100 feet [30 metres]) in the northwest and north-centre—in the Barind and the Madhupur Tract, respectively—the plain is a flat surface of recent alluvium, having a gentle slope and an elevation of generally less than 30 feet (9 metres) above sea level. In the northeast and southeast—in the Sylhet and Chittagong Hills areas, respectively—the alluvial plains give place to ridges, running mainly north-south, that form part of the mountains that separate Bangladesh from Myanmar and India. In its southern region, Bangladesh is fringed by the Sundarbans, a huge expanse of marshy deltaic forest.

      The Barind is a somewhat elevated triangular wedge of land that lies between the floodplains of the upper Padma and Jamuna rivers in northwestern Bangladesh. A depression called the Bhar Basin extends southeast from the Barind for about 100 miles (160 km) to the confluence of the Padma and Jamuna. This area is inundated during the summer monsoon season, in some places to a depth exceeding 10 feet (3 metres). The drainage of the western part of the basin is centred in the vast marshy area called the Chalan wetlands, also known as Chalan Lake. The floodplains of the Jamuna, which lie north of the Bhar Basin and east of the Barind, stretch from the border with Assam in the north to the confluence of the Padma and Jamuna in the south. The area is dominated by the Jamuna, which frequently overflows its banks in devastating floods. South of the Bhar Basin is the floodplain of the lower Padma.

      In north-central Bangladesh, east of the Jamuna floodplains, is the Madhupur Tract. It consists of an elevated plateau on which hillocks ranging in height from 30 to 60 feet (9 to 18 metres) give contour to cultivated valleys. The Madhupur Tract contains sal trees, whose hardwood is comparable in value and utility to teak. East of the Madhupur Tract, in northeastern Bangladesh, is a region called the Northeastern Lowland. It encompasses the southern and southwestern parts of the Sylhet area (including the valley plain of the Surma River) and the northern part of the Mymensingh area and has a large number of lakes. The Sylhet Hills in the far northeast of the region consist of a number of hillocks and hills ranging in elevation from about 100 feet (30 metres) to more than 1,100 feet (330 metres).

      In east-central Bangladesh the Brahmaputra River in its old course (the Old Brahmaputra River) built up the flood basin of the Meghna River, the region that includes the low and fertile Meghna-Sitalakhya Doab (the land area between those rivers). This area is enriched by the Titas distributary, and land areas are formed and changed by the deposition of silt and sand in the riverbeds of the Meghna River, especially between Bhairab Bazar and Daudkandi. Dhaka is located in this region.

      In southern Bangladesh the Central Delta Basins include the extensive lakes in the central part of the Bengal Delta, to the south of the upper Padma. The basin's total area is about 1,200 square miles (3,100 square km). The belt of land in southwestern Bangladesh bordering the Bay of Bengal (Bengal, Bay of) constitutes the Immature Delta. A lowland of some 3,000 square miles (7,800 square km), the belt contains, in addition to the vast mangrove forest known as the Sundarbans, the reclaimed and cultivated lands to the north of it. The area nearest the Bay of Bengal is crisscrossed by a network of streams that flow around roughly oblong islands. The Active Delta, located north of the Central Delta Basins and east of the Immature Delta, includes the Dhaleswari-Padma Doab and the estuarine islands of varying sizes that are found from the Pusur River in the southwest to the island of Sandwip (Sandwip Island) near Chittagong in the southeast.

      Lying to the south of the Feni River in southeastern Bangladesh is the Chittagong region, which has many hills, hillocks, valleys, and forests and is quite different in aspect from other parts of the country. The coastal plain is partly sandy and partly composed of saline clay; it extends southward from the Feni River to the town of Cox's Bazar and varies in width from 1 to 10 miles (1.6 to 16 km). The region has a number of offshore islands and one coral reef, St. Martin's, off the coast of Myanmar. The hilly area known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts, in the far southeast, consists of low hills of soft rocks, mainly clay and shale. The north-south ranges are generally below 2,000 feet (600 metres) in elevation.

Drainage
 The most significant feature of the Bangladesh landscape is provided by the rivers, which have molded not only its physiography but also the way of life of the people. Rivers in Bangladesh, however, are subject to constant and sometimes rapid changes of course, which can affect the hydrology of a large region; consequently, no description of Bangladesh's topography retains its absolute accuracy for long. One spectacular example of such a change occurred in 1787, when the Tista River underwent exceptionally high flooding; its waters were suddenly diverted eastward, where they reinforced the Brahmaputra (Brahmaputra River). The swollen Brahmaputra in turn began to cut into a minor stream, which by the early 1800s had become the river's main lower course, now known as the Jamuna. A much smaller river (the Old Brahmaputra) now flows through the Brahmaputra's former course.

      Each year between June and October, the rivers overflow their banks and inundate the countryside, rising most heavily in September or October and receding quickly in November. The inundations are both a blessing and a curse. Without them, the fertile silt deposits would not be replenished, but severe floods regularly damage crops and ruin hamlets and sometimes take a heavy toll on human and animal populations.

      The rivers may be divided into five systems: (1) The Padma (Padma River) (or Ganges (Ganges River)) and its deltaic streams, (2) the Meghna (Meghna River) and the Surma (Surma River) river system, (3) the Jamuna and its adjoining channels, (4) the North Bengal rivers, and (5) the rivers of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the adjoining plains.

      The greater Ganges is the pivot of the deltaic river system of the historical region of Bengal. The greater Ganges Delta covers some 23,000 square miles (60,000 square km), the bulk of it in southwestern Bangladesh. The Ganges in Bangladesh is known as the Padma, and it is divided into two segments, the upper Padma and the lower Padma (Padma River). The river enters Bangladesh from the west and constitutes, for about 90 miles (145 km), the boundary between Bangladesh and West Bengal. As it flows farther into Bangladesh, the upper Padma forms numerous distributaries and spill channels and reaches its confluence with the Jamuna west of Dhaka, after which their combined waters make up the lower Padma—which, from a hydrological perspective, is the Padma proper. The lower Padma flows southeast to join the Meghna near Chandpur and enters the Bay of Bengal (Bengal, Bay of) through the Meghna estuary and lesser channels. Except where it is confined by high banks, the upper Padma's main channel changes course every two or three years. Its waters appear muddy owing to the volume of silt carried by the river. Silt deposits build temporary islands that reduce navigability but are so highly fertile that they have been for decades a source of feuds among peasants who rush to occupy them.

      The Meghna (Meghna River) is formed by the union of the Sylhet-Surma and Kusiyara rivers. These two rivers are branches of the Barak River (Surma River), which rises in the Nagar-Manipur watershed in India. The main branch of the Barak, the Surma, is joined near Azmiriganj in northeastern Bangladesh by the Kalni and farther down by the Kusiyara branch. The Dhaleswari, a distributary of the Jamuna River, joins the Meghna a few miles above the junction of the lower Padma and the Meghna. As it meanders south, the Meghna grows larger after receiving the waters of several rivers, including the Buriganga and the Sitalakhya.

      The Jamuna and its adjoining channels cover a large area from north-central Bangladesh to the Meghna River in the southeast. A number of rivers enter the Jamuna, especially from the west, and, with their notoriously shifting channels, they not only prevent permanent settlement along the Jamuna's banks but also inhibit communication between the northern area of Bangladesh and the eastern part, where Dhaka is situated.

      The Tista (Tista River) is the most important water carrier of northwestern Bangladesh. Rising in the Himalayas near Sikkim, India, it flows southward, turning southeast near Darjiling (Darjeeling) to enter Bangladesh, where it eventually meets the Jamuna. The shoals and quicksand that surround the junction of the two rivers render navigation of the Tista's lower reaches difficult.

      Four main rivers constitute the river system of the Chittagong Hills and the adjoining plains—the Feni, the Karnaphuli, the Sangu, and the Matamuhari. Flowing generally west and southwest across the coastal plain, they empty into the Bay of Bengal. Of these rivers the longest is the Karnaphuli (Karnaphuli River), which is dammed at Kaptai, about 30 miles (50 km) upstream from its mouth near the city of Chittagong.

      None of the major rivers of Bangladesh originates within the country's territory. The headwaters of the Surma are in India; the upper Padma rises in Nepal and the Jamuna in china, but they too reach Bangladesh across Indian territory. Thus, Bangladesh lacks full control over the flow of any of the streams that irrigate it. The construction of a barrage upstream at Farakka in West Bengal has led to the diversion of a considerable volume of water from the Ganges in India, and the flow to western Bangladesh is insufficient in the dry season, from November to April. The equitable distribution of the river's waters has been since the 1970s a source of friction between India and Bangladesh.

Soils
      There are three main categories of soils in Bangladesh: the old alluvial soils, the recent alluvial soils, and the hill soils, which have a base of sandstone and shale. The fertile recent alluvial soils, found mainly in flooded areas, are usually clays and loams, variously pale brown, sandy, chalky, and mica-laden. They are deficient in phosphoric acid, nitrogen, and humus but not in potash and lime. The old alluvial soils in the jungles of the Barind and Madhupur regions are dark iron-rich brown or reddish clays and loams. They are sticky during the rainy season and hard during the dry periods. The hill soils are generally permeable and can support dense forest growth.

Climate
      Bangladesh has a typical monsoon climate characterized by rain-bearing winds, moderately warm temperatures, and high humidity. In general, maximum temperatures in the summer months, from April to September, are in the low to mid-90s F (mid-30s C). April is the warmest month in most parts. The range of high temperatures in the winter months, from November to March, is greater than in the summer months. January is the coolest month, with high temperatures averaging in the mid- to upper 70s F (mid-20s C).

      The conditions of lowest atmospheric pressure occur in Bangladesh in June and July, the storm season. Winds are mostly from the north and northeast in winter, blowing gently in northern and central areas and somewhat more aggressively near the coast. During the period of the northwesters (strong winds from the northwest) from March to May, however, wind speeds may rise to 40 miles (65 km) per hour.

      Bangladesh receives heavy rainfall; except for some parts in the west, it generally exceeds 60 inches (1,500 mm) annually. Large areas of the south, southeast, north, and northeast typically receive from 80 to 100 inches (2,000 to 2,500 mm), and the northern and northwestern parts of the Sylhet area usually receive from 150 to 200 inches (3,800 to 5,000 mm). The maximum rainfall occurs during the monsoon period, from June to September or early October.

      Storms of very high intensity often occur early in the summer (in April and May) and late in the monsoon season (September to October, and sometimes November). These disturbances may produce winds with speeds exceeding 100 miles (160 km) per hour, and they may generate waves in the Bay of Bengal that crest as high as 20 feet (6 metres) before crashing with tremendous force onto the coastal areas and the offshore islands, causing heavy losses of life and property. Since the early 18th century, when records were first kept, more than 1,000,000 people have been killed in such storms, some 815,000 of them in just three storms occurring in 1737, 1876, and 1970.

Plant and animal life
      Bangladesh in general possesses a luxuriant vegetation, with villages appearing to be buried in groves of mango, jackfruit, bamboo, betel nut, coconut, and date palm. However, only a small portion of the country's land surface is covered with forests.

      Bangladesh has four different areas of vegetation. The eastern zone, consisting of parts of the Sylhet and Chittagong areas, has many low hills covered with jungles of bamboo and rattan (rattan vine) (a species of climbing palm). The most common plant is a large type of bamboo that forms the basis of the country's paper industry. The central zone, covering parts of the country to the north of Dhaka, contains many lakes and supports swampy vegetation; the soil of part of this zone produces the Madhupur jungles. The area lying to the northwest of the Jamuna and to the southwest of the Padma forms a flat plain, the vegetation of which consists mostly of cultivated plants and orchards. Babul (Acacia arabica) is the most conspicuous tree. The southern zone along the Bay of Bengal contains the vast wetlands of the Sundarbans, with their distinctive mangrove vegetation. Several of the mangrove species are commercially valuable, including the sundari (Heritiera fomes or H. minor), for which the Sundarbans are named, and the goran (Ceriops roxburghiana). Also valuable are the gewa or gengwa (Excoecaria agallocha) trees, which yield a softwood used for making newsprint. Among the astounding variety of flowers are water lilies (locally called shapla, the country's national flower), marigolds, tuberoses, and Chinese hibiscus. The bokul (Mimusops elengi) is a common shrub that produces small red berries.

      Bangladesh has an abundance of wildlife, including more than 100 species of mammals, although the population of some species has diminished significantly since the early 20th century. Elephants, living in herds of fewer than a dozen to nearly 100, are found in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and in the northeastern Sylhet region. Domesticated water buffaloes (water buffalo) (Bubalis bubalis) are used for plowing and pulling carts. Of the different kinds of deer, the small muntjac (genus Muntiacus; also called barking deer) and the large sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), with its maned neck, are well known. The samba lives in the eastern jungles of the country. The medium-sized spotted deer (C. axis) was once common in many parts of the country but by the early 21st century had become limited to the Sundarbans region. The barasingha (C. duvauceli) also once inhabited the Sundarbans but became extinct in Bangladesh in the 20th century. Similarly, the hog deer (Axis procinus) has disappeared from the country.

      Of the carnivores, the royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is the best known. The common leopard (P. pardus) is native to the region, as is its smaller relative, the rare clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), with its dark gray oblong-spotted fur. The ferocious leopard cat (Felis bengalensis) is about the size of the domestic cat but with longer legs.

      Bears in Bangladesh include the sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus; also called Himalayan black bear), and sun bear (U. malayanus). The sloth bear is the most common. Jackals (jackal) (Canis aureis), whose eerie howling at night is a familiar sound in Bangladesh, are abundant, as are various species of mongooses (mongoose). The Bengal, or rhesus (rhesus monkey), monkey (Macaca mulatta) is about the most common primate in the country.

      Bangladesh is inhabited by hundreds of species of birds. Common house crows are found everywhere, and their cries are detested by many people of Bangladesh, who regard crows as a bad omen. Bulbuls (bulbul), magpie-robins (magpie-robin), and a wide variety of warblers are also found; some are migrants that appear only in winter. Several kinds of flycatchers occur, and there are mynah birds of several kinds. Other species of birds include various game birds, parakeets, cuckoos, hawks, owls, kingfishers, hornbills, hoopoes, woodpeckers, and vultures. Among the eagles, the crested serpent eagle and the ring-tailed fishing eagle are the most common. There also are an array of water birds, including herons, storks, ducks, and wild geese.

People (Bangladesh)

Ethnic groups
      The vast majority of the population of Bangladesh is Bengali—a term describing both an ethnic and a linguistic group. The Bengali people are historically of diverse origin, having emerged from the confluence of various communities that entered the region over the course of many centuries. The Vedda peoples were perhaps the earliest group to settle in the area. According to some ethnologists, they were followed by peoples from the Mediterranean and neighbouring areas, particularly those who spoke Indo-European languages. During the 8th century CE, persons of Arab, Persian, and Turkish origin moved in large numbers to the subcontinent. By the beginning of the 13th century, they had entered what is now Bangladesh. The contention that contemporary Bengali Muslims (Islāmic world) are all descended from lower-caste Hindus who had converted to Islam, then, is clearly incorrect; a substantial proportion are descendants of Muslims who reached the subcontinent from elsewhere.

      Non-Bengalis—consisting primarily of smaller indigenous groups—constitute only a tiny fraction of the population. Most of these peoples inhabit the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast, the most sparsely settled area of the country. Some of the groups are related to the peoples of Myanmar (Burma), and many follow Buddhism, although both Hinduism and Christianity also have a significant following. Of the dozen or so ethnolinguistic groups of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the largest are the Chakma, the Marma (Magh or Mogh), the Tripura (Tipra), and the Mro; the Khomoi (Kumi), the Kuki, and the Mizo (formerly called Lushai) are among the smaller groups. Since the mid-1970s ethnic tensions and periodic violence have marked the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where many peoples long resident in the area have objected to the influx of Muslim Bengali settlers.

      Indigenous minority peoples in other parts of Bangladesh include the Santhal (Santhāl), the Khasi (Khāsi), the Garo, and the Hajang. The Santhal peoples live in the northwestern part of Bangladesh, the Khasi in Sylhet in the Khasi Hills near the border with Assam, India, and the Garo and Hajang in the northeastern part of the country.

Languages
      Bengali (Bengali language) (Bangla), the national language of Bangladesh, belongs to the Indo-Aryan (Indo-Aryan languages) group of languages and is related to Sanskrit (Sanskrit language). Like Pali (Pāli language), however, and various other forms of Prakrit (Prākrit languages) in ancient India, Bengali originated beyond the influence of the Brahman society of the Aryans (Aryan). The Pala (Pāla Dynasty) rulers of Bengal (8th to 12th century)—who were Buddhists and whose religious language was Pali—did not inhibit the emergence of a colloquial tongue known as Gaudiya Prakrit, the language from which Bengali developed.

      Bengali is the mother tongue of almost the entire population of Bangladesh. However, the indigenous minority groups have their own languages and dialects, some of which are Tibeto-Burman languages. English, an Indo-European language, is spoken in urban centres and among educated groups.

      The Bengali language has two distinct styles: sadhu bhasa, the literary style, which contains many words derived from Sanskrit, and calit bhasa, the colloquial style, which is the standard medium of informal discourse, both spoken and written. Until the 1930s sadhu bhasa was used for all printed matter, but calit bhasa is now the basic form used for contemporary literature. There also are a number of dialects. Bengali contains many loanwords from Portuguese, English, Arabic, Persian, and Hindi.

Religion
      Most of the people of Bangladesh follow the religion of Islam (Islām), which was made the official religion by a 1988 constitutional amendment. The arrival of Muslims in Bengal at the beginning of the 13th century and the rapid increase in their strength and influence permanently changed the character and culture of the area. When the Muslims first arrived, Hinduism was by far the dominant religion, although there were pockets of Buddhists (Buddhism) and a few adherents of local religions. The Hindus remained in the majority through the Mughal (Mughal Dynasty) period (16th to 18th century). Even as late as the early 1870s, there were more than 18 million Hindus in Bengal, compared with about 16 million Muslims. From the 1890s onward, however, the weight began to shift toward the Muslims.

      There were several reasons for the increase in the proportion of the Muslim population. Perhaps the most significant was the activity of ascetics and Sufis (practitioners of Sufism (Ṣūfism), a mystical form of Islam), who won converts among lower-caste Hindus. Also significant was an influx of Muslims from northern India and from other countries.

      Most Muslims are Sunni (Sunnite), but there are a small number of Shīʿites (Shīʿite), primarily descendants of immigrants from Iran. Hindus (Hinduism) form a significant minority, while Buddhists constitute just a tiny fraction of the population. Of the tribes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Chakma, Marma, and Mro are mostly Buddhists. Portions of the Kuki, Khomoi, and Mro communities practice local religions. While most of the Mizo are Christians, the Tripura are Hindus.

Settlement patterns
      The extremely high overall population density of Bangladesh, averaging more than 2,500 persons per square mile (1,000 per square km) in the early 21st century, varies widely according to the distribution of flatland. The highest density occurs in and around Dhaka, which is also the centre of the country's most fertile zone; the lowest population density occurs in the hills of Chittagong.

Rural settlement
      The rural area throughout Bangladesh is so thickly settled that it is often difficult to distinguish any well-defined pattern of individual villages. There are, however, some noticeable features. The inundation of most of the fields during the rainy season makes it necessary to build houses on higher ground. Continuous strings of settlements along roads are common in areas south of the upper Padma River and in the floodplains of the Mahananda, Tista, Jamuna, lower Padma, and Meghna rivers. Similar settlements are found in the Chittagong Hills and in the hilly segment of the southern Sylhet region. Settlements are more scattered, however, in areas in southwestern Bangladesh along the Bay of Bengal, in the floodplains of the Old Brahmaputra, in the lower-lying areas of eastern and southern Sylhet, and in parts of Chittagong. In central and western Sylhet and in some areas of the Chittagong Hills, settlements occur in a nucleated, or clustered, pattern. With the addition of prefabricated one- or two-story structures scattered among thatched bamboo huts, the character of rural villages has changed since the mid-20th century. Supplies of electricity and safe drinking water, however, have remained inadequate in some regions.

Urban settlement
      Although industrial development has prompted migration to the cities, Bangladesh is one of the least-urbanized areas in South Asia. In the early 21st century, about one-fourth of the population lived in urban areas. There are three major cities: Dhaka, Chittagong, and Khulna. Dhaka, the capital, is the largest. Chittagong, the country's major port, is second in importance. A number of industrial areas, such as Kalurghat, Sholashahar, and Faujdar Hat, have developed around Chittagong. Khulna, in the southwest, has become a commercial and industrial centre; the opening of the port at Mongla nearby and the growth of the Daulatpur industrial area have increased its population.

Demographic trends
      In the early 21st century more than one-third of Bangladesh's population was under age 15, and the birth rate remained well above the world average. Infant mortality also remained high, although it had dropped dramatically since the late 20th century. Life expectancy was about 60 years. There has been very little immigration since the 1970s. Many Bangladeshis, however, live and work abroad—especially in India.

Economy
      Bangladesh's heavy dependence on agriculture has long contributed to seasonal unemployment among rural farmworkers, as well as to a generally low standard of living in many areas. To counteract this imbalance, a policy of industrialization was adopted in the mid-20th century. During the period of Pakistani administration (1947–71), priority was given to industries based on indigenous raw materials such as jute, cotton, hides, and skins. The principle of free enterprise in the private sector was accepted, subject to certain conditions, including the national ownership of public utilities. The industrial policy also aimed to develop the production of consumer goods as quickly as possible in order to avoid dependence on imports.

      The Pakistani administration established new types of autonomous corporations to deal with industrial development, electricity, water and sewerage management, the development of forest industries, and road transportation. In 1972, however, the government of the new, independent Bangladesh implemented socialist policies, nationalizing these corporations and establishing several new corporations to manage the nationalized enterprises. Hasty change, coupled with the inexperience of those placed in charge of the corporations, produced widespread disruptions, and industrial production nearly came to a halt. In 1973 the government launched a five-year development plan (the first of a series of such plans that have guided the country's economy into the 21st century). The policy of nationalization was gradually revised and was replaced by a 19-point program announced in 1979 that emphasized greater productivity and efficiency. In an effort to encourage private investment, the government also returned many state-owned enterprises to the private sector.

Agriculture and fishing
 Bangladesh has remained largely agricultural, with nearly half the population employed in this sector in the early 21st century. Rice is the predominant agricultural product, but jute and tea, both of which are key sources of foreign exchange, also are important. Indeed, the country is one of the world's leading suppliers of raw jute. Other major agricultural products include wheat; pulses, such as peas, beans, and lentils; sweet potatoes; oilseeds and spices of various kinds; sugarcane; tobacco; and fruits, such as bananas, mangoes, and pineapples. The country also is a leading producer of goat milk and goat meat.

 Agriculture was at one time wholly dependent upon the vagaries of the monsoon; a poor monsoon always meant poor harvests and the threat of famine. To reduce the risk of crop failure as a result of such adverse weather conditions, a number of irrigation projects—including the construction of dams—have been undertaken to control floods and to conserve rainwater for use in the dry months. Among the most important of these initiatives have been the Karnaphuli Multipurpose Project in the southeast, the Tista Barrage Project in the north, and the Ganges-Kabadak Project, to serve the southwestern part of the country. Economic planning has encouraged double and triple cropping, intercropping, and the increased use of fertilizers.

 The rivers of Bangladesh are particularly amenable to breeding and raising fish, and aquaculture is the source of more than two-fifths of the country's fish yield. However, the rivers and seacoast also offer opportunities for open-water fishing, mostly in the estuaries of the Bay of Bengal. Among the varieties of fish caught are the marine rupchanda, or pomfret, and the freshwater hilsa, a relative of the shad.

Resources and power
      A major obstacle to the economic development of Bangladesh has been a general lack of mineral resources. The country's first oil well, near Sylhet, was established in 1986, but petroleum in marketable quantities has not been struck anywhere in Bangladesh. Natural gas is used mainly in the manufacture of fertilizer and for thermal power. More than half the proven gas reserves are in the Comilla area, and nearly all the rest are in Sylhet.

      Some deposits of coal have been found in northwestern Bangladesh in the Rajshahi area. The thickest seams are located at relatively inaccessible depths of 3,000 to 3,500 feet (900 to 1,000 metres). Smaller deposits of coal exist in northwestern Sylhet. The Chittagong Hill Tracts contain some brown coal and lignite. Peat deposits exist in several places, but some of the beds remain underwater for half the year, making extraction difficult. Limestone is found in the Sylhet and Chittagong areas. Radioactive minerals have been detected in sand deposits along the beaches south of Cox's Bazar.

      Bangladesh's electricity is produced by thermal and hydroelectric processes. The main source of hydroelectricity (hydroelectric power) is the Kaptai Dam in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Manufacturing
      Because the export of raw jute is not highly remunerative, efforts were made under the Pakistani administration to establish mills to produce and export jute products and thus earn foreign exchange. About 45 percent of the jute produced during that period was processed in the territory; the balance was exported raw. After independence, jute and jute products remained an important source of the country's foreign exchange earnings. However, the clothing industry expanded rapidly in the late 20th century, and by the early 21st century the export value of garments, hosiery, and knitwear had far surpassed that of jute manufactures. Frozen fish and shrimp also became major exports.

      The bamboo in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the various softwood trees growing in the Sundarbans provide excellent raw material for papermaking. There are paper mills at Chandraghona, Chhatak, and Paksey, as well as a paper and board mill at Khulna.

      Bangladesh has fertilizer factories, textile mills, sugar factories, glassworks, and aluminum works. It also has cement factories, located at Chhatak, in the Sylhet area. A shipyard was opened at Khulna for repairing and reconstructing ships, and a steel mill is located at Chittagong.

      By far the most important cottage industry centres on the production of yarn and textile fabrics—mostly coarse and medium-quality fabrics. Another cottage industry produces cigarettes known as bidis. Carpets, ceramics, and cane furniture also are products of cottage industries.

Transportation
      Central to the country's transportation system are networks of waterways, roads, and railways, the last built mostly during British rule. Inland waterways are important, providing low-cost transport and access to areas where land transport would be costly. They carry most of the domestic and foreign cargo. Chief seaports are Chittagong and Mongla, and there are international airports at Dhaka and Chittagong, as well as several other airports offering domestic service.

 The forms of transport used on Bangladesh's roads range from automobiles and buses to the bullock cart. Two-wheeled horse-drawn jigs and bullock carts are still used, primarily in the north in Rajshahi. Town and city dwellers both rely largely on the cycle rickshaw and on two types of three-wheeled vehicles, known locally as auto and tempo. The lightweight cycle rickshaw, which can easily be used on unpaved roads, is the most popular vehicle in towns and villages. The annual inundations that submerge most of the rural roads necessitate the use of so-called country boats—flat wooden boats that are hand-propelled by means of poles or long paddles.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 While Bangladesh's constitution of 1972 specifies a parliamentary form of government under a prime minister and a president elected by a national assembly, its implementation has been interrupted by coups. In 1975 a military coup led to a regime of martial law, and, though the form of government that followed was a mixture of presidential and parliamentary systems, power effectively remained with the army. The country experienced additional upsets and periods of martial law in the 1980s, but in 1991 a parliamentary system was restored, with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government.

      The parliament of Bangladesh, called the Jatiya Sangsad (House of the Nation), is a unicameral entity consisting of some 345 seats, most of which are filled through direct election. The remaining seats are reserved for women; these members are elected by the parliament itself. Legislators serve five-year terms. The parliament elects the president, who also serves a five-year term, with a two-term limit. The president then appoints the leader of the legislative majority party (or coalition) as prime minister.

Local government
      Between the early 1980s and the early 1990s, local government in Bangladesh underwent a large-scale administrative reorganization to decentralize power. The resulting structure consisted of several major divisions, each of which was subdivided into a number of districts, called zila. These districts were parceled further into smaller units, called thana. In the early 21st century, Bangladesh consisted of 6 divisions, more than 60 districts, and more than 500 thana. Villages—the smallest unit of government—numbered in the tens of thousands and were grouped into unions beneath the thana.

      Local government in both rural and urban regions is primarily in the hands of popularly elected executives and councils. Each division is headed by a commissioner. Executives at the district and thana levels are assisted by various professionals appointed by the national government, as well as by their elected councils.

Justice
      Bangladesh has maintained essentially the same judicial system that was in operation when the territory was a province of Pakistan and that owes its origins to the system in operation under the British raj. The 1972 constitution divided the Supreme Court of Bangladesh into Appellate and High Court divisions and mandated a complete separation of the judiciary and executive branches of government. During the subsequent authoritarian regime, however, the power of the Supreme Court was greatly reduced. In 1977 a Supreme Judicial Council was established to draw up a code of conduct for Supreme Court and High Court judges, who may be removed from office by the president upon the council's recommendation.

      Judges from the High Court may go on circuit for a portion of the year to hear cases from lower courts in other parts of the country. Those lower courts include district courts, sessions courts, and several types of magistrate courts. The magistrate courts handle the vast majority of criminal cases.

Health and welfare
      Bangladesh has many government hospitals and rural health centres. tuberculosis, cholera, and malaria continue to pose threats to public health, and since about 2000 outbreaks of dengue fever have been a concern as well. However, an effective approach to the treatment of cholera and tuberculosis has been developed by research laboratories and hospitals in Dhaka and Comilla, and the incidence of malaria has been reduced by a malaria-eradication program in which swamps and marshes are regularly sprayed with insecticides. Historically, leprosy also was a serious problem in Bangladesh. In the late 20th century, however, the government took aggressive measures to eradicate the disease, and within less than a decade, leprosy had virtually disappeared from the country.

      Social services are provided by private agencies and government departments. These services include, among others, community development projects, schools for handicapped children, youth centres, orphanages, and training institutes for social workers. A family-planning program inaugurated in the late 20th century has helped to control population growth.

Education
      The foundation of the educational system in Bangladesh was laid down during the period of British rule. The system has three levels—primary, secondary, and higher education. Primary education, which is free but not compulsory, is for children up to about age 10. Only about half of all children attend primary school. Secondary education is divided into three levels—junior secondary, high school, and higher secondary (intermediate college)—with public examinations being held at the conclusion of each level of schooling. Schools in cities and towns are generally better staffed and financed than those in rural areas.

      There are hundreds of colleges, most of them affiliated with one of the larger universities, such as the University of Dhaka (1921), the University of Rajshahi (1953), or the University of Chittagong (1966). Other prominent institutions include Jahangirnagar University (1970) on the outskirts of the capital, the Bangladesh Agricultural University (1961) at Mymensingh, the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (1962) at Dhaka, and the Islamic University (1980) at Kushtia. Medical education is provided by several medical colleges and an institute of postgraduate medicine at Dhaka. Each college or institute has a full-fledged hospital attached to it.

      For vocational training Bangladesh relies on several engineering colleges and a network of polytechnic and law colleges. In addition, an array of specialized colleges are dedicated to training students in areas such as the arts, home economics, social welfare and research, and various aspects of agriculture.

Cultural life
      The Bengali language, Islamic religion, and rural character of Bangladesh all serve to unify the country's culture to a considerable degree. Although some regional variation occurs across the Bengali community, cultural differences between ethnic, religious, and social minorities and between rural and urban populations are much more salient.

Daily life and social customs
      The typical household in Bangladesh, particularly in the villages, includes several generations of extended family. Most marriages are arranged by parents or other relatives, but increasing numbers of educated men and women choose their own partners. Custom and religion among Muslims require that a dowry be offered by the husband to the wife, but it is usually claimed only in the event of separation or at the husband's death. Divorce is permissible among Muslims, and Muslim law ( Sharīʿah) permits limited polygyny, although it is not widespread. Hindus may obtain a separation by application to a court of law.

      The main festivals in Bangladesh are religious. The two most important are Īd al-Fiṭrʿ, which comes at the end of Ramadan (Ramaḍān), the Muslim month of fasting, and Īd al-Aḍḥāʿ, or the festival of sacrifice, which falls on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar. On both occasions families and friends exchange visits.

      While rice, pulses, and fish continue to constitute the staple diet of Bangladeshis, shortages of rice since World War II have forced the acceptance of wheat and wheat products as alternatives. Meat, including goat and beef, also is eaten, especially in the towns. At weddings and other festive occasions, seasoned rice (pilau) accompanies highly spiced meat dishes and curries. Bangladesh is noted for a large variety of milk-based sweets.

      The lungi (a length of cloth wrapped around the lower half of the body, comparable to the Malaysian sarong) with a short vest is the most common form of male attire in the countryside and in the less-wealthy sections of urban settlements. Men of the educated classes prefer light cotton trousers called pajamas (from which the English word originates) and a kind of collarless knee-length shirt known as a panjabi. On more formal occasions they dress in a modification of the Western suit. The traditional sherwani and churidar, calf-length tunic and close-fitting trousers, are still seen at weddings, where they are worn along with the turban. The sari is common among women, but girls and younger women, especially students, prefer the shalwar kamiz, a combination of calf-length shirt and baggy silk or cotton trousers gathered at the ankles.

The arts
      The Bengali language began to assume a distinct form in the 7th century CE, and by the 11th century a tradition of Bengali literature had been established. Litterateurs received official patronage under both the Pala (Pāla Dynasty) (8th to 12th century) kings and early Muslim rulers; under the Senas (Sena Dynasty) (11th and 12th centuries) and Mughals (Mughal Dynasty) (early 16th to mid-18th century), however, they were generally unsupported. Nevertheless, Bengali language and literature thrived in various traditions of music and poetry that were practiced outside the court, laying the foundation for the so-called “Bengali Renaissance” of the 19th century. The renaissance was centred in Kolkata (Calcutta) (Calcutta) and led by Ram Mohun Roy (Roy, Ram Mohun) (1772–1833); its luminary poet, Rabindranath Tagore (Tagore, Rabindranath) (1861–1941), composed the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. In its early years the movement espoused the virtues of Western education and liberalism, and it was largely confined to the Hindu community.

      There are four main types of music in Bangladesh—classical, light-classical, devotional, and popular—which may overlap in some cases. Classical music has many forms, of which the dhrupad (Hindustani (Hindustani music) devotional songs) and the related, shorter form called kayal (or khayal) are the best known. Devotional music also is represented by qawwali and kirtana (kīrtana), vocal genres that are part of the common musical heritage of the subcontinent. It is, however, in the field of local nonclassical popular music that Bangladesh is most prominent. The forms known as bhatiali, bhawaiya, jari, sari, marfati, and baul have no real equivalents outside the country. The vigorous spontaneous style of these musics generally distinguishes them from classical genres.

      Apart from such classical dances as kathakali (kathākali) and bharata natyam—forms that are popular throughout the subcontinent—unique indigenous dances have developed in Bangladesh. Among the most widespread of these are the dhali, baul (Bāul), manipuri, and snake dances. Each form expresses a particular aspect of communal life and is danced on specific occasions. Improvisation has been a core component of both classical and nonclassical music and dance. With the increasing commercialization of the arts, however, improvisation has been on the wane. Although some of the performing arts are learned informally, others are taught formally at music and dance academies. Two of the oldest and most prominent of such academies are the Bulbul Academy for Fine Arts and the Nazrul Academy, both in Dhaka.

      All towns and most villages have cinema houses. Plays are occasionally staged by amateur groups and drama societies in educational institutions and are broadcast regularly on radio and television. Musical concerts, though not as popular as the cinema, are well attended. Especially popular in the countryside is jatra, a form of opera that draws on local legends.

Visual art and architecture
      Painting as an independent art form is a relatively recent phenomenon in Bangladesh. The main figure behind the art movement was Zainul Abedin, who first attracted attention with his sketches of the Bengal famine of 1943. After the partition of Pakistan from India in 1947, he was able to gather around him a school of artists who experimented with various forms, both orthodox and innovative.

      The historical prevalence of Islamic arts in Bangladesh is especially evident in the many mosques, mausoleums, forts, and gateways that have survived from the Mughal period. Like Muslim architecture elsewhere in the subcontinent, these structures are characterized by the pointed arch, the dome, and the minaret. The best-preserved example is the 77-dome mosque at Bagerhat in the south. The ruins of Lalbagh Fort, an incomplete 17th-century Mughal palace at Dhaka, also provide some idea of the older Islamic architectural traditions. While such Mughal architecture belongs in style and conception to the same school as medieval buildings in northern India, a unique innovation in Bangladesh has been the translation into brick and mortar of the sloping four-sided thatched roof found in the countryside.

 Some remains of pre-Muslim Buddhist architecture have been unearthed at Paharpur and Mahasthan in the north and at Maynamati in the south. They are said to date from the 8th century, and they exhibit the circular stupa pattern characteristic of ancient Buddhist monasteries in India.

      Public buildings in the British and Pakistani periods sometimes followed the Mughal style, but preferences subsequently shifted to the International Style, which was prevalent in the United States and Europe in the mid-20th century. The softness of Bangladesh's subsoil precludes the construction of skyscrapers.

Sports and recreation
      During the 20th century, football (soccer) emerged as the preeminent sport in Bangladesh. Field hockey, cricket, tennis, badminton, and wrestling also are popular. Bangladesh made its Olympic debut at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Indigenous games of the “touch-and-run” type, however, remain among the favourites of children and youths. One such game, called kabadi, requires each of two teams in turn to send out a player to raid the other's territory. The raider must, while chanting, touch as many opposing players as he can without taking a breath. Kite flying is another traditional pastime enjoyed by young and old alike. The making of elaborate kites from cloth or paper is a distinctive form of visual art as well.

Media and publishing
      Programs are broadcast on radio and television in English and in Bengali; news on the radio is also broadcast in Urdu, Hindi, Burmese, and Arabic. Both radio and television are controlled by the government. By contrast, most newspapers are privately owned, and the constitution provides for freedom of the press. The Bengali newspapers have relatively small circulations, a fact that reflects the low level of literacy in the country. Nonreaders, however, are still exposed to the ideas and influence of the press, as newspapers are often read aloud in groups. Although their circulation is smaller than that of the Bengali papers, English dailies exercise a disproportionate influence, because their patrons belong to the educated classes. Major Bengali dailies include the Daily Prothom Alo, Dainik Ittefaq, and Dainik Jugantor; major English dailies include The Daily Star, New Age, and The New Nation.

Syed Sajjad Husain Ed.

History
      Although Bangladesh has existed as an independent country only since the late 20th century, its national character within a broader South Asian context dates to the ancient past. The country's history, then, is intertwined with that of India, Pakistan, and other countries of the area. The land of Bangladesh, mainly a delta formed by the Padma (Padma River) (Ganges (Ganges River) [Ganga]) and the Jamuna (Brahmaputra (Brahmaputra River)) rivers in the northeastern portion of the Indian subcontinent, is protected by forests to the west and a myriad of watercourses in the centre. As such, it was long the inaccessible frontier beyond the north Indian plain and therefore was home to a distinctive regional culture. In early times a number of independent principalities flourished in the region—called Bengal—including Gangaridai, Vanga, Gauda, Pundra, and Samatata, among others. In the 14th century Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah was instrumental in unifying many of these principalities. The Mughals (Mughal Dynasty) added more territories, including Bihar and Orissa (now states of India), to constitute Suba Bangalah, which the British colonial administration later called the Bengal Presidency. In 1947, when British colonial rule ended, a downsized province of Bengal was partitioned into East Bengal and West Bengal. East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan in 1955, and in 1971 it became Bangladesh.

Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim dynasties until c. 1700
      From the 3rd century BCE Buddhism flourished as the Mauryan (Mauryan empire) emperors extended their influence in Bengal. Under the Gupta (Gupta dynasty) kings, who reigned from the early 4th to the late 6th century CE, Hinduism reestablished its hold, but Buddhism did not fully disappear. The two religions coexisted under the Pala (Pāla Dynasty) (8th–12th century) dynasty, as well as under the Chandra (10th–11th century) dynasty in the southeast. By the end of the 11th century, the Senas (Sena Dynasty), who were strongly Hindu, had gained control over a large part of Bengal.

      As early as the 9th century, Arab traders had taken Islam (Islām) to Bengal. About 1200, Muslim invaders from the northwest overthrew the Senas. Muslim rule culminated in the Mughal (Mughal Dynasty) dynasty (16th–18th century). In eastern Bengal, as in much of the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, Islam became the religion of the majority.

      Muslim rule in Bengal promoted a society that was not only pluralistic but also syncretic to some degree. The rulers largely remained uninterested in preaching religion; rather, they concentrated on incorporating local communities into the state system. In their administration, high office holders, influential traders, eminent literati, and musicians came from diverse religious traditions. Nevertheless, practitioners of Sufism (Ṣūfism) (mystical Islam) and Muslim saints did indeed preach Islam, and Muslim settlers received patronage. Although high-caste Hindus received land grants under early Muslim rule, under the Mughals most grants were awarded to Muslim settlers. These settlers developed an agrarian economy in Bengal that ultimately helped the spread of Islam. Meanwhile, the extensive interaction between Islam and Hinduism was reflected in social behaviour and the flourishing of various cults, notably that of the Hindu saint Caitanya (1486–1533). In contrast to more orthodox forms of Hinduism, the Caitanya sect—like Islam—was open to all members of society, regardless of caste or social rank.

      Under the Mughals the political boundaries of Bengal expanded to become Suba Bangalah (the Province of Bengal), and economic activity increased.

The British period, c. 1700–1947
      During the rule of the emperor Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707), the English East India Company was permitted to establish its base at Calcutta (Kolkata (Calcutta)). The British gained strength in the region as the Mughal empire weakened. In 1757, following a battle in the town of Plassey between forces led by British soldier Robert Clive (Clive, Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey) and the Mughal nawab (viceroy) Sirāj-ud-Dawlah, the East India Company emerged as the dominant political power in Suba Bangalah. Under Gov.-Gen. Charles Cornwallis (Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess and 2nd Earl, Viscount Brome, Baron Cornwallis of Eye) (served 1786–93), a permanent settlement system was established in the territory—now called the Bengal Presidency—whereby property rights were granted in perpetuity to local zamindars (landlords). This property policy indirectly stimulated the growth of a new landed middle class—especially in Calcutta—called the bhandralok. Initially, the bhandralok was dominated by upper-caste Hindus, but the Muslim presence began to increase toward the end of the 19th century. In time, this middle class emerged as the most active advocate of Indian self-government.

      The province of Bengal was almost impossible to administer, even after Assam was made a separate province in 1874. In 1905, largely at the initiative of the viceroy George Nathaniel Curzon (Curzon, George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquess, Viscount Scarsdale, Baron Ravensdale), two new provinces were created, ostensibly on a geopolitical basis; these provinces were Western Bengal, including Bihar and Orissa, and Eastern Bengal and Assam. With its capital at Calcutta, Western Bengal had a Hindu majority, while the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, with its capital at Dhaka, was predominantly Muslim. Aside from increasing administrative efficiency, Curzon's move was intended to position the Muslims as a counterweight to the Hindus.

      The partition elicited vociferous protest in Western Bengal, especially in Calcutta, where the Indian National Congress (also called the Congress Party; formed in 1885) played a prominent role. Indian Muslim leaders, however, mostly supported the partition, and in 1906 they gathered at Dhaka under the patronage of Nawab Salimullah and set up the All-India Muslim League. Their efforts secured separate electorates and separate constituencies for the Muslims under the constitutional reforms of 1909, but they could not save the partition. In 1912 the partition was annulled, Bihar and Orissa were constituted into a new province, and Assam reverted to its separate status.

      Following the reunification of Bengal, the Congress Party and the Muslim League worked together for self-government; among the leaders of this effort were Nawab Salimullah, Chitta Ranjan Das (Das, Chitta Ranjan), Fazl ul-Haq, and Sarat Chandra Bose. Communal animosities resurfaced in the early 1920s, however, in the wake of a failed nonviolent alignment between the Indian Muslim front known as the Khilafat movement and the Hindu-led Indian nationalist Noncooperation Movement under Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi (Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand). Consequently, in order to achieve political goals, it became necessary to adopt coalition tactics that would transcend communal antagonisms; the politician who proved most adept at this was Fazl ul-Haq, chief minister of Bengal from 1937 to 1943. He set up his own Peasants and Tenants (Krishak Proja) Party and formed a coalition with the Muslim League. In 1940, at the league's annual gathering at Lahore, Fazl ul-Haq proposed the so-called “Pakistan Resolution,” demanding independent states for Muslims. The following year, however, he was expelled from the Muslim League; he formed a new coalition and continued to serve as chief minister.

      In 1942 new rounds of political dialogue commenced, but no agreement could be reached. With legislative elections in 1946, the Muslim League returned to power under the leadership of Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, who subsequently became chief minister of Bengal. In August of that year an intense Muslim-Hindu communal conflict erupted in Calcutta, and it eventually spread well beyond the borders of Bengal. This event, combined with protracted and unfruitful discussions between the various groups, made the partition of India appear inevitable. Suhrawardy, Sarat Chandra Bose, and several other prominent political leaders reopened negotiations for a separate, independent, united Bengal.

      In March 1947 Louis Mountbatten (Mountbatten, Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl, Viscount Mountbatten Of Burma, Baron Romsey Of Romsey) became the last viceroy of British India, with a mandate to transfer powers. As plans were being formulated for the partition of India, Mohammed Ali Jinnah (Jinnah, Mohammed Ali), a leading figure of the Muslim League, advocated for the formation of a united Bengal; Mountbatten was not against the idea, but Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party opposed it. When British colonial rule ended in August 1947, two new countries—India and Pakistan—were born, and Bengal was split between them. West Bengal went to India, and East Bengal formed the eastern wing of Pakistan, which was bisected by a vast tract of northern India.

The Pakistani period, 1947–71
 Although the boundaries of East Bengal were based ostensibly on religion, they did not entirely reflect it. Owing to disagreements between the Hindu and Muslim contingents of the commission tasked with delimiting the province, the frontiers were ultimately determined by the head of the commission, Sir Cyril Radcliffe. Excluded wholly or partly from East Bengal were such Muslim majority districts as Murshidabad and Nadia; included, however, were Khulna, which was nearly half Muslim, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where Muslims constituted only a small fraction of the population. Even Sylhet, a predominantly Muslim district of Assam that joined Pakistan through a referendum, lost a part of its territory to India. The partition catalyzed large-scale migration on both sides of the new boundary as hundreds of thousands of people who believed themselves to be members of a threatened minority moved into what they perceived as a place of refuge. Along with Muslim Bengalis arriving in East Bengal from Hindu majority districts, there were many Muslims who came from other parts of India, mostly from Bihar.

      Pakistan began as a parliamentary democracy with a constituent assembly that was charged with the dual function of drafting a constitution and serving as the new country's legislative body; however, overbearing central leadership eventually nullified the system. Failing to earn the support of Jinnah, who had become the first governor-general of Pakistan, Suhrawardy stayed in India to work with Gandhi for communal harmony, and Khwaza Nazimuddin became chief minister of East Bengal. In the central government (based in the western wing of Pakistan) Bengalis held the majority in the legislative branch but had little representation in the executive. Physically and linguistically separated, the two parts of Pakistan had only tenuous links; their overriding common interest was fear of Indian domination. Jinnah and his advisers believed that unification might be achieved through a common language, Urdu (Urdu language), which was used in the army and administration. By 1948, however, Bengalis had begun to resent the nonacceptance of Bengali as an official language, the domination of the bureaucracy by non-Bengalis, and the appropriation of provincial functions and revenue by the central government.

 During Jinnah's tenure as governor-general, he maintained a powerful central government under his authority. When Jinnah died in 1948, Nazimuddin became governor-general, but the real power lay with Liaquat Ali Khan, the prime minister. When Liaquat was assassinated in October 1951, Nazimuddin succeeded him as prime minister and installed Ghulam Mohammad, a Punjabi, as governor-general. Ghulam Mohammad consolidated a coalition of civil and military forces in the central government and secured a virtual transfer of power from the politicians to the coalition, first by dismissing Nazimuddin (who still had a majority in the legislature) in 1953 and then by dismissing the entire constituent assembly shortly after the general elections of 1954. In those elections, almost all the seats had been won by the United Front, a coalition of opposition parties led largely by Fazl ul-Haq and his revamped Peasants and Tenants Party (now called the Peasants and Workers Party) and by Suhrawardy, who had made a comeback with a new party, the Awami League. In 1955 Ghulam Mohammad left office, and Maj. Gen. Iskandar Mirza, who had served both as governor in East Bengal and as a central minister, took office as governor-general. Under Mirza, East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan.

      With a newly elected constituent assembly, Pakistan in 1956 at last adopted a constitution in which both the eastern and western wings of the country were equally represented. The new constitution also gave the federal government wide powers. Mirza became president and was obliged to appoint Suhrawardy, heading an Awami League coalition, as prime minister; by late 1957, however, Mirza had orchestrated Suhrawardy's exit from office. In December of that year Firoz Khan Noon became the prime minister, with support from the Awami League.

      In 1958 the government of Pakistan came under military control, and Mirza was exiled. The elite civil servants assumed great importance under the military regime, which adversely affected the country's eastern wing. In 1947 there had been very few Bengali Muslims in the Indian Civil Service (ICS), whereas the western wing had produced several dozen. Although equal recruitment from the two wings was national policy, by 1960 only about one-third of the members of the Civil Service of Pakistan (successor to the ICS) were Bengalis. Moreover, the military installations were concentrated in West Pakistan, as was the bulk of economic aid and development.

      Bengali discontent festered, finding a voice in Mujibur Rahman (Rahman, Mujibur) (popularly known as Sheikh Mujib). Like previous leaders, Mujib belonged to a landed family. He had been one of the founders of the Awami League in 1949 and became its leading figure after Suhrawardy's death in 1963. A superb organizer and orator who was jailed repeatedly by the military, Mujib acquired an aura of martyrdom. Following a 1965 clash between India and Pakistan, primarily over control of territories in the Kashmir region of the western Himalayas, he announced a historic six-point demand for East Pakistani autonomy. When in December 1970 Yahya Khan (Yahya Khan, Agha Mohammad), president of Pakistan and commander in chief of the armed forces, ordered elections, Mujib's essentially separatist Awami League won 167 of the 169 seats allotted to East Pakistan in the National Assembly. This gave the league an overall majority in a chamber of 313 members. In West Pakistan the Pakistan People's Party, led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali), won 81 of 144 seats; Bhutto consequently saw himself as Mujib's rival.

      Throughout March 1971 Pres. Yahya Khan negotiated at length with Mujib in Dhaka while government troops poured in from West Pakistan. Then, on March 25, the army launched a massive attack; destruction was immense, and many students were among the casualties. Mujib was arrested and flown to West Pakistan. Most of the Awami League leaders fled, set up a government-in-exile in Calcutta (Kolkata (Calcutta)), and declared East Pakistan the independent state of Bangladesh. Internal resistance was mobilized by some Bengali units of the regular army. Among the most notable of the resistance leaders was Maj. Zia ur-Rahman, who held out for some days in Chittagong before the town's recapture by the Pakistani army. He then retreated to the border and began to organize bands of guerrillas. A different resistance was started by student militants, among whom Abdul Kader Siddiqi, with his followers, known as Kader Bahini, acquired a reputation for ferocity.

      Some 10 million Bengalis, mainly Hindus, fled over East Pakistan's frontier into India while the Indian government watched with alarm. The Awami League, which India supported, was a moderate middle-class body like the Congress Party; many guerrillas, however, were leftist and a cause of concern. With some of the major world powers taking sides—the United States and China for a united Pakistan, and the Soviet Union and India for an independent Bangladesh—the Indian army invaded both the western and eastern wings of Pakistan on Dec. 3, 1971. The Pakistani defenses surrendered on December 16, ensuring Bangladesh's independence. A few days later, Yahya Khan was deposed in Pakistan and replaced by Bhutto; Mujib was released from jail and returned to Dhaka to a hero's welcome.

Bangladesh since independence
      In January 1972 Mujib was installed as the first prime minister of the new parliamentary government of Bangladesh, and Abu Sayeef Choudhury became president. Still troublesome, however, were various local paramilitary forces, known as Razakars, that supported the Pakistani cause. The Bengali Razakar force was called Al-Badr, while the Urdu-speaking force was known as Al-Shams. As Bangladeshi retribution against these pro-Pakistani forces ensued, Urdu speakers—known as Biharis, though most had been born locally rather than in Bihar—fled into enclaves where their numbers gave some security; nevertheless, many were killed. Hundreds of thousands of Biharis were placed in overcrowded refugee camps, where decades later many still awaited asylum in Pakistan.

      Bangladesh's constitution of 1973 provided for a secular state, a parliamentary form of government, a bill of rights, and a strong commitment to local government. Acceptance by the international community, however, presented a challenge. The initial application of Bangladesh to join the United Nations was vetoed by China; it was not until 1974 that Bangladesh was admitted to the organization. The new country confronted many other problems as well, including the restoration of transportation, communication, and international trade networks; the rehabilitation of the power supply; the revitalization of education, health, and population programs; and the resumption of agricultural and industrial production.

      Elections held in 1973 gave Mujib a landslide majority, but the euphoria soon evaporated. Following a policy of economic socialism, the state had absorbed industries and businesses abandoned by Pakistanis, but economic troubles persisted. Prices escalated, scarcities continued, and in 1974 a great famine claimed tens of thousands of lives. Faced with crisis, Mujib abridged freedoms and became a virtual dictator; corruption and nepotism reached new depths. On Aug. 15, 1975, Mujib was assassinated along with most of his family. Right-wing pro-Pakistan army officers were behind the killing; some politicians also were involved in the conspiracy, and there were allegations of outside support. Unsure of their hold, the armed forces split into rival factions.

      Another coup, in November 1975, brought Maj. Gen. Zia ur-Rahman into power. Once a freedom fighter, Zia now took an anti-India posture and favoured pro-Pakistan elements. In an effort to legitimize his power, he held a referendum in May 1977, received a vote of confidence, and assumed the office of president in 1978. After ensuring his control over the armed forces, Zia lifted martial law the following year. Although accused on some fronts of institutionalizing corruption in politics, Zia made notable achievements in the reconstruction and development of Bangladesh. He strengthened the military, empowered the bureaucracy, and improved law and order while emphasizing food production, irrigation, primary education, and rural development. He also initiated economic cooperation with nearby countries—efforts that led to the organization of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation in 1985. Nevertheless, military coup attempts continued, and on May 30, 1981, he was assassinated in Chittagong by some army officers.

      The military high command in Dhaka did not lend support to the actions of the officers at Chittagong, and the conspirators were executed. Meanwhile, the civilian vice president, Abdus Sattar, was confirmed as president by a nationwide election in 1981, but he was ill, and real power was exercised by Lieut. Gen. Hussein Mohammad Ershad and a National Security Council. On March 24, 1982, Ershad ejected Sattar and took over as chief martial-law administrator. In December 1983 he assumed the office of president. To validate his authority he called elections for a National Assembly, and he formed his own National Party (Jatiya Party). In the election of May 1986, which was boycotted by many opposition parties, the National Party won most of the seats in the legislature.

      Confident that the army was now under control, Ershad withdrew martial law later that year and called for a presidential election in October. Once again, the main opposition parties—the Awami League, now led by Mujib's daughter Sheikh Hasina Wazed (Hasina Wazed, Sheikh), and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), headed by Khaleda Zia ur-Rahman (Khaleda Zia), wife of the slain president—boycotted the election, and Ershad received the overwhelming majority of the vote.

      The opposition parties began a campaign of strikes and demonstrations to force Ershad's resignation. In the late 1980s the poor state of the country's economy brought greater pressure on Ershad, and in December 1990, after weeks of violent antigovernment demonstrations, he finally agreed to step down. A caretaker government, headed by Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, was chosen by the opposition parties. In parliamentary elections held just two months later, the BNP emerged as the single largest block, and Khaleda became prime minister.

      Among Khaleda's achievements in office were the reinstatement through constitutional amendment of a parliamentary (as opposed to presidential) form of government and the advancement of the country's economic and educational reform programs. Her tenure as prime minister was hampered, however, by strikes instigated by the Awami League and other opposition parties and by a cyclone in 1991 that killed some 130,000 people. The opposition frequently called for Khaleda's resignation, demanding that a caretaker government be appointed and new elections held, but Khaleda resisted. In February 1996 general elections were held, and the BNP won an overwhelming victory; however, it was a hollow triumph, as only a small percentage of eligible voters had cast ballots, heeding a boycott called by the Awami League. Finally bowing to public pressure, Khaleda resigned about six weeks after the elections in favour of a caretaker government. In subsequent elections in June, the opposition swept to power, and Mujib's daughter Hasina became prime minister.

 The political situation did not improve much during Hasina's tenure in office. The BNP regularly boycotted the parliament, and antigovernment demonstrations were common. The country also was beset in 1998 by a disastrous monsoon that flooded some two-thirds of Bangladesh's territory for two months and left more than 30 million people homeless. On other fronts, the government made progress in its relations with India, signing a treaty for sharing water from the Ganges River; it negotiated an agreement (opposed by the BNP) for guerrillas seeking greater autonomy for the indigenous population in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to surrender their arms after a 20-year insurgency; and the economy (particularly agriculture) showed some signs of improvement. In 2001 Khaleda, promising to eliminate corruption, was returned to office, her BNP and its allies capturing more than two-thirds of the seats in the legislature. The victory, however, did little to curb the tense relations between the BNP and the Awami League.

      By the end of Khaleda's second term, scant progress had been made toward controlling corruption. She stepped down as prime minister in late 2006, transferring power to a caretaker administration until elections could be held early the following year. However, unrest between the BNP and the Awami League led the interim head of government to resign and to install a new caretaker administration before the polls opened. A state of emergency was declared, and the elections were canceled. The new caretaker government embarked on an aggressive program to rid the country of corruption prior to holding elections, now planned for the end of 2008. Meanwhile, the ongoing political battles between Khaleda and Hasina were perceived by the administration to be a hindrance to the country's stability, and both women were subsequently arrested—Khaleda on charges of corruption and Hasina on charges of extortion.

      The political turmoil since independence ultimately has had little relevance to the country's basic problems. At the 1974 census the population of Bangladesh numbered about 71 million; by the early 21st century the population had nearly doubled, despite large-scale emigration to neighbouring Assam and Tripura in India and a smaller exodus over the Arakan border with Myanmar. Agriculture was still the occupation of more than half the labour force, and what economic development there had been was largely confined to the environs of Dhaka and Chittagong.

Hugh Russell Tinker Ed.

Additional Reading

Geography
For information on the geography of Bangladesh, it is necessary to consult books and documents published both during the Pakistani period and since independence. B.L.C. Johnson, Bangladesh, 2nd ed. (1982), is a brief, well-illustrated study. Haroun Rashid, Geography of Bangladesh (1977), is comprehensive. Good sources for demographic, agricultural, and industrial statistics are Statistical Yearbook of Bangladesh (annual), and Statistical Pocket Book of Bangladesh (irregular), both published by the government. Other useful works include Don Yeo, Bangladesh, a Traveller's Guide (1982); A.B.M. Shamsuddoulah, Introducing Bangladesh Through Books: A Select Bibliography with Introductions and Annotations, 1855–1976 (1976); and A.B.M. Shamsul Islam, Bibliography on Population, Health, and Development in Bangladesh (1986). Postwar economic development is addressed in Haroun Rashid, An Economic Geography of Bangladesh (1981); and E.A.G. Robinson and Keith Griffin (eds.), The Economic Development of Bangladesh Within a Socialist Framework (1974, reprinted 1986). Robert D. Stevens, Hamza Alavi, and Peter J. Bertocci (eds.), Rural Development in Bangladesh and Pakistan (1976), explores rural conditions at the time of independence. Traditional lifestyles and customs of rural communities are examined in Mohammad Afsaruddin, Rural Life in Bangladesh: A Study of Five Selected Villages, 2nd ed. (1979); Joseph F. Stepanek, Bangladesh, Equitable Growth? (1979); Betsy Hartmann and James K. Boyce, A Quiet Violence: View from a Bangladesh Village (1983); Gudrun Martius von Harder, Women in Rural Bangladesh: An Empirical Study in Four Villages of Comilla District (1981); and Tahrunnessa A. Abdullah and Sondra A. Zeidenstein, Village Women of Bangladesh: Prospects for Change (1982). Broader social studies include Ben Whitaker, Iain Guest, and David Ennals, The Biharis of Bangladesh, 4th rev. ed. (1982); and Clarence Maloney, K.M. Ashraful Aziz, and Profulla C. Sarker, Beliefs and Fertility in Bangladesh (1981).Syed Sajjad Husain

History
Important works addressing the emergence of Bengali nationalism include Rafiuddin Ahmed, Religion, Nationalism, and Politics in Bangladesh (1990); A.F. Salahuddin Ahmed, Bengali Nationalism and the Emergence of Bangladesh (1994); Surendranath Banerjea, A Nation in Making: Being the Reminiscences of Fifty Years of Public Life (1925, reissued 1963); Leonard A. Gordon, Bengal: The Nationalist Movement, 1876–1940 (1973); Aminur Rahim, Politics and National Formation in Bangladesh (1997); and Pakistan Historical Society, A History of the Freedom Movement, 1906–1936 (1984). Examination of the issues surrounding the separation of Bengal and the partition of India include Joya Chatterji, Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932–1947 (1994, reissued 2002); Maulana Abdulkalam Azad, India Wins Freedom (1960, reissued 1988); Mushirul Hasan, India's Partition: Process, Strategy, and Mobilization (1993); and Gautam Chattopadhyay, Bengal Electoral Politics and Freedom Struggle, 1862–1947 (1984).Other significant essays on the social and political dynamics of Bangladesh in the first half of the 20th century are Anisuzzaman, Creativity, Reality, and Identity (1993); J.H. Broomfield, Mostly About Bengal (1982); Sarat Chandra Bose, I Warned My Countrymen (1968); Akbar Ali Khan, Discovery of Bangladesh (1996); and Atulchandra Gupta (ed.), Studies in the Bengal Renaissance, 2nd rev. and enlarged ed., edited by Jagannath Chakravorty (Jagannātha Cakrabartī) (1977).Much literature is available on the role of Islam in the history of Bangladesh. Among the most notable works are Richard M. Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760 (1993); Rafiuddin Ahmed, The Bengal Muslims, 1871–1906: A Quest for Identity, 2nd ed. (1988, reissued 1996); Abdul Karim, Social History of the Muslims of Bengal, down to A.D. 1538, 2nd rev. ed. (1985); and Sufia Ahmed, Muslim Community in Bengal, 1884–1912 (1974). Books examining the interaction between Islam and politics in Bangladesh from the late 19th to the mid-20th century include Jayanti Maitra, Muslim Politics in Bengal, 1885–1906: Collaboration and Confrontation (1984); Humayun Kabir, Muslim Politics, 1906–47 (1969); and Shila Sen, Muslim Politics in Bengal, 1937–1947 (1976).Useful studies on the background of the civil war of 1971 include G.W. Choudhury, The Last Days of United Pakistan (1974); Herbert Feldman, The End and the Beginning: Pakistan, 1969–1971 (1975); Jyoti Sen Gupta, History of Freedom Movement in Bangladesh, 1943–1973 (1974); and Pran Chopra, India's Second Liberation (1973). The events of the civil war are chronicled in Lawrence Lifschultz, Bangladesh, the Unfinished Revolution (1979); Marcus Franda, Bangladesh, the First Decade (1981); and Talukder Maniruzzaman, The Bangladesh Revolution and Its Aftermath (1980). Both historical background and surveys of later developments are provided in Craig Baxter, Bangladesh: A New Nation in an Old Setting (1984); and Charles Peter O'Donnell, Bangladesh: Biography of a Muslim Nation (1984). The political forces that brought about the emergence of independent Bangladesh are discussed in G.P. Bhattacharjee, Renaissance and Freedom Movement in Bangladesh (1973); and Md. Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan, Emergence of Bangladesh and Role of Awami League (1982). Also valuable are Matiur Rahman and Naeem Hasan, Iron Bars of Freedom (1980); Anthony Mascarenhas, Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood (1986); Talukder Maniruzzaman, Group Interests and Political Changes: Studies of Pakistan and Bangladesh (1982); and Asoka Raina, Inside RAW: The Story of India's Secret Service (1981). Works placing the emergence of independent Bangladesh into regional and world perspective include Kuldip Nayar, Distant Neighbours: A Tale of the Subcontinent (1972); and G.W. Choudhury, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Major Powers: Politics of a Divided Subcontinent (1975).Hugh Russell Tinker Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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