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People's Republic of Bangladesh
গনপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ
Gôno Projatontri Bangladesh
Flag of Bangladesh Coat of arms of Bangladesh
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: none
Anthem: Amar Shonar Bangla
(My Golden Bengal)
Location of Bangladesh
Capital Dhaka
23°42′ N 90°22′ E
Largest city Dhaka
Official language(s) Bengali
Government
President
Prime Minister
Parliamentary Republic
Iajuddin Ahmed
Khaleda Zia
Independence
- Declared
- Victory Day
From Pakistan
March 26, 1971
December 16, 1971
Area
• Total

• Water (%)

144,000 km² ( 91st)
55,598 mi²

7.0%
Population
• 2005 est.
• [[As of |]] census

• Density

144,319,628 ( 7th)

1,002/km² ( 6th)
2,595/mi²
GDP ( PPP)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
0 billion ( 32nd)
75 ( 151st)
HDI ( 2003) 0.520 ( 139th) – medium
Currency Taka ( BDT)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
BDT ( UTC+6)
not observed ( UTC+6)
Internet TLD .bd
Calling code +880 - SubCodes
The People's Republic of Bangladesh is a South Asian country bordering India, Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal. Together with the West Bengal state of India, it comprises the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. The name Bangladesh is written as বাংলাদেশ and pronounced IPA: /'baŋlad̪eʃ/. It means "Country of Bengal" but the origin of the word Bangla (Bengal) is obscure.The borders of Bangladesh were demarcated during the partition of British India in 1947 when it became the eastern wing of Pakistan, separated by 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Despite their common religion, the ethnic and linguistic gulf between east and west was compounded by the ruling west's neglect and persecution. This resulted in the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, after a bloody war supported by India. In its 35 years of independence marked by political turmoil and corruption, Bangladesh has had 13 different heads of government, two of them assassinated, and at least four coups. The last two political transitions were lawful, but growing Islamist terrorism is undermining this new stability.Bangladesh is belied by its modest land area (only 10% bigger than Greece but with 14 times the population). Its population ranks 7th in the world, but its area is ranked 100th. It is 3rd among Muslim-majority nations, though it has a slightly smaller Muslim population than the Muslim minority in India. After a handful of city-states and small island nations, it is the most densely populated country in the world. Geographically dominated by the fertile Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta the country has annual monsoon floods, and cyclones are also common. Bangladesh is one of the founding members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, BIMSTEC, and a member of the OIC and the D-8.

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Contents

History
Government
Politics
Subdivisions
Geography
Economy
Demographics
Culture
Sports
Education
Holidays



History - Contents

Remnants of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back three millennia when the region was settled by Dravidians and Tibeto-Burmans. It mostly fractured into unaffiliated units, ruled by various foreign and domestic kingdoms and empires. After the arrival of Indo-Aryans, the region was ruled by Hindu Gupta Empire from the 4th through 6th centuries CE. Then, a dynamic Bengali Shashanka erected an impressive but short-lived kingdom. With the launch of the Buddhist Pala dynasty in the 8th century the region reached its most ascendent moment, but retreated during the 12th century Sena dynasty.Islam was introduced to Bengal in the 12th century by Sufi missionaries, and subsequent Muslim conquests help spread Islam throughout the region. Bakhtiar Khilji, a Turkic general, defeated Lakshman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered large parts of Bengal. The region was ruled by local rulers like Isa Khan and the fabled Baro Bhuiyans for the next few hundreds years. By the 16th century, Mughal empire controlled Bengal and Dhaka became an important provincial center of Mughal administration as the seat of the Nawab.Portuguese, Dutch, French, Irish and British traders began to arrive in late 15th century and by late 18th century the British East India Company gained control of Bengal following the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The bloody rebellion of 1857 known as the Sepoy Mutiny prompted the British government to intervene and transfer authority to the crown, with a British viceroy running the administration. A pattern of economic exploitation continued as famine racked the subcontinent many times, including at least two major famines in Bengal. Between 1905 and 1911, an abortive attempt was made to divide the province of Bengal into two zones, with Dhaka being the capital of the eastern zone.When the British left, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines, the western part going to India, while the eastern part joined Pakistan as a province called East Bengal, with its capital in Dhaka. In 1950, land reform was accomplished in East Bengal through the abolition of the feudal zamindari system. The Language Movement of 1952 was the first sign of friction between the two wings of Pakistan. The east rejected an attempt by the politically dominant west to establish Urdu as the national language, an event commemorated now as the International Mother Language Day. In 1955, the province's name was changed to East Pakistan in an effort to reinforce flagging nationalism. Troubles in East Pakistan continued to rise. The Bengali Awami League agitated for autonomy, and in 1966, its president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was jailed. The upper levels of Pakistan's government and military were dominated by the feudal classes from the west, even though the economic and demographic weight of the east was equal or greater.
A TIME magazine issue covering the newly independent Bangladesh.
A TIME magazine issue covering the newly independent Bangladesh.
Tensions came to a head during 1971 in the face of two disasters: one natural and one political. A massive cyclone devasted coastal East Pakistan, and the central government responded poorly. The anger was compounded when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose Awami League fairly won a majority in Parliament in the 1970 elections, was blocked from taking office. Mujib is still remembered for his delivery of an electrifying speech [1] on 7 March 1971, at a racetrack in Dhaka and became known as Bôngobondhu or "Friend of the Bengali". After staging compromise talks with Mujib, President Yahya Khan arrested him and on March 25, 1971 launched an all-out military assault on East Pakistan.Yahya's methods were extremely bloody, as he intended to intimidate the Bengalis into total submission. His slaughter of unarmed innocents was one of the worst genocides in world history, similar in scale to that of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia [2]. Chief targets included intellectuals and Hindus. Ten million refugees fled to neighbouring India. Rough estimates of those massacred range from several hundred thousand to 3 million [3], [4], [5].The Bangladesh Liberation War lasted for 9 months. The guerrilla Mukti Bahini and Bengali regulars eventually received decisive support from the Indian Armed Forces in December 1971. Under the command of Lt. General J.S. Arora, the Indian army achieved a decisive victory over Pakistan, taking over 90,000 prisoners of war in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The terms of surrender included East Pakistan's independence and Mujib's return from incarceration in West Pakistan.
Bangladesh - also showing Rail and Road links.
Bangladesh - also showing Rail and Road links.
After independence, Bangladesh initially became a parliamentary democracy, with Mujib as the Prime Minister. In the 1973 parliamentary elections, Awami League gained an absolute majority. A nationwide famine crippled the young democracy in 1973 and 1974. On January 25, 1975, Mujib became President and initiated one party rule with his newly formed BAKSAL. All but four Government newspapers were banned. On August 15, 1975, Mujib and his family were assassinated by mid-level military officers. A series of bloody coups and counter-coups in the following three months culimated in the ascent to power by General Ziaur Rahman.Zia added to his popularity by giving Bangladesh an international presence, most notably in lobbying successfully for full inclusion in the UN General Assembly. Zia removed secularism and socialism as the basic principles of the constitution, replacing them with "Complete Faith and Trust in Allah" and "Social justice". He invited the banned religious parties back to politics. Zia founded Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which won the 1978 election. However, amid declining popularity, he was assassinated in 1981 by elements of the military.Bangladesh's next major ruler was General Hossain Mohammad Ershad who gained power in a bloodless coup in 1982. He made Islam the state religion. He ruled from 1982 until 1990, when he was ousted in a popular uprising.Since then, Bangladesh has reverted to parliamentary democracy. Zia's widow Khaleda Zia rose to head the BNP and the country from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001. She maintains a bitter rivalry with one of Mujib's surviving daughter Sheikh Hasina who heads the Awami League and was in power from 1996 to 2001.Though extremely poor and ruled mostly by corrupt politicians, Bangladesh has remained a Muslim democracy. It is the only country in the world where power is handed over to members of the civil society for three months, who run the general elections and transfer the power to people's representatives. This system was adopted to the constitution in 1996.


Government - Contents

National symbols of Bangladesh
Flag Green with a red circle
Anthem Amar Shonar Bangla
Animal Royal Bengal Tiger
Bird Doyel
Flower Shapla
Fruit Jackfruit
Sport Kabadi
Calendar Bangla Calendar
Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban, designed by Louis I. Kahn, houses the National Parliament of Bangladesh
Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban, designed by Louis I. Kahn, houses the National Parliament of Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a Parliamentary democracy. The President is the head of state, a largely ceremonial post. The real power is held by the Prime Minister, who is head of government. The president is elected by the legislature every five years and has normally limited powers that are substantially expanded during the tenure of a caretaker government, mainly in controlling the transition to a new government.The prime minister is ceremonially appointed by the president and must be a member of parliament (MP) commanding 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 Jatiyo Sangshad, which has 300 members elected by popular vote from single territorial constituencies for five-year terms of office. The remaining 45 seats are reserved for women, and allocated among political parties according to representation of elected members. There is universal suffrage, citizens attain the right to vote at age 18.The most important legal document in Bangladesh is the constitution. The constitution was written in 1972 and has undergone thirteen amendments. All other laws of the country are made by the Parliament conforming to the tenets of the constitution.The highest judiciary body is the Supreme Court, whose chief justices and other judges are appointed by the president. The judiciary is not separate from the administration, which has caused much commotion in recent years. Laws are loosely based on English common law. But family laws (regarding marriage, inheritance, etc.) are based on religious texts, and hence differ for various religious communities.


Politics - Contents

Khaleda Zia began her second (non-contiguous) 5-year term as Prime Minister in 2001. She is the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which has formed a coalition with Jatiya Party and the two moderate Islamist parties Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and Islami Oikya Jot. The opposition is led by Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League, which has been a key party since and prior to independence. Awami tends to adopt a more secular stance and tilts towards India, while BNP has closer relations with China. Awami-BNP rivalry has been bitter and punctuated by protests, violence and murder. This has been partly attributed to the personal animosity between the main two female leaders.Two radical Islamist parties, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), were banned in February, 2005. Since then, a series of bomb attacks have been blamed on those groups, and hundreds of their suspected members have been detained in numerous security operations. The first recorded case of a suicide bomb attack in Bangladesh took place in November 2005.


Subdivisions - Contents

Map of Bangladesh showing the six administrative divisions
Map of Bangladesh showing the six administrative divisions
Bangladesh is divided into six administrative divisions, all named after their respective divisional headquarters:
  • Barisal বরিশাল
  • Chittagong চট্টগ্রাম
  • Dhaka ঢাকা
  • Khulna খুলনা
  • Rajshahi রাজশাহী
  • Sylhet সিেলট
The next level of administrative unit is a district or zila (িজলা) (in Bangla). There are 64 districts in Bangladesh. For more information, see Districts of Bangladesh.Each district is further subdivided into thana or Police stations (formerly called upa-zila or sub-districts). Each police station, except for those in metropolitan areas, is divided into several unions. The unions consist of many villages. In the metropolitan areas, the unit is a ward, which consists of several mahalla or areas. At the district level there is no elected officials, only the government appointed administration. Direct elections are held for thana and union levels, in both cases electing a chairperson and a number of members of comissioners. Recently, legislation was passed to reserve one seat for a female candidate in every union. Dhaka is the country's capital and largest city. Other major cities include Chittagong, Rajshahi, Sylhet, and Khulna.See List of cities in Bangladesh.


Geography - Contents

NASA satellite Image of Bangladesh's physical features (click to enlarge)
NASA satellite Image of Bangladesh's physical features (click to enlarge)
Kaptai Lake on Karnaphuli River in Rangamati District
Kaptai Lake on Karnaphuli River in Rangamati District
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 and one of the largest mangrove forests in the world. Having densely vegetated lands, Bangladesh is often called the Green Delta.It is situated in the geographic region called the Ganges Delta or Ganges-Brahmaputra River Delta. This densely populated delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges (local name Padma or Pôdda), Brahmaputra (Jomuna), and Meghna rivers and their tributaries as they flow down from the Himalaya. It is the largest river delta in the world. Bangladesh's alluvial soil is highly fertile but vulnerable to flood and drought. Hills rise above the plain only in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (highest point: in the Mowdok range at 1,052 m (3,451 ft), N 21°47'12" E 92°36'36", NOT Keokradong, 883 m (2,897 ft) not 1,230 m (4,035 ft), or Tajingdong, 985 m (3,232 ft), not 1,280 m (4,199 ft) as sometimes reported) 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. Cox's Bazar, south of the city of Chittagong, has a sea beach that stretches uninterrupted over 120 kilometres (75 mi); it is frequently quoted as the World's longest natural sea beach (although this claim is difficult to prove or disprove).


Economy - Contents

Fishermen near the town of Cox's Bazaar in southern Bangladesh. Many industries in Bangladesh are still primitive by modern standards.
Fishermen near the town of Cox's Bazaar in southern Bangladesh. Many industries in Bangladesh are still primitive by modern standards.
Despite sustained domestic and international efforts to improve economic and demographic prospects, Bangladesh remains an underdeveloped, overpopulated, and ill-governed nation. Yet, as the World Bank notes in its July 2005 Country Brief, the country has made impressive progress in human development by focusing on increasing literacy, achieving gender parity in schooling, and reducing population growth. Jute was once Bangladesh's economic engine. Its share of the world export market peaked in the late 1940s at 80% [6] and even in the early 1970s accounted for 70% of its export earnings. But after polypropylene products began to substitute jute products in the world economy, Bangladesh's jute industry started to slow down.Bangladesh also grows significant quantities of rice, tea and mustard. Although two-thirds of Bangladeshis are farmers, nowadays more than three quarters of Bangadesh's export earnings come from the garment industry [7], which began attracting foreign investors in the 1980s due to cheap labor and low conversion cost. The industry now employs almost 40% of the employed females in Bangladesh. A significant amount of foreign currency earnings also come from the remittances sent by expatriate Bangladeshis living in other countries.Major impediments to growth include frequent cyclones and floods, inefficient state-owned enterprises, mismanaged port facilities, a growth in the labor force that has outpaced jobs, inefficient use of energy resources (such as natural gas), insufficient power supplies, slow implementation of economic reforms, political infighting and corruption. According to the World Bank's Country Brief updated July, 2005: "Among Bangladesh’s most significant obstacles to growth are poor governance and weak public institutions." [8]In spite of the hurdles, since 1990 the country has achieved an average annual growth rate of 5% according to the World Bank. The middle class and the consumer industry have seen some growth. In December 2005, four years after its report on the emerging "BRIC" economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), Goldman Sachs named Bangladesh one of the "Next Eleven," along with Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam. Bangladesh has seen a sharp increase in foreign direct investment. A number of multinational corporations, including Unocal and Tata, have made significant investments, with the natural gas sector a priority. In December 2005, the Central Bank of Bangladesh projected GDP growth between 6.3% to 6.8%.One significant contributor to the development of the economy has been the widespread propagation of Microcredit by Muhammad Yunus through the Grameen Bank.


Demographics - Contents

Main article: Demographics of Bangladesh
Bangladesh has a population of 144 million (July 2005 est.) making it the 7th most populous country in the world. Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world at about 1,000 persons per square kilometre (2,585/sq. mi), except a few small city-states. In the mid-1980's, the government promoted birth control, which helped to reduce the population growth rate to about 2%. However, Most of the people are relatively young, (the 0-25 age group represents 60 percent of the total population and only 3 percent being 65 or older). Life expectancy rate is 61 years.Bangladesh is ethnically homogeneous, with Bengalis comprising 98% of the population. The remainder are mostly Bihari migrants and autonomous tribal groups located mainly in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.The main language, as in West Bengal, is Bangla (Bengali), an Indo-Aryan language of Sanskrit origin (like Hindi, Punjabi, and Gujarati and others). The language is written in its own Bengali script. Bangla is the official language of Bangladesh, but English is widely spoken as a second language among the middle and upper classes, and is often accepted in official tasks and higher education.The two major religions practiced in Bangladesh are Islam (83% CIA est. 1998, 88% US State Department est. 2005) and Hinduism (16% CIA est. 1998, 11% US State Dept. 2005). The ethnic Biharis are predominantly Shia Muslims. There are also some Buddhists, Christians, and Animists.Health and education levels have improved steadily, poverty levels have gone down. Nevertheless, Bangladesh remains among the poorest nations in the world. Most Bangladeshis are rural and poor, living on subsistence farming. Nearly half of the population lives on less than 1 USD per day. Health problems abound, ranging from surface water contamination, to arsenic in the ground water, and diseases including malaria, leptospirosis and dengue. Literacy rates are 54% among men and 32% among women.


Culture - Contents

Bangladesh has a vibrant culture that encompasses traditions both old and new. The Bangla language boasts a rich literary heritage, mostly shared by Bangladesh and West Bengal. The first literary text in Bangla is the millennium-old Charyapada. The medieval ages saw much activity in Bangla literature by poets like Alaol and Chandidas. Bangla literature matured in the nineteenth century. The greatest literary icons are Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Rabindranath wrote what was later adopted as Bangladesh's national anthem Amar Shonar Bangla, whereas a song of Nazrul was adopted as the Martial song. Contemporary Bangladesh keeps producing a substantial amount of litearture of all forms. Bangladesh also has a rich tradition in folk literature, evidenced by Môemonshingha gitika, Ţhakurmar Jhuli or stories related to Gopal Bhar and Birbal.The musical tradition of Bangladesh is lyrics-based (Baniprodhan), with minimal instrumental accompaniment. The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bangla folk music, and Lalon Fakir perhaps the best-known of Bauls. Folk music of Bengal is often accopanied by the êktara, a string instrument with only one string. Other instruments include the dotara, đhol, khanjan, and tabla, among others. Bangladesh also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music. Perhaps the most famous classical musician from Bangladesh is Ustad Allauddin Khan. Similarly, Bangladeshi dance forms also draw from folk traditons, specially those of the various tribal groups, as well as the broader Indian dance tradition.Bangladesh produces about 60 films a year. However Bangladeshis are avid consumers of Bollywood-made cinema, as well as films from Kolkata, in West Bengal, which has its own thriving Bengali-language movie industry.


Sports - Contents

Cricket is perhaps the most popular sport in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh cricket team were granted test cricket status and joined the elite league of national teams that play test matches in 2000. Other popular sports include football, field hockey, tennis, badminton, handball, kabadi, volleyball, chess, and carrom. Kabadi (কাবাডি), a 7-on-7 team sport played without a ball or any other equipment, is notable because it has been honored as the national game of Bangladesh since 1972. In that year, the Bangladesh Sports Control Board was established, and as of 2005 it regulates 29 different sporting federations.On the international stage, Bangladesh has had its most noteworthy successes in cricket and chess. In 2005, Bangladesh won its first 5-day test match against Zimbabwe and defeated the best team and 2003 world champion Australia in a one-day match was one of the biggest upsets in cricket history. In chess, Bangladesh has had two Grandmasters: Niaz Morshed and more recently Ziaur Rahman.


Education - Contents

A view of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Building at BUET
A view of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Building at BUET
The literacy rate in Bangladesh is approximately 42%. Education in Bangladesh is highly subsidized by the Government, which operates many schools and colleges at the primary, secondary and higher secondary level as well as many public universities. The country is divided into seven education boards (Barishal, Chittagong, Comilla, Dhaka, Jessore, Rajshahi and Sylhet Education Boards) which oversee education from the primary to the higher secondary level, and conduct the primary and junior scholarship examinations, the Secondary School Certificate examination, and the Higher Secondary Certificate examination. The Government also greatly subsidises the salaries of teachers in non-government schools. To promote literacy among women, education is free for females till the higher secondary level. A government-funded program gives incentives like stipends and food for continuing education in the secondary level. Higher education is also subsidized by the government, and most of the students seeking college education are enrolled in a public instituition. Dhaka University is the largest and oldest of all the public universities in Bangladesh. The National University regulates all public colleges in the country, hence an undergraduate student at a public college receives a degree from the National University. Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), located in Dhaka, is the foremost instituition for technology in the country. There are newer universities in Chittagong, Khulna, Gazipur, Rajshahi and Sylhet that also provide engineering education. Public education in medical sciences is provided by Medical Colleges, each regulated by a public university. Postgraduate education in medical sciences is provided by BSMM University in Dhaka. Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh is the premier institution for agricultural studies, though other institutes exists as well. There are also a number of polytechnic institutes providing diplomas in specific technologies. Bangladesh also has a leather institute, a textile institute and other specialized education centers. Since the 1990's, higher education has boomed with the introduction of private universities. There are many private universities providing general, engineering and medical education.Notable reseach institutions include Bangladesh Rice Research Institute and International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.


Holidays - Contents

Bangladesh has eleven National Holidays, based on three separate calendars: Gregorian, Islamic, and Bengali calendars.
Date Holiday Remarks
1 Shawwal Eid ul-Fitr Muslim festival marking the end of the month Ramadan
10 Dhu al-Hijjah Korbani Eid (Eid ul-Adha) Muslim festival of sacrifice
Asharh Buddhist Full Moon festival Buddhist festival on the month of Asharh
Varies Durga Puja Hindu festival of the goddess Durga
21 February Shohid Dibôsh (Language Martyrs' Day) This day commemorates the struggle for Bengali language in 1952.
26 March Shadhinota Dibôsh (Independence Day) This day marks the official declaration of Bangladesh, and the start of the Bangladesh Liberation War.
15 April
1 Boishakh
Pôhela Boishakh (Bangla New Year's Day) Festival marking the start of the year according to Bangla Calendar
1 May May Day This day marks the solidarity of workers worldwide.
7 November National Revolution and Solidarity Day This day marks a 1975 uprising of people and soldiers
16 December Bijôe Dibôsh (Victory Day) This day marks end of the Bangladesh Liberation War
25 December Bôŗodin (Christmas) Christian festival marking the birth of Jesus Christ
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