The People's Republic of Bangladesh (Bangla: গনপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলােদশ) is a country in South Asia that forms the eastern part of the ancient region of Bengal. Bangladesh (বাংলােদশ) literally means "The Country of Bengal". Lying north of the Bay of Bengal, on land it borders India and Myanmar. China, Thailand, Laos, Nepal and Bhutan are other countries that are very close to the Bangladesh border.
Main article: History of Bangladesh
There has long been advanced civilization in what is now Bangladesh, once the eastern part of a greater region called Bengal. Buddhist monasteries provide evidence of civilizations dating back to 700 BC, and there are claims of social structures from around 1000 BC, although proofs for such structures are not extremely convincing. Early civilizations had Buddhist and/or Hindu influences. Northern Bangladesh has several sites of mass architecture, in the form of temples and monasteries, bearing proofs of such influences.
Bengal became Islamic starting in the 13th century and developed into a wealthy centre of trade and industry under the Mogul Empire during the 16th century. European traders had arrived in the late 15th century and eventually the British East India Company controlled the region by the late 18th century, from which the British extended their rule over all of India. When Indian independence was achieved in 1947, political motivations caused it to be divided into a predominantly Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India.
The Partition of India saw Bengal divided between the two new countries: an eastern part called East Bengal corresponding to what is now Bangladesh, and a western part, the Indian state of West Bengal. The abolition of the Zamindari system (which divided the society into lords, owners of property, and commoners, users of property) in East Bengal (1950) was a major landmark in Bangladesh's movement to a "people's state". The Language Movement of 1952 established the rights of the Bengali community to speak in their own language. Worth mentioning, this was the only revolution that was done solely for preserving the rights to speak a language and for this reason, UNESCO recognized 21 February as International Mother Language Day. In 1955, the government of Pakistan changed the name of the province from East Bengal to East Pakistan.
East Pakistan was dominated and neglected by West Pakistan, which comprised the rest of Pakistan (West Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, and the Northwest Frontier Province). The frequent exploitation of the majority Bengalis by the minority non-Bengalis infuriated people on both sides of Pakistan. The tensions peaked in 1971, following an open, non-democratic denial by Pakistani president Yahya Khan, a military ruler, of election results that gave the Awami League an overwhelming majority in the parliament (167 out of 169 seats allocated for East Pakistan) .
Under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also known as Bongobondu/Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal) and the Father of the Nation, Bangladesh started its struggle for independence. The official onset followed one of the bloodiest genocides of recent times carried out by the Pakistan army on Bengali civilians on March 25 1971. Virtually the entire Bengali intelligentsia was eliminated. There are unsubstantiated claims that the genocide was second only to the Holocaust. Owing to West Pakistan's effort to rid the country of foreign journalists, accurate numbers are difficult to get, but some estimates claim 50,000 deaths in the first three days of the so-called Operation Searchlight of the Pakistan Army . More than ten million Bengalis fled to neighbouring India.
The Bangladeshi Liberation War took place during the Cold War period. The United States and the People's Republic of China, considering the war an internal affair of Pakistan, preferred to back West Pakistan. However, India, the USSR and her allies and general masses in Japan, and Western countries stood solidly behind Bangladesh. To gain strategic advantage over the Sino-US-Pakistan axis, the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty was signed on 9 August 1971." 
India, owing to its geographical position and military antagonism towards Pakistan, vehemently backed the Liberation War, especially after the USSR backed its motives. Strategically, independence of Bangladesh would mean one fewer front to fight Pakistan on. Also worth mentioning is that certain regional governments gave support based on ethnic grounds. On 27 March 1971, Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, expressed full support of her Government to the struggle for freedom. The Bangladesh-India border was opened to allow the tortured and panic-stricken Bengalis to have safe shelter in India. The governments of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura established refugee camps along the border. These camps became ready ground for recruitment of the freedom fighters. The headquarters of the Bangladesh Forces was established at 8 Theatre Road, Calcutta which started functioning from 12 April 1971. Lieutenant Colonel M A Rab and Group Captain A K Khandaker were appointed as Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff respectively. 
Throughout the War, despite severe opposition from the West Pakistan government, the British Broadcasting Corporation continued to provide coverage through the BBC Bangla radio services in South Asia. Among international efforts to raise awareness was also the Concert for Bangladesh by former Beatle George Harrison.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, being identified as a major influencer of the Bengalis, was arrested by the Pakistani Government. Before he was arrested, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made an formal and official declaration of Independence on March 26th. Hence March 26th is considered as the Independence Day of Bangladesh. First M A Hannan on 26th March and later on 27th March Ziaur Rahman, an army major then, and President of Bangladesh much later, declared the Independence of Bangladesh, on behalf of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, using a makeshift radio transmitter from Kalurghat near the port city of Chittagong. With help of Bengali officers in the army, support of civilians and military/humanitarian aid from India, Bangladesh quickly put together Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters), an armed group formed mostly of young students, workers, farmers and other civilians. Besides harassing attacks on the resident Pakistani army, the Mukti Bahini provided local intelligence and guidance of immense value to the three corps of the Indian army which attacked the occupying West Pakistani army of 80,000 in early December 1971. Within two weeks of the Indian invasion the Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi of the Pakistan army surrendered to the Indian army on 16 December 1971. India took 93,000 prisoners of war who were held in camps in India to avoid reprisals by an enraged Bangladeshi population. The new nation of Bangladesh effectively came into being and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had been incarcerated in West Pakistan since March, returned triumphantly as the first Prime Minister of the new nation. India withdrew its troops from Bangladesh within three months of the war. Pakistan, aided by its supporters in Bangladesh, committed war crimes before and during the war and memories of Bangladeshis remain scarred to this day.
After the war, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the Prime Minister and later the President of Bangladesh. He along with most of his family were massacred by a group of disgruntled Army officers on 15th August, 1975. In the following 3 months, the country faced a series of coups, culminating in General Ziaur Rahman gaining power on November 7, 1975. He later gained the Presidency. But in 1981, he was killed in yet another coup, in Chittagong. In 1982 General Hossain Mohammad Ershad staged a bloodless coup and deposed the president Ahsan Uddin Choudhury, a former Supreme Court Justice. Ershad later declared himself President and started a new political party named Janadal, which he later renamed as Jatiya Party. The rule of Ershad continued until 1990. A popular uprising forced Ershad to resign and give way to a parliamentary democracy. Since then, Bangladesh has been ruled by three democratically elected governments.
Main article: Politics of Bangladesh
The President, while head of state, holds a largely ceremonial post, with real power held by the Prime Minister, who is head of government. The president is elected by the legislature every 5 years and his normally limited powers are substantially expanded during the tenure of a caretaker government, mainly in controlling the transition to a new government.
The prime minister is appointed by the president and must be a member of parliament (MP) who the president feels commands the confidence of the majority of other MPs. The cabinet is composed of ministers selected by the prime minister and appointed by the president.
The unicameral Bangladeshi parliament is the House of the Nation or Jatiya Sangsad, whose 300 members are elected by popular vote from single territorial constituencies for five-year terms of office. The highest judiciary body is the Supreme Court, of which the chief justices and other judges are appointed by the president.
Begum Khaleda Zia is currently the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is subdivided into 6 divisions, all named after their respective capitals:
See List of cities in Bangladesh.
Main article: Geography of Bangladesh
Bangladesh consists mostly of a low-lying river delta located on the Indian subcontinent with a largely marshy jungle coastline on the Bay of Bengal known as the Sundarbans, home to the (Royal) Bengal Tiger. The densely populated delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges (local name Padma), Brahmaputra (Jamuna), and Meghna rivers and their tributaries as they flow down from the Himalaya. Bangladesh's alluvial soil is highly fertile but vulnerable to both flood and drought. Hills rise above the plain only in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (highest point: the Keokradong at 1 230 m) in the far southeast and the Sylhet division in the northeast.
Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, the Bangladeshi climate is tropical with a mild winter from October to March, a hot, humid summer from March to June, and a humid, warm rainy monsoon from June to October. Natural calamities, such as floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and tidal bores affect the country almost every year, combined with the effects of deforestation, soil degradation and erosion. Dhaka is the country's capital and largest city. Other major cities include Chittagong, Rajshahi, and Khulna. Cox's Bazar, South of the city of Chittagong, has a sea beach that streches uninterrupted over 120kms; it is frequently quoted as the World's longest natural sea beach (although this claim is difficult to prove or disprove).
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 the 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, mismanaged port facilities, a rapidly growing labour force that has not been absorbed by agriculture, inefficient use of energy resources (such as natural gas), insufficient power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms, caused by political infighting and corruption. In 2001, 2002, and 2003, Transparency International's surveys ranked Bangladesh as the World's most corrupt country.
Since June 2004 Bangladesh has been ravaged by its worst floods in 6 years, which have killed 628 people so far and covered about sixty percent of the country. About 20 million people are in need of food aid on account of damaged crops, and the textile industry which earns 80% of the country's export earnings has been disrupted. Officials estimate that the damage incurred could approach US$7 billion (Yahoo!News).
|Basic economic indicators
|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
|Population below poverty line
||35.6% (1995-96 est.)
|Household income or consumption by percentage share
|Inflation rate (consumer prices)
||64.1 million (1998)
|Note: extensive export of labour to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Malaysia; workers' remittances estimated at $1.71 billion in 1998-99
|Labour force-by occupation
|industry and mining
||$6.8 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000)
||jute manufacturing, cotton textiles, garments, tea processing, paper newsprint, cement, chemical, light engineering, sugar, food processing, steel, fertilizer
|Industrial production growth rate
||13.493 billion kWh (2000)
|Electricity-production by source
||12.548 billion kWh (2000)
||0 kWh (2000)
||0 kWh (2000)
|Industry and international trade
||rice, jute, tea, wheat, sugarcane, potatoes, tobacco, pulses, oilseeds, spices, fruit; beef, milk, poultry
||$6.6 billion (2001)
||garments, jute and jute goods, leather, frozen fish and seafood
US 31.8%, Germany 10.9%, UK 7.9%, France 5.2%, Netherlands 5.2%,
Italy 4.42% (2000)
||$8.7 billion (2001)
||machinery and equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, textiles, raw cotton, food, crude oil and petroleum products, cement
||India 10.5%, EU 9.5%, Japan 9.5%, Singapore 8.5%, China 7.4% (2000)
||$1.575 billion (2000 est.)
||Taka per US dollar - 57.756 (January 2002), 55.807 (2001), 52.142 (2000), 49.085 (1999), 46.906 (1998), 43.892 (1997)
Main article: Demographics of Bangladesh
Apart from very small countries such as Singapore and Bahrain, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. The nation, at 982 persons per km², has often been compared to Indonesia's Java.
Bangladesh is ethnically homogenous, with Bengalis comprising 98% of the population. The vast majority speak Bangla, or Bengali. The remaining two percent are mainly Urdu-speaking, non-Bengali Muslims from regions of India such as Bihar. A substantial number of non-Bengali tribal groups inhabit the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast and the Northern regions Bangladesh, including parts of the districts of Mymensingh, Sylhet, Rangpur. Almost all non-Bengali Bangladeshis speak Bangla as a second language.
Most Bangladeshis (about 83%) are Muslims, but Hindus constitute a sizable (16%) minority. There are also a small number of Buddhists, Christians, and Animists. Bengali, an Indo-Aryan language, is written in a script similar to Devanagari. It is the official language, though English is accepted in official tasks and in (higher) education.
In 1992, the government began promoting birth control to slow population growth, but with limited success. Many are landless or forced to inhabit hazardous floodplains, with the consequence of rampant water-borne disease. In an effort to stem the spread of pathogens like cholera and dysentery, international organizations began to promote well-drilling throughout the nation. Several years after widespread implementation of the programme, over a quarter of the population exhibited symptoms of arsenic poisoning. High levels of naturally occurring arsenic in the water table of certain regions has not been accounted for. The effects of arsenic-tainted water still remain a problem.
Main article: Culture of Bangladesh
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (বাংলাদেশ প্রকৌশল বিশ্যবিদ্যালয়) - BUET
- Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (চট্টগ্রাম প্রকৌশল বিশ্যবিদ্যালয়) - CUET
- Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (খুলনা প্রকৌশল বিশ্যবিদ্যালয়) - KUET
- Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (রাজশাহী প্রকৌশল বিশ্যবিদ্যালয়) - RUET
- Shahajalal University of Science and Technology (শাহজালাল বিঞ্জান ও প্রযুক্তি বিশ্যবিদ্যালয়) - SUST
Further reading/Non-government sites
Government and government organizations
Online Bangladeshi news sources
Last updated: 10-24-2005 14:58:13