President: Abdul Hamid (2013)
Prime Minister: Sheikh Hasina (2009)
Population (2014 est.): 166,280,712 (growth rate: 1.6%); birth rate: 21.61/1000; infant mortality rate: 45.67/1000; life expectancy: 70.65
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Dhaka, 15.391 million
Other large cities: Chittagong, 5.239 million; Khulna, 1.781 million; Rajshahi 932,000
Monetary unit: Taka
Bangladesh, on the northern coast of the Bay of Bengal, is surrounded by India, with a small common border with Myanmar in the southeast. The country is low-lying riverine land traversed by the many branches and tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Tropical monsoons and frequent floods and cyclones inflict heavy damage in the delta region.
What is now called Bangladesh is part of the historic region of Bengal, the northeast portion of the Indian subcontinent. Bangladesh consists primarily of East Bengal (West Bengal is part of India and its people are primarily Hindu) plus the Sylhet district of the Indian state of Assam.
The earliest reference to the region was to a kingdom called Vanga, or Banga (c. 1000 B.C. ). Buddhists ruled for centuries, but by the 10th century Bengal was primarily Hindu. In 1576, Bengal became part of the Mogul Empire, and the majority of East Bengalis converted to Islam. Bengal was ruled by British India from 1757 until Britain withdrew in 1947, and Pakistan was founded out of the two predominantly Muslim regions of the Indian subcontinent. For almost 25 years after independence from Britain, its history was part of Pakistan's ( see Pakistan ).
West Pakistan and East Pakistan were united by religion (Islam), but their peoples were separated by culture, physical features, and 1,000 miles of Indian territory.
The Formation of an Independent Bangladesh
Tension between East and West Pakistan existed from the outset because of their vast geographic, economic, and cultural differences. East Pakistan's Awami Muslim League, a political party founded by the Bengali nationalist Sheik Mujibur Rahman in 1949, sought independence from West Pakistan. Although 56% of the population resided in East Pakistan, the West held the lion's share of political and economic power. In 1970, East Pakistanis secured a majority of the seats in the national assembly. President Yahya Khan postponed the opening of the national assembly in an attempt to circumvent East Pakistan's demand for greater autonomy. As a consequence, East Pakistan seceded and the independent state of Bangladesh, or Bengali nation, was proclaimed on March 26, 1971. Civil war broke out, and with the help of Indian troops in the last few weeks of the war, East Pakistan defeated West Pakistan on Dec. 16, 1971. Pakistan agreed to recognize the independent state of Bangladesh.
President Sheikh Mujibur was assassinated in 1975, as was the next president, Zia ur-Rahman. On March 24, 1982, Gen. Hossain Mohammad Ershad, army chief of staff, took control in a bloodless coup but was forced to resign on Dec. 6, 1990, amid violent protests and numerous allegations of corruption. A succession of prime ministers governed in the 1990s, including Khaleda Zia, wife of the assassinated president Zia ur-Rahman, and Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the daughter of Sheik Mujibur.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina completed her five-year term as prime minister in July 2000 In Oct. 2001 elections, Khaleda Zia again won the prime ministership.
Investigations into Governmental Corruption
Violence erupted in Oct. 2006, when Zia's term ended and President Ahmed took over as the head of a caretaker administration. An alliance of parties, headed by the Awami League, said it would boycott the Jan. 2007 elections, alleging corruption in the electoral commission. The violence intensified in Jan. 2007, prompting President Ahmed to declare a state of emergency and postpone the elections. Fakhruddin Ahmed became the interim head of the government. He swiftly opened a broad corruption investigation that resulted in the imprisonment of dozens of prominent officials, the seizure of luxury vehicles, and the freezing of bank accounts. In March, Tarique Rahman, the son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, was arrested in the investigation and charged with extortion. Khaleda Zia herself was arrested and charged with corruption in September. In addition, Sheikh Hasina was arrested and charged with corruption and organizing the murder of four supporters of a rival party.
Mudslides set off by heavy monsoon rains killed at least 100 people in June 2007 in Chittagong, a port in the southern part of the country. In November, Cyclone Sidr, with winds over 100 miles per hour, killed nearly 3,500 people in southern Bangladesh. The United Nations reported that a million people were left homeless.
Bangladesh went ahead with its general election in December 2008. It was the first general election since the army-backed caretaker government took power in January 2007. The Awami League, headed by Sheikh Hasina, won in a landslide, taking 262 of 299 seats in Parliament. The vote was considered fair and largely free of scandal. Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as prime minister in January 2009
Daily protests broke out in Dhaka in February 2013 after the leader of Jamaat-e-Islam, the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh, was sentenced to life in prison by a war crimes tribunal for his role in the murder of an estimated one million Bangladeshi during the 1971 war with Pakistan. The demonstrators, mostly students and youth, were outraged at what they consider a lenient sentence.
On March 10, 2013, President Zillur Rahman was flown to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. He had a lung infection and the situation was so dire he had to be flown by air ambulance. Rahman died ten days later, becoming the third president of Bangladesh to die in office. Former Presidents Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman also died. They killed by the murdered.
Abdul Hamid, speaker of the National Parliament, was appointed acting president on March 14, 2013. after the death of President Zillur Rahman.