The image is from Wikipedia Commons
People's Republic of Bangladesh
and largest city
and national language
|Regional languages||Chittagonian • Rangpuri • Sylheti|
|Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury|
|Syed Mahmud Hossain|
|26 March 1971|
|16 December 1971|
|16 December 1972|
|147,570 km2 (56,980 sq mi) (92nd)|
• Water (%)
• Land area
|130,170 sq Km|
• Water area
|18,290 sq km|
• 2018 estimate
• 2011 census
|1,106/km2 (2,864.5/sq mi) (7th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2021 estimate|
|$966.485 billion (31st)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2021 estimate|
|$378.638 billion (35th)|
• Per capita
|HDI (2019)|| 0.632
medium · 133rd
|Currency||Taka (৳) (BDT)|
|Time zone||UTC+6 (BST)|
|Date format||dd-mm-yyyy AD|
|ISO 3166 code||BD|
Bangladesh (//, Bengali: বাংলাদেশ, pronounced [ˈbaŋlaˌdeʃ] (listen)), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It is the eighth-most populous country in the world, with a population exceeding 163 million people, in an area of 147,570 square kilometres (56,980 sq mi), making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Bangladesh shares land borders with India to the west, north, and east, Myanmar to the southeast, and the Bay of Bengal to the south. It is narrowly separated from Nepal and Bhutan by the Siliguri Corridor, and from China by Sikkim, in the north, respectively. Dhaka, the capital and largest city, is the nation's economic, political, and cultural hub. Chittagong, the largest seaport, is the second-largest city.
Bangladesh forms the larger and eastern part of the Bengal region. According to the ancient Indian texts, Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata, the Vanga Kingdom, one of the namesakes of the Bengal region, was a strong naval power. In the ancient and classical periods of the Indian subcontinent, the territory was home to many principalities, including the Pundra, Gangaridai, Gauda, Samatata, and Harikela. It was also a Mauryan province under the reign of Ashoka. The principalities were notable for their overseas trade, contacts with the Roman world, the export of fine muslin and silk to the Middle East, and spreading of philosophy and art to Southeast Asia. The Gupta Empire, Pala Empire, the Chandra dynasty, and the Sena dynasty were the last pre-Islamic Bengali middle kingdoms. Islam was introduced during the Pala Empire, through trade with the Abbāsid Caliphate, but following the Ghurid conquests led by Bakhtiyar Khalji, the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate and preaching of Shah Jalāl in the north-east, it spread across the entire region. In 1576, the wealthy Bengal Sultanate was absorbed into the Mughal Empire, but its rule was briefly interrupted by the Suri Empire. Mughal Bengal, worth 12% of world GDP (late 17th century), waved the Proto-industrialization, showed signs of a possible Industrial revolution, established relations with the Dutch and English East India Company, and became also the basis of the Anglo-Mughal War. Following the death of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir and Governor Shaista Khan in the early 1700s, the region became a semi-independent state under the Nawabs of Bengal. Siraj Ud-Daulah, the last of the Nawabs of Bengal, was defeated by the British East India Company at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and the whole region fell under Company rule by 1793.
After the decline of the British Bengal Presidency, the borders of modern Bangladesh were established with the partition of Bengal in August 1947 at the time of partition of India, when the region became East Pakistan as a part of the newly formed Dominion of Pakistan. Later the rise of a pro-democracy movement thrived on Bengali nationalism and self-determination, leading to the Liberation War and eventually resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign and independent nation in 1971.
The Bengalis make up 98% of the total population of Bangladesh. The large Muslim population of Bangladesh makes it the third-largest Muslim-majority country. The constitution declares Bangladesh a secular state, while establishing Islam as a state religion. As a middle power in world politics, Bangladesh is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic following the Westminster system of governance. The country is divided into eight administrative divisions and sixty-four districts. Although the country continues to face the challenges of the Rohingya refugee crisis, corruption, and the adverse effects of climate change, Bangladesh is one of the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world, and is also one of the Next Eleven countries, having Asia's fastest real GDP growth rate. The Bangladeshi economy is the 39th-largest in the world by nominal GDP, and the 29th-largest by PPP.
The exact origin of the word Bangla is unknown, though it is believed to come from "Vanga", an ancient kingdom and geopolitical division on the Ganges delta in the Indian subcontinent. It was located in southern Bengal, with the core region including present-day southwestern Bangladesh and southern West Bengal (India). In Abrahamic tradition, it is said to have come from "Bung/Bang", a son of Hind (the son of Hām, who was a son of Noah) who colonised the area for the first time. The suffix "al" came to be added to it from the fact that the ancient rajas of this land raised mounds of earth 10 feet high and 20 in breadth in lowlands at the foot of the hills which were called "al". From this suffix added to the Bung, the name Bengal arose and gained currency". Support for this view is found in Ghulam Husain Salim's Riyaz-us-Salatin.
Other theories point to a Bronze Age proto-Dravidian tribe, the Austric word "Bonga" (Sun god),[self-published source?] and the Iron Age Vanga Kingdom. The Indo-Aryan suffix Desh is derived from the Sanskrit word deśha, which means "land" or "country". Hence, the name Bangladesh means "Land of Bengal" or "Country of Bengal".
The term Bangla denotes both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The earliest known usage of the term is the Nesari plate in 805 AD. The term Vangaladesa is found in 11th-century South Indian records. The term gained official status during the Sultanate of Bengal in the 14th century. Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the first "Shah of Bangala" in 1342. The word Bangla became the most common name for the region during the Islamic period. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century. The term Bangladesh was often written as two words, Bangla Desh, in the past. Starting in the 1950s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan.
Early and medieval periods
Stone Age tools found in Bangladesh indicate human habitation for over 20,000 years, and remnants of Copper Age settlements date back 4,000 years. Ancient Bengal was settled by Austroasiatics, Tibeto-Burmans, Dravidians and Indo-Aryans in consecutive waves of migration. Archaeological evidence confirms that by the second millennium BCE, rice-cultivating communities inhabited the region. By the 11th century people lived in systemically-aligned housing, buried their dead, and manufactured copper ornaments and black and red pottery. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers were natural arteries for communication and transportation, and estuaries on the Bay of Bengal permitted maritime trade. The early Iron Age saw the development of metal weaponry, coinage, agriculture and irrigation. Major urban settlements formed during the late Iron Age, in the mid-first millennium BCE, when the Northern Black Polished Ware culture developed. In 1879, Alexander Cunningham identified Mahasthangarh as the capital of the Pundra Kingdom mentioned in the Rigveda. The oldest inscription in Bangladesh was found in Mahasthangarh and dates from the 3rd century BCE. It is written in the Brahmi script.
Greek and Roman records of the ancient Gangaridai Kingdom, which (according to legend) deterred the invasion of Alexander the Great, are linked to the fort city in Wari-Bateshwar. The site is also identified with the prosperous trading center of Souanagoura listed on Ptolemy's world map. Roman geographers noted a large seaport in southeastern Bengal, corresponding to the present-day Chittagong region.
Ancient Buddhist and Hindu states which ruled Bangladesh included the Vanga, Samatata and Pundra kingdoms, the Mauryan and Gupta Empires, the Varman dynasty, Shashanka's kingdom, the Khadga and Candra dynasties, the Pala Empire, the Sena dynasty, the Harikela kingdom and the Deva dynasty. These states had well-developed currencies, banking, shipping, architecture, and art, and the ancient universities of Bikrampur and Mainamati hosted scholars and students from other parts of Asia. Xuanzang of China was a noted scholar who resided at the Somapura Mahavihara (the largest monastery in ancient India), and Atisa travelled from Bengal to Tibet to preach Buddhism. The earliest form of the Bengali language began to emerge during the eighth century. Early Muslim explorers and missionaries arrived in Bengal late in the first millennium CE. The Islamic conquest of Bengal began with the 1204 Ghurid expeditions led by Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji. Bengal was then ruled by the Delhi Sultanate for a century by governors from the Mamluk, Balban, and Tughluq dynasties.
Subsequently, the independent Bengal Sultanate was established by the rebel governors in 1352. During their rule Bengal was transformed into a cosmopolitan Islamic superpower and became a major trading nation in the world, often referred by the Europeans as the richest country to trade with. The sultanate's ruling houses included the Ilyas Shahi, Ganesha, Hussain Shahi, Suri and Karrani dynasties, and the era saw the introduction of a distinct mosque architecture and the tangka currency. The Arakan region was brought under Bengali hegemony. The Bengal Sultanate was visited by explorers Ibn Battuta, Admiral Zheng He, and Niccolo De Conti. The Khorasanis referred to the land as an "inferno full of gifts", due to its unbearable climate but abundance of wealth.[full citation needed] During the late 16th century, the Baro-Bhuyan (a confederation of Muslim and Hindu aristocrats) ruled eastern Bengal; its leader was the Mansad-e-Ala, a title held by Isa Khan and his son Musa Khan. The Khan dynasty is considered local heroes for resisting North Indian invasions with their river navies.
The Mughal Empire controlled Bengal by the 17th century. During the reign of Emperor Akbar, the Bengali agrarian calendar was reformed to facilitate tax collection. The Mughals established Dhaka as a fort city and commercial metropolis, and it was the capital of Bengal Subah for 75 years. In 1666, the Mughals expelled the Arakanese from Chittagong. Mughal Bengal attracted foreign traders for its muslin and silk goods, and the Armenians were a notable merchant community. A Portuguese settlement in Chittagong flourished in the southeast, and a Dutch settlement in Rajshahi existed in the north. Bengal accounted for 40% of overall Dutch imports from Asia; including more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks. The Bengal Subah, described as the Paradise of the Nations, was the empire's wealthiest province, and a major global exporter, a notable center of worldwide industries such as muslin, cotton textiles, silk, and shipbuilding. Its citizens also enjoyed one of the world's most superior living standards.
During the 18th century, the Nawabs of Bengal became the region's de facto rulers. The title of the ruler is popularly known as the Nawab of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, given that the Bengali Nawab's realm encompassed much of the eastern subcontinent. The Nawabs forged alliances with European colonial companies, which made the region relatively prosperous early in the century. Bengal accounted for 50% of the gross domestic product of the empire. The Bengali economy relied on textile manufacturing, shipbuilding, saltpetre production, craftsmanship, and agricultural produce. Bengal was a major hub for international trade – silk and cotton textiles from Bengal were worn in Europe, Japan, Indonesia, and Central Asia. Annual Bengali shipbuilding output was 223,250 tons, compared to an output of 23,061 tons in the nineteen colonies of North America. Bengali shipbuilding proved to be more advanced than European shipbuilding prior to the Industrial Revolution. The flush deck of Bengali rice ships was later replicated in European shipbuilding to replace the stepped deck design for ship hulls.
The Bengali Muslim population was a product of conversion and religious evolution, and their pre-Islamic beliefs included elements of Buddhism and Hinduism. The construction of mosques, Islamic academies (madrasas) and Sufi monasteries (khanqahs) facilitated conversion, and Islamic cosmology played a significant role in developing Bengali Muslim society. Scholars have theorised that Bengalis were attracted to Islam by its egalitarian social order, which contrasted with the Hindu caste system. One of the notable Muslim preachers was Shah Jalal who arrived in the region of Sylhet in 1303 with many other disciples to preach the religion to the people. By the 15th century, Muslim poets were writing in the Bengali language. Notable medieval Bengali Muslim poets included Daulat Qazi, Abdul Hakim and Alaol. Syncretic cults, such as the Baul movement, emerged on the fringes of Bengali Muslim society. The Persianate culture was significant in Bengal, where cities like Sonargaon became the easternmost centers of Persian influence.
The Mughals had aided France during the Seven Years' War to avoid losing the Bengal region to the British. However, in the Battle of Plassey the British East India Company registered a decisive victory over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies on 22 June 1757, under the leadership of Robert Clive. The battle followed the order of Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, to the English to stop the extension of their fortification. Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, the commander-in-chief of the Nawab's army, and also promised him to make him Nawab of Bengal which helped him to defeat Siraj-ud-Daulah and capture Calcutta. The battle consolidated the company's presence in Bengal, which later expanded to cover much of India over the next hundred years. Although they had lost control of Bengal Subah, Shah Alam II was involved in the Bengal War which ended once more in their defeat at the Battle of Buxar.
Two decades after Vasco Da Gama's landing in Calicut, the Bengal Sultanate gave permission for the Portuguese settlement in Chittagong to be established in 1528. It became the first European colonial enclave in Bengal. The Bengal Sultanate lost control of Chittagong in 1531 after Arakan declared independence and the established Kingdom of Mrauk U.
Portuguese ships from Goa and Malacca began frequenting the port city in the 16th century. The cartaz system was introduced and required all ships in the area to purchase naval trading licenses from the Portuguese settlement. Slave trade and piracy flourished. The nearby island of Sandwip was conquered in 1602. In 1615, the Portuguese Navy defeated a joint Dutch East India Company and Arakanese fleet near the coast of Chittagong.
The Bengal Sultan after 1534 allowed the Portuguese to create several settlements at Chitagoong, Satgaon, Hughli, Bandel, and Dhaka. In 1535 the Portuguese allied with the Bengal sultan and held the Teliagarhi pass 280 km from Patna helping to avoid the invasion by the Mughals. By then several of the products came from Patna and the Portuguese send in traders, establishing a factory there since 1580.
By the time the Portuguese assured military help against Sher Shah, the Mughals already had started to conquer the Sultanate of Ghiyasuddin Mahmud.
The region has been described as the "Paradise of Nations", and its inhabitants's living standards and real wages were among the highest in the world. It alone accounted for 40% of Dutch imports outside the European continent. The eastern part of Bengal was globally prominent in industries such as textile manufacturing and shipbuilding, and it was a major exporter of silk and cotton textiles, steel, saltpeter, and agricultural and industrial produce in the world. In 1666, the Mughal government of Bengal led by viceroy Shaista Khan moved to retake Chittagong from Portuguese and Arakanese control. The Anglo-Mughal War was witnessed in 1686.
After the 1757 Battle of Plassey, Bengal was the first region of the Indian subcontinent conquered by the British East India Company. The company formed the Presidency of Fort William, which administered the region until 1858. A notable aspect of company rule was the Permanent Settlement, which established the feudal zamindari system. The plunder of Bengal directly contributed to the Industrial Revolution in Britain, with the capital amassed from Bengal used to invest in British industries such as textile and greatly increase British wealth, while at the same time leading to deindustrialisation of Bengal's traditional textile industry. The economic mismanagement directly led to the Great Bengal famine of 1770, which is estimated to have caused the deaths of about 10 million people, as a third of the population in the affected region starved to death. Several rebellions broke out during the early 19th century (including one led by Titumir), but British rule displaced the Muslim ruling class. A conservative Islamic cleric, Haji Shariatullah, sought to overthrow the British by propagating Islamic revivalism. Several towns in Bangladesh participated in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and pledged allegiance to the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who was later exiled to neighbouring Burma.
The challenge posed to company rule by the failed Indian Mutiny led to the creation of the British Indian Empire as a crown colony. The British established several schools, colleges, and a university in what is now Bangladesh. Syed Ahmed Khan and Ram Mohan Roy promoted modern and liberal education in the subcontinent, inspiring the Aligarh movement and the Bengal Renaissance. During the late 19th century, novelists, social reformers and feminists emerged from Muslim Bengali society. Electricity and municipal water systems were introduced in the 1890s; cinemas opened in many towns during the early 20th century. East Bengal's plantation economy was important to the British Empire, particularly its jute and tea. The British established tax-free river ports, such as the Port of Narayanganj, and large seaports like the Port of Chittagong.
Bengal had the highest gross domestic product in British India. Bengal was one of the first regions in Asia to have a railway. The first railway in what is now Bangladesh began operating in 1862. In comparison, Japan saw its first railway in 1872. The main railway companies in the region were the Eastern Bengal Railway and Assam Bengal Railway. Railways competed with waterborne transport to become one of the main mediums of transport.
Supported by the Muslim aristocracy, the British government created the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1905; the new province received increased investment in education, transport, and industry. However, the first partition of Bengal created an uproar in Calcutta and the Indian National Congress. In response to growing Hindu nationalism, the All India Muslim League was formed in Dhaka during the 1906 All India Muhammadan Educational Conference. The British government reorganised the provinces in 1912, reuniting East and West Bengal and making Assam a second province.
The Raj was slow to allow self-rule in the colonial subcontinent. It established the Bengal Legislative Council in 1862, and the council's native Bengali representation increased during the early 20th century. The Bengal Provincial Muslim League was formed in 1913 to advocate civil rights for Bengali Muslims within a constitutional framework. During the 1920s, the league was divided into factions supporting the Khilafat movement and favouring co-operation with the British to achieve self-rule. Segments of the Bengali elite supported Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's secularist forces. In 1929, the All Bengal Tenants Association was formed in the Bengal Legislative Council to counter the influence of the Hindu landed gentry, and the Indian Independence and Pakistan Movements strengthened during the early 20th century. After the Morley-Minto Reforms and the diarchy era in the legislatures of British India, the British government promised limited provincial autonomy in 1935. The Bengal Legislative Assembly, British India's largest legislature, was established in 1937.
Although it won a majority of seats in 1937, the Bengal Congress boycotted the legislature. A. K. Fazlul Huq of the Krishak Praja Party was elected as the first Prime Minister of Bengal. In 1940 Huq supported the Lahore Resolution, which envisaged independent states in the northwestern and eastern Muslim-majority regions of the subcontinent. The first Huq ministry, a coalition with the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, lasted until 1941; it was followed by a Huq coalition with the Hindu Mahasabha which lasted until 1943. Huq was succeeded by Khawaja Nazimuddin, who grappled with the effects of the Burma Campaign, the Bengal famine of 1943, which killed up to 3 million people, and the Quit India movement. In 1946, the Bengal Provincial Muslim League won the provincial election, taking 113 of the 250-seat assembly (the largest Muslim League mandate in British India). H. S. Suhrawardy, who made a final futile effort for a United Bengal in 1946, was the last premier of Bengal.
Partition of Bengal (1947)
On 3 June 1947, the Mountbatten Plan outlined the partition of British India. On 20 June, the Bengal Legislative Assembly met to decide on the partition of Bengal. At the preliminary joint meeting, it was decided (120 votes to 90) that if the province remained united it should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. At a separate meeting of legislators from West Bengal, it was decided (58 votes to 21) that the province should be partitioned and West Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of India. At another meeting of legislators from East Bengal, it was decided (106 votes to 35) that the province should not be partitioned and (107 votes to 34) that East Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan if Bengal was partitioned. On 6 July, the Sylhet region of Assam voted in a referendum to join East Bengal. Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the borders of Pakistan and India, and the Radcliffe Line established the borders of present-day Bangladesh.
Union with Pakistan
The Dominion of Pakistan was created on 14 August 1947. East Bengal, with Dhaka as its capital, was the most populous province of the 1947 Pakistani federation (led by Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who promised freedom of religion and secular democracy in the new state). East Bengal was also Pakistan's most cosmopolitan province, home to peoples of different faiths, cultures and ethnic groups. Partition gave increased economic opportunity to East Bengalis, producing an urban population during the 1950s.
Khawaja Nazimuddin was East Bengal's first chief minister with Frederick Chalmers Bourne its governor. The All Pakistan Awami Muslim League was formed in 1949. In 1950, the East Bengal Legislative Assembly enacted land reform, abolishing the Permanent Settlement and the zamindari system. The 1952 Bengali Language Movement was the first sign of friction between the country's geographically-separated wings. The Awami Muslim League was renamed the more-secular Awami League in 1953. The first constituent assembly was dissolved in 1954; this was challenged by its East Bengali speaker, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan. The United Front coalition swept aside the Muslim League in a landslide victory in the 1954 East Bengali legislative election. The following year, East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan as part of the One Unit program and the province became a vital part of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization.
Pakistan adopted its first constitution in 1956. Three Bengalis were its Prime Minister until 1957: Nazimuddin, Mohammad Ali of Bogra and Suhrawardy. None of the three completed their terms, and resigned from office. The Pakistan Army imposed military rule in 1958, and Ayub Khan was the country's strongman for 11 years. Political repression increased after the coup. Khan introduced a new constitution in 1962, replacing Pakistan's parliamentary system with a presidential and gubernatorial system (based on electoral college selection) known as Basic Democracy. In 1962 Dhaka became the seat of the National Assembly of Pakistan, a move seen as appeasing increased Bengali nationalism. The Pakistani government built the controversial Kaptai Dam, displacing the Chakma people from their indigenous homeland in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. During the 1965 presidential election, Fatima Jinnah lost to Ayub Khan despite support from the Combined Opposition alliance (which included the Awami League). The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 blocked cross-border transport links with neighbouring India in what is described as a second partition. In 1966, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced a six-point movement for a federal parliamentary democracy.
According to senior World Bank officials, Pakistan practised extensive economic discrimination against East Pakistan: greater government spending on West Pakistan, financial transfers from East to West Pakistan, the use of East Pakistan's foreign-exchange surpluses to finance West Pakistani imports, and refusal by the central government to release funds allocated to East Pakistan because the previous spending had been under budget; though East Pakistan generated 70 percent of Pakistan's export revenue with its jute and tea. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested for treason in the Agartala Conspiracy Case and was released during the 1969 uprising in East Pakistan which resulted in Ayub Khan's resignation. General Yahya Khan assumed power, reintroducing martial law.
Ethnic and linguistic discrimination was common in Pakistan's civil and military services, in which Bengalis were under-represented. Fifteen percent of Pakistani central-government offices were occupied by East Pakistanis, who formed 10 percent of the military. Cultural discrimination also prevailed, making East Pakistan forge a distinct political identity. Pakistan banned Bengali literature and music in state media, including the works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. A cyclone devastated the coast of East Pakistan in 1970, killing an estimated 500,000 people, and the central government was criticised for its poor response. After the December 1970 elections, calls for the independence of East Bengal became louder; the Bengali-nationalist Awami League won 167 of 169 East Pakistani seats in the National Assembly. The League claimed the right to form a government and develop a new constitution but was strongly opposed by the Pakistani military and the Pakistan Peoples Party (led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto).
War of Independence
The Bengali population was angered when Prime Minister-elect Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was prevented from taking the office. Civil disobedience erupted across East Pakistan, with calls for independence. Mujib addressed a pro-independence rally of nearly 2 million people in Dacca (as Dhaka used to be spelled in English) on 7 March 1971, where he said, "This time the struggle is for our freedom. This time the struggle is for our independence." The flag of Bangladesh was raised for the first time on 23 March, Pakistan's Republic Day. Later, on 25 March late evening, the Pakistani military junta led by Yahya Khan launched a sustained military assault on East Pakistan under the code name of Operation Searchlight. The Pakistan Army arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and flew him away to Karachi. However, before his arrest Mujib proclaimed the Independence of Bangladesh at midnight on 26 March which led the Bangladesh Liberation War to break out within hours. The Pakistan Army continued to massacre Bengali students, intellectuals, politicians, civil servants and military defectors in the 1971 Bangladesh genocide, while the Mukti Bahini and other Bengali guerrilla forces created strong resistance throughout the country. During the war, an estimated 0.3 to 3 million people were killed and several million people took shelter in neighbouring India. Global public opinion turned against Pakistan as news of the atrocities spread; the Bangladesh movement was supported by prominent political and cultural figures in the West, including Ted Kennedy, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Victoria Ocampo and André Malraux. The Concert for Bangladesh was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City to raise funds for Bangladeshi refugees. The first major benefit concert in history, it was organised by Harrison and Indian Bengali sitarist Ravi Shankar.
During the Bangladesh Liberation War, Bengali nationalists declared independence and formed the Mukti Bahini (the Bangladeshi National Liberation Army). The Provisional Government of Bangladesh was established on 17 April 1971, converting the 469 elected members of the Pakistani national assembly and East Pakistani provincial assembly into the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh. The provisional government issued a proclamation that became the country's interim constitution and declared "equality, human dignity, and social justice" as its fundamental principles. Due to Mujib's detention, Syed Nazrul Islam took over the role of Acting President, while Tajuddin Ahmad was named Bangladesh's first Prime Minister. The Mukti Bahini and other Bengali guerrilla forces formed the Bangladesh Forces which became the military wing of the provisional government. Led by General M. A. G. Osmani and eleven sector commanders, the forces held the countryside during the war and conducted wide-ranging guerrilla operations against Pakistani forces. As a result, almost the entire country except the capital Dacca was liberated by Bangladesh Forces by late November.
This led the Pakistan Army to attack neighbouring India's western front on 2 December 1971. India retaliated in both the western and eastern fronts. With a joint ground advance by Bangladeshi and Indian forces, coupled with air strikes by both India and the small Bangladeshi air contingent, the capital Dacca was liberated from Pakistani occupation in mid-December. During the last phase of the war, both the Soviet Union and the United States dispatched naval forces to the Bay of Bengal in a Cold War standoff. The nine month long war ended with the surrender of Pakistani armed forces to the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces on 16 December 1971. Under international pressure, Pakistan released Rahman from imprisonment on 8 January 1972 and he was flown by the British Royal Air Force to a million-strong homecoming in Dacca. Remaining Indian troops were withdrawn by 12 March 1972, three months after the war ended.
The cause of Bangladeshi self-determination was recognised around the world. By August 1972, the new state was recognised by 86 countries. Pakistan recognised Bangladesh in 1974 after pressure from most of the Muslim countries.
People's Republic of Bangladesh
The constituent assembly adopted the constitution of Bangladesh on 4 November 1972, establishing a secular, multiparty parliamentary democracy. The new constitution included references to socialism, and Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman nationalised major industries in 1972. A major reconstruction and rehabilitation program was launched. The Awami League won the country's first general election in 1973, securing a large majority in the "Jatiyo Sangshad", the national parliament. Bangladesh joined the Commonwealth of Nations, the UN, the OIC and the Non-Aligned Movement, and Rahman strengthened ties with India. Amid growing agitation by the opposition National Awami Party and Jashod, he became increasingly authoritarian. Rahman amended the constitution, giving himself more emergency powers (including the suspension of fundamental rights). The Bangladesh famine of 1974 also worsened the political situation.
In January 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman introduced one-party socialist rule under BAKSAL. Rahman banned all newspapers except four state-owned publications, and amended the constitution to increase his power. He was assassinated during a coup on 15 August 1975. Martial law was declared, and the presidency passed to the usurper Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad for four months. Ahmad is widely regarded as a traitor by Bangladeshis. Tajuddin Ahmad, the nation's first prime minister, and four other independence leaders were assassinated on 4 November 1975. Chief Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem was installed as president by the military on 6 November 1975. Bangladesh was governed by a military junta led by the Chief Martial Law Administrator for three years. In 1977, the army chief Ziaur Rahman became president. Rahman reinstated multiparty politics, privatised industries and newspapers, established BEPZA and held the country's second general election in 1979. A semi-presidential system evolved, with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) governing until 1982. Rahman was assassinated in 1981, and was succeeded by Vice-President Abdus Sattar. Sattar received 65.5 percent of the vote in the 1981 presidential election.
After a year in office, Sattar was overthrown in the 1982 Bangladesh coup d'état. Chief Justice A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury was installed as president, but army chief Hussain Muhammad Ershad became the country's de facto leader and assumed the presidency in 1983. Ershad lifted martial law in 1986. He governed with four successive prime ministers (Ataur Rahman Khan, Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury, Moudud Ahmed and Kazi Zafar Ahmed) and a parliament dominated by his Jatiyo Party. General elections were held in 1986 and 1988, although the latter was boycotted by the opposition BNP and Awami League. Ershad pursued administrative decentralisation, dividing the country into 64 districts, and pushed Parliament to make Islam the state religion in 1988. A 1990 mass uprising forced him to resign, and Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed led the country's first caretaker government as part of the transition to parliamentary rule.
After the 1991 general election, the twelfth amendment to the constitution restored the parliamentary republic and Begum Khaleda Zia became Bangladesh's first female prime minister. Zia, a former first lady, led a BNP government from 1990 to 1996. In 1991 her finance minister, Saifur Rahman, began a major program to liberalise the Bangladeshi economy.
In February 1996, a general election was held which was boycotted by all opposition parties giving a 300 (of 300) seat victory for BNP. This election was deemed illegitimate, so a system of a caretaker government was introduced to oversee the transfer of power and a new election was held in June 1996, overseen by Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman, the first Chief Adviser of Bangladesh. The Awami League won the seventh general election, marking its leader Sheikh Hasina's first term as Prime Minister. Hasina's first term was highlighted by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and a Ganges water-sharing treaty with India. The second caretaker government, led by Chief Adviser Justice Latifur Rahman, oversaw the 2001 Bangladeshi general election which returned Begum Zia and the BNP to power.
The second Zia administration saw improved economic growth, but political turmoil gripped the country between 2004 and 2006. A radical Islamist militant group, the JMB, carried out a series of terror attacks. The evidence of staging these attacks by these extremist groups have been found in the investigation, and hundreds of suspected members were detained in numerous security operations in 2006, including the two chiefs of the JMB, Shaykh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, who were executed with other top leaders in March 2007, bringing the militant group to an end.
In 2006, at the end of the term of the BNP administration, there was widespread political unrest related to the handover of power to a caretaker government. As such, the Bangladeshi military urged President Iajuddin Ahmed to impose a state of emergency and a caretaker government, led by technocrat Fakhruddin Ahmed, was installed. Emergency rule lasted for two years, during which time investigations into members of both Awami League and BNP were conducted, including their leaders Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. In 2008 the ninth general election saw a return to power for Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League led Grand Alliance in a landslide victory. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled martial law illegal and affirmed secular principles in the constitution. The following year, the Awami League abolished the caretaker-government system.
Citing the lack of caretaker government the 2014 general election was boycotted by the BNP and other opposition parties, giving the Awami League a decisive victory. The election was controversial with reports of violence and an alleged crackdown on the opposition in the run-up to the election and 153 seats (of 300) went uncontested in the election. Despite the controversy, Hasina went on to form a government that saw her return for a third term as Prime Minister. Due to strong domestic demand, Bangladesh emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. However, human rights abuses increased under the Hasina administration, particularly enforced disappearances. Between 2016 and 2017, an estimated 1 million Rohingya refugees took shelter in southeastern Bangladesh amid a military crackdown in neighbouring Rakhine State, Myanmar.
In 2018, the country saw major movements for government quota reforms and road-safety. The 2018 Bangladeshi general election was marred by allegations of widespread vote rigging. The Awami League won 259 out of 300 seats and the main opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front secured only 8 seats, with Sheikh Hasina becoming the longest-serving prime minister in Bangladeshi history. Pro-democracy leader Dr. Kamal Hossain called for an annulment of the election result and for a new election to be held in a free and fair manner. The election was also observed by European Union observers.
Bangladesh is a small, lush country in South Asia; located on the Bay of Bengal. It is surrounded almost entirely by neighbouring India—and shares a small border with Myanmar to its southeast, thought it lies very close to Nepal, Bhutan, and China. The country is divided between three regions. Most of the country is dominated by the fertile Ganges Delta, the largest river delta in the world. The northwest and central parts of the country are formed by the Madhupur and the Barind plateaus. The northeast and southeast are home to evergreen hill ranges.
The Ganges delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges (local name Padma or Pôdda), Brahmaputra (Jamuna or Jomuna), and Meghna rivers and their respective tributaries. The Ganges unites with the Jamuna (main channel of the Brahmaputra) and later joins the Meghna, finally flowing into the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is called the "Land of Rivers"; as it is home to over 57 trans-boundary rivers. However, this, makes the resolution of water issues politically complicated, in most cases, as the country is a lower riparian state to India.
Bangladesh is predominantly rich fertile flat land. Most of it is less than 12 m (39 ft) above sea level, and it is estimated that about 10% of its land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 m (3.3 ft). 17% of the country is covered by forests and 12% is covered by hill systems. The country's haor wetlands are of significance to global environmental science.
In southeastern Bangladesh, experiments have been done since the 1960s to 'build with nature'. Construction of cross dams has induced a natural accretion of silt, creating new land. With Dutch funding, the Bangladeshi government began promoting the development of this new land in the late 1970s. The effort has become a multi-agency endeavour, building roads, culverts, embankments, cyclone shelters, toilets, and ponds, as well as distributing land to settlers. Years of collaboration with donors and global experts in water resources management has enabled Bangladesh to formulate strategies to combat the impacts of climate change. In Sep 2018, Bangladesh Government approved Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, a combination of long-term strategies and subsequent interventions for ensuring long-term water and food security, economic growth, and environmental sustainability. The formulation of the plan was led by the General Economics Division of the Ministry of Planning, and supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, bringing together cross-sectoral expertise from the Netherlands and Bangladesh.
With an elevation of 1,064 m (3,491 ft), Saka Haphong (also known as Mowdok Mual) near the border with Myanmar, is claimed to be the highest peak of Bangladesh. However, it is not yet widely recognised as the highest point of the country, and most sources give the honor to Keokradong.
Bangladesh is divided into eight administrative divisions, each named after their respective divisional headquarters: Barisal (officially Barishal), Chittagong (officially Chattogram), Dhaka, Khulna, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Sylhet.
Divisions are subdivided into districts (zila). There are 64 districts in Bangladesh, each further subdivided into upazila (subdistricts) or thana. The area within each police station, except for those in metropolitan areas, is divided into several unions, with each union consisting of multiple villages. In the metropolitan areas, police stations are divided into wards, which are further divided into mahallas.
There are no elected officials at the divisional or district levels, and the administration is composed only of government officials. Direct elections are held in each union (or ward) for a chairperson and a number of members. In 1997, a parliamentary act was passed to reserve three seats (out of 12) in every union for female candidates.
|Division||Capital||Established||Area (km2)||2016 Population||Density|
|Barisal Division||Barisal||1 January 1993||13,225||9,145,000||691|
|Chittagong Division||Chittagong||1 January 1829||33,909||31,980,000||943|
|Dhaka Division||Dhaka||1 January 1829||20,594||40,171,000||1,951|
|Khulna Division||Khulna||1 October 1960||22,284||17,252,000||774|
|Mymensingh Division||Mymensingh||14 September 2015||10,584||12,368,000||1,169|
|Rajshahi Division||Rajshahi||1 January 1829||18,153||20,412,000||1,124|
|Rangpur Division||Rangpur||25 January 2010||16,185||17,602,000||1,088|
|Sylhet Division||Sylhet||1 August 1995||12,635||11,291,000||894|
Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, Bangladesh's climate is tropical with a mild winter from October to March, and a hot, humid summer from March to June. The country has never recorded an air temperature below 0 °C (32 °F), with a record low of 1.1 °C (34.0 °F) in the north west city of Dinajpur on 3 February 1905. A warm and humid monsoon season lasts from June to October and supplies most of the country's rainfall.
Natural calamities, such as floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and tidal bores occur almost every year, combined with the effects of deforestation, soil degradation and erosion. The cyclones of 1970 and 1991 were particularly devastating, the latter killing some 140,000 people.
In September 1998, Bangladesh saw the most severe flooding in modern world history. As the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and Meghna spilt over and swallowed 300,000 houses, 9,700 km (6,000 mi) of road and 2,700 km (1,700 mi) of embankment, 1,000 people were killed and 30 million more were made homeless; 135,000 cattle were killed; 50 km2 (19 sq mi) of land were destroyed; and 11,000 km (6,800 mi) of roads were damaged or destroyed. Effectively, two-thirds of the country was underwater. The severity of the flooding was attributed to unusually high monsoon rains, the shedding of equally unusually large amounts of melt water from the Himalayas, and the widespread cutting down of trees (that would have intercepted rain water) for firewood or animal husbandry. As a result of various international and national level initiatives in disaster risk reduction, human toll and economic damage from floods and cyclones have come down over the years. A similar country wide flood in 2007, which left five million people displaced, had a death toll around 500.
Bangladesh is recognised to be one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Over the course of a century, 508 cyclones have affected the Bay of Bengal region, 17 percent of which are believed to have caused landfall in Bangladesh. Natural hazards that come from increased rainfall, rising sea levels, and tropical cyclones are expected to increase as the climate changes, each seriously affecting agriculture, water and food security, human health, and shelter. It is estimated that by 2050, a 3 feet rise in sea levels will inundate some 20 percent of the land and displace more than 30 million people. To address the sea level rise threat in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 has been launched.
Bangladesh is located in the Indomalayan realm, and lies within four terrestrial ecoregions: Lower Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests, Mizoram–Manipur–Kachin rain forests, Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests, and Sundarbans mangroves. Its ecology includes a long sea coastline, numerous rivers and tributaries, lakes, wetlands, evergreen forests, semi evergreen forests, hill forests, moist deciduous forests, freshwater swamp forests and flat land with tall grass. The Bangladesh Plain is famous for its fertile alluvial soil which supports extensive cultivation. The country is dominated by lush vegetation, with villages often buried in groves of mango, jackfruit, bamboo, betel nut, coconut and date palm. The country has up to 6000 species of plant life, including 5000 flowering plants. Water bodies and wetland systems provide a habitat for many aquatic plants. Water lilies and lotuses grow vividly during the monsoon season. The country has 50 wildlife sanctuaries.
Bangladesh is home to much of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, covering an area of 6,000 km2 in the southwest littoral region. It is divided into three protected sanctuaries–the South, East and West zones. The forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The northeastern Sylhet region is home to haor wetlands, which is a unique ecosystem. It also includes tropical and subtropical coniferous forests, a freshwater swamp forest, and mixed deciduous forests. The southeastern Chittagong region covers evergreen and semi-evergreen hilly jungles. Central Bangladesh includes the plainland Sal forest running along the districts of Gazipur, Tangail and Mymensingh. St. Martin's Island is the only coral reef in the country.
Bangladesh has an abundance of wildlife in its forests, marshes, woodlands and hills. The vast majority of animals dwell within a habitat of 150,000 km2. The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, saltwater crocodile, black panther and fishing cat are among the chief predators in the Sundarbans. Northern and eastern Bangladesh is home to the Asian elephant, hoolock gibbon, Asian black bear and oriental pied hornbill.
The Chital deer are widely seen in southwestern woodlands. Other animals include the black giant squirrel, capped langur, Bengal fox, sambar deer, jungle cat, king cobra, wild boar, mongooses, pangolins, pythons and water monitors. Bangladesh has one of the largest populations of Irrawaddy dolphins and Ganges dolphins. A 2009 census found 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins inhabiting the littoral rivers of Bangladesh. The country has numerous species of amphibians (53), reptiles (139), marine reptiles (19) and marine mammals (5). It also has 628 species of birds.
Several animals became extinct in Bangladesh during the last century, including the one-horned and two-horned rhinoceros and common peafowl. The human population is concentrated in urban areas, hence limiting deforestation to a certain extent. Rapid urban growth has threatened natural habitats. Although many areas are protected under law, a large portion of Bangladeshi wildlife is threatened by this growth. Furthermore, access to biocapacity in Bangladesh is low. In 2016, Bangladesh had 0.4 global hectares of biocapacity per person within its territory, or about one fourth of the world average. In contrast, in 2016, they used 0.84 global hectares of biocapacity – their ecological footprint of consumption. As a result, Bangladesh is running a biocapacity deficit.
The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act was enacted in 1995. The government has designated several regions as Ecologically Critical Areas, including wetlands, forests, and rivers. The Sundarbans tiger project and the Bangladesh Bear Project are among the key initiatives to strengthen conservation.
Politics and government
Bangladesh is a de jure representative democracy under its constitution, with a Westminster-style unitary parliamentary republic that has universal suffrage. The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is invited to form a government every five years by the President. The President invites the leader of the largest party in parliament to become Prime Minister of the world's fifth-largest democracy. Bangladesh experienced a two party system between 1990 and 2014, when the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) alternated in power. During this period, elections were managed by a neutral caretaker government. But the caretaker government was abolished by the Awami League government in 2011. The BNP boycotted the next election in 2014, arguing that it would not be fair without a caretaker government. The BNP-led Jatiya Oikya Front participated in the 2018 election and lost. The election saw many allegations of irregularities. Bangladesh has a prominent civil society since the colonial period. There are various special interest groups, including non-governmental organisations, human rights organisations, professional associations, chambers of commerce, employers' associations and trade unions.
One of the key aspects of Bangladeshi politics is the "spirit of the liberation war" which refers to the ideals of the liberation movement during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The Proclamation of Independence enunciated the values of "equality, human dignity and social justice". In 1972, the constitution included a bill of rights and declared "nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularity" as the principles of government policy. Socialism was later de-emphasised and neglected by successive governments. Bangladesh has a market-based economy. To many Bangladeshis, especially in the younger generation, the spirit of the liberation war is a vision for a society based on civil liberties, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.
The Government of Bangladesh is overseen by a cabinet headed by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The tenure of a parliamentary government is five years. The Bangladesh Civil Service assists the cabinet in running the government. Recruitment for the civil service is based on a public examination. In theory, the civil service should be a meritocracy. But a disputed quota system coupled with politicisation and preference for seniority have allegedly affected the civil service's meritocracy. The President of Bangladesh is the ceremonial head of state whose powers include signing bills passed by parliament into law. The President is elected by the parliament and has a five-year term. Under the constitution, the president acts on the advice of the prime minister. The President is the Supreme Commander of the Bangladesh Armed Forces and the chancellor of all universities.
The Jatiya Sangshad (National Assembly) is the unicameral parliament. It has 350 Members of Parliament (MPs), including 300 MPs elected on the first past the post system and 50 MPs appointed to reserved seats for women's empowerment. Article 70 of the Constitution of Bangladesh forbids MPs from voting against their party. However, several laws proposed independently by MPs have been transformed into legislation, including the anti-torture law. The parliament is presided over by the Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad, who is second in line to the president as per the constitution. There is also a Deputy Speaker. When a president is incapable of performing duties (i.e. due to illness), the Speaker steps in as Acting President and the Deputy Speaker becomes Acting Speaker. A recurring proposal suggests that the Deputy Speaker should be a member of the opposition.
The Supreme Court of Bangladesh is the highest court of the land followed by the High Court and Appellate Divisions. The head of the judiciary is the Chief Justice of Bangladesh, who sits on the Supreme Court. The courts have wide latitude in judicial review and judicial precedent is supported by Article 111 of the constitution. The judiciary includes district and metropolitan courts, which are divided into civil and criminal courts. Due to a shortage of judges, the judiciary has a large backlog. The Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission is an independent body responsible for judicial appointments, salaries, and discipline.
Bangladesh's legal system is based on common law and its principal source of laws are acts of Parliament. The Bangladesh Code includes a list of all laws in force in the country. The code begins in 1836 and most of its listed laws were crafted under the British Raj by the Bengal Legislative Council, the Bengal Legislative Assembly, the Eastern Bengal and Assam Legislative Council, the Imperial Legislative Council and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. One example is the 1860 Penal Code. From 1947 to 1971, laws were enacted by Pakistan's national assembly and the East Pakistani legislature. The Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh was the country's provisional parliament until 1973, when the first elected Jatiyo Sangshad (National Parliament) was sworn in. Although most of Bangladesh's laws were compiled in English, after a 1987 government directive laws are now primarily written in Bengali. While most of Bangladeshi law is secular; marriage, divorce, and inheritance are governed by Islamic, Hindu and Christian family law. The judiciary is often influenced by legal developments in the Commonwealth of Nations, such as the doctrine of legitimate expectation.
The Bangladesh Armed Forces have inherited the institutional framework of the British military and the British Indian Army. It was formed in 1971 from the military regiments of East Pakistan. In 2018 the active personnel strength of the Bangladesh Army was around 157,500, excluding the Air Force and the Navy (24,000). In addition to traditional defence roles, the military has supported civil authorities in disaster relief and provided internal security during periods of political unrest. For many years, Bangladesh has been the world's largest contributor to UN peacekeeping forces. In February 2015, the country made major deployments to Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Golan Heights, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia and South Sudan.
The Bangladesh Navy has the third-largest fleet of countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal, including guided-missile frigates, submarines, cutters and aircraft. The Bangladesh Air Force is equipped with several Russian multi-role fighter jets. Bangladesh cooperates defensively with the United States Armed Forces, participating in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises. Ties between the Bangladeshi and the Indian military exist with high-level visits by the military chiefs of both countries. Most of Bangladesh's military equipment comes from China. In 2019, Bangladesh ratified the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The first major intergovernmental organisation joined by Bangladesh was the Commonwealth of Nations in 1972. The country joined the United Nations in 1974, and has been elected twice to the UN Security Council. Ambassador Humayun Rashid Choudhury was elected president of the UN General Assembly in 1986. Bangladesh relies on multilateral diplomacy in the World Trade Organization. It is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping, providing 113,000 personnel to 54 UN missions in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and the Caribbean in 2014.
In addition to membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations, Bangladesh pioneered regional co-operation in South Asia. Bangladesh is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an organisation designed to strengthen relations and promote economic and cultural growth among its members. It has hosted several summits and two Bangladeshi diplomats were the organisation's secretary-general.
Bangladesh joined the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1973. It has hosted the summit of OIC foreign ministers, which addresses issues, conflicts and disputes affecting Muslim-majority countries. Bangladesh is a founding member of the Developing 8 Countries, which is a bloc of eight Muslim-majority republics.
The neighbouring country of Myanmar (Burma) was one of the first countries to recognise Bangladesh. Despite common regional interests, Bangladesh-Myanmar relations have been strained by the Rohingya refugee crisis and the isolationist policies of the Myanmar military. In 2012, both countries came to terms at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea over maritime boundaries in the Bay of Bengal. In 2016 and 2017, relations with Myanmar were strained once again as over 700,000 Rohingya refugees illegally entered Bangladesh fleeing persecution, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and other atrocities in Myanmar. The parliament, government, and civil society of Bangladesh have been at the forefront of international criticism against Myanmar for military operations against the Rohingya, which the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing.
Bangladesh's most politically important bilateral relationship is with neighbouring India. In 2015, major Indian newspapers called Bangladesh a "trusted friend". Bangladesh and India are South Asia's largest trading partners. The countries are collaborating in regional economic and infrastructure projects, such as a regional motor-vehicle agreement in eastern South Asia and a coastal shipping agreement in the Bay of Bengal. Indo-Bangladesh relations often emphasise a shared cultural heritage, democratic values and a history of support for Bangladeshi independence. Despite political goodwill, border killings of Bangladeshi civilians and the lack of a comprehensive water-sharing agreement for 54 trans-boundary rivers are major issues. In 2017, India joined Russia and China in refusing to condemn Myanmar's atrocities against the Rohingya, which contradicted with Bangladesh's demand for recognising Rohingya human rights. However, the Indian air force delivered aid shipments for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The crackdown against cattle smuggling in India has also affected Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi beef and leather industries have seen increased prices due to the Indian BJP government's campaign against the export of beef and cattle skin.
Pakistan and Bangladesh have a US$550 million trade relationship, particularly in Pakistani cotton imports for the Bangladeshi textile industry. Although Bangladeshi and Pakistani businesses have invested in each other, diplomatic relations are strained because of Pakistani denial of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. The execution of a Jamaat-e-Islami leader in 2013 on committing of war crimes during the liberation war was opposed in Pakistan and led to further strained ties.
Sino-Bangladesh relations date to the 1950s and are relatively warm, despite the Chinese leadership siding with Pakistan during Bangladesh's war of independence. China and Bangladesh established bilateral relations in 1976 which have significantly strengthened and the country is considered a cost-effective source of arms for the Bangladeshi military. Since the 1980s 80 percent of Bangladesh's military equipment has been supplied by China (often with generous credit terms), and China is Bangladesh's largest trading partner. Both countries are part of the BCIM Forum.
Japan is Bangladesh's largest economic-aid provider in the form of loans and the countries have common political goals. The United Kingdom has longstanding economic, cultural and military links with Bangladesh. The United States is a major economic and security partner, its largest export market and foreign investor. Seventy-six percent of Bangladeshis viewed the United States favourably in 2014, one of the highest ratings among Asian countries. The United States views Bangladesh as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific. The European Union is Bangladesh's largest regional market, conducting public diplomacy and providing development assistance.
Relations with other countries are generally positive. Shared democratic values ease relations with Western countries and similar economic concerns forge ties to other developing countries. Despite poor working conditions and war affecting overseas Bangladeshi workers, relations with Middle Eastern countries are friendly and bounded by religion and culture. More than a million Bangladeshis are employed in the region. In 2016, the king of Saudi Arabia called Bangladesh "one of the most important Muslim countries". However, Bangladesh has not established diplomatic relationship with Israel in support of a sovereign Palestinian state and "an end to Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine".
Bangladeshi aid agencies work in many developing countries. An example is BRAC in Afghanistan, which benefits 12 million people in that country. Bangladesh has a record of nuclear nonproliferation as a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and is also a member of Non-Aligned Movement since 1973. It is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Bangladeshi foreign policy is influenced by the principle of "friendship to all and malice to none", first articulated by Bengali statesman H. S. Suhrawardy in 1957. Suhrawardy led East and West Pakistan to join the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, CENTO and the Regional Cooperation for Development.
A list of fundamental rights is enshrined in the country's constitution. The drafter of the constitution in 1972, Dr. Kamal Hossain, was influenced by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bangladesh also recognises the third gender. However, Homosexuality is outlawed by section 377 of the criminal code (a legacy of the colonial period), and is punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment. Judicial activism has often upheld human rights. In the 1970s, judges invalidated detentions under the Special Powers Act, 1974 through cases such as Aruna Sen v. Government of Bangladesh and Abdul Latif Mirza v. Government of Bangladesh. In 2008, the Supreme Court paved the way for citizenship for the Stranded Pakistanis, who were an estimated 300,000 stateless people. Despite being a non-signatory of the UN Refugee Convention, Bangladesh has taken in Rohingya refugees since 1978 and the country is now home to a million refugees. Bangladesh is an active member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1972. It has ratified 33 ILO conventions, including the seven fundamental ILO conventions. Bangladesh has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 2018, Bangladesh came under heavy criticism for its repressive Digital Security Act which threatened freedom of speech. The photojournalist Shahidul Alam was jailed and tortured for criticising the government. Alam was featured in the 2018 Time Person of the Year issue.
The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh was set up in 2007. Notable human rights organisations and initiatives include the Centre for Law and Mediation, Odhikar, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council and the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee.
Successive governments and their security forces have flouted constitutional principles and have been accused of human rights abuses. Bangladesh is ranked "partly free" in Freedom House's Freedom in the World report, but its press is ranked "not free". According to the British Economist Intelligence Unit, the country has a hybrid regime: the third of four rankings in its Democracy Index. Bangladesh was the third-most-peaceful South Asian country in the 2015 Global Peace Index. Civil society and media in Bangladesh have been attacked by the ruling Awami League government and Islamic extremists.
According to National Human Rights Commission, 70% of alleged human-rights violations are committed by law-enforcement agencies. Targets have included Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, secularist bloggers and independent and pro-opposition newspapers and television networks. The United Nations is concerned about government "measures that restrict freedom of expression and democratic space".
Bangladeshi security forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have received international condemnation for human-rights abuses (including enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings). Over 1,000 people have been said to have been victims of extrajudicial killings by RAB since its inception under the last Bangladesh Nationalist Party government. The RAB has been called a "death squad" by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which have called for the force to be disbanded. The British and American governments have been criticised for funding and engaging the force in counter-terrorism operations.
The Bangladeshi government has not fully implemented the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord. The Hill Tracts region remains heavily militarised, despite a peace treaty with indigenous people forged by the United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Secularism is protected by the constitution of Bangladesh and religious parties are barred from contesting elections; however, the government is accused of courting religious extremist groups. Islam's ambiguous position as the de facto state religion has been criticised by the United Nations. Despite relative harmony, religious minorities have faced occasional persecution. The Hindu and Buddhist communities have experienced religious violence from Islamic groups – notably the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing (Shibir). However, Islamic groups are losing popular support - Islamic far-right candidates peaked at 12 percent of the vote in 2001, falling to four percent in 2008.
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, an estimated 1,531,300 people are enslaved in modern-day Bangladesh, or 0.95% of the population. A number of slaves in Bangladesh are forced to work in the fish and shrimp industries.
Like for many developing countries, institutional corruption is a serious concern for Bangladesh. Bangladesh was ranked 146th among 180 countries on Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. According to survey conducted by the Bangladesh chapter of TI, in 2015 bribes made up 3.7 percent of the national budget. Land administration was the sector with the most bribery in 2015, followed by education, police and water supply. The Anti Corruption Commission was formed in 2004, and it was active during the 2006–08 Bangladeshi political crisis, indicting many leading politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen for graft.