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Bangladesh

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This article is about the People's Republic of Bangladesh. For other uses, see Bangladesh (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 23°48′N 90°18′E / 23.8°N 90.3°E / 23.8; 90.3

People's Republic of Bangladesh
  • গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ
  • Gônôprôjatôntri Bangladesh  (Bengali)
Flag Emblem
Anthem: "Amar Sonar Bangla"
"My Golden Bengal"

March: "Notuner Gaan"
"The Song of Youth"[1]

  • Seal of the Government of Bangladesh
Capital
and largest city
Dhaka
23°42′N 90°21′E / 23.700°N 90.350°E / 23.700; 90.350
National language Bengali (de jure)
Other languages Chakma, Kokborok, Tanchangya, Bishnupriya Manipuri, English,[a] and other indigenous languages.
Ethnic groups (2014[2])
Religion 86.6% Islam
12.1% Hinduism
0.6% Buddhism
0.4% Christianity
0.3% Others[2]
Demonym Bangladeshi
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
 •  President Abdul Hamid
 •  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
 •  Speaker of the House Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury
 •  Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha
Legislature Jatiyo Sangshad
Formation
 •  Partition of India & Dominion 14 August 1947 
 •  Islamic Republic 23 March 1956 
 •  Independence declared from Pakistan 26 March 1971 
 •  Liberation of Bangladesh 16 December 1971 
 •  Constitution 4 November 1972 
Area
 •  Total 147,570 km2 (92nd)
56,977 sq mi
 •  Water (%) 6.4
Population
 •  2015 estimate 168,957,745[3] (8th)
 •  Density 1,033.5/km2 (12th)
2,676.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
 •  Total $572.440 billion[4] (34th)
 •  Per capita $3,581[4] (144th)
GDP (nominal) 2015 estimate
 •  Total $205.327 billion[5] (44th)
 •  Per capita $1,314[6] (155th)
Gini (2010) 32.1[7]
medium
HDI (2014) Increase 0.570[8]
medium · 142nd
Currency Taka () (BDT)
Time zone BST (UTC+6)
Date format
  • dd-mm-yyyy
  • BS দদ-মম-বববব (CE−594)
Drives on the left
Calling code +880
ISO 3166 code BD
Internet TLD .bd
.বাংলা

Bangladesh (/bɑːŋlɑːdɛʃ/; Listeni/ˌbæŋɡləˈdæʃ/; বাংলাদেশ, pronounced: [ˈbaŋlad̪eʃ], lit. "The land of Bengal"), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh (গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ Gônôprôjatôntri Bangladesh), is a country in South Asia. It is bordered by India to its west, north and east; Myanmar (Burma) to its southeast; and is separated from Nepal and Bhutan by the Chicken's Neck corridor. To its south, it faces the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is the world's eighth-most populous country, with over 168 million people. It is one of the most densely populated countries, and among countries with a population exceeding 10 million, it is the most densely populated. It forms part of the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal, along with the neighbouring Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura.

The present-day borders of Bangladesh took shape during the Partition of Bengal and the British India in 1947, when the region came to be known as East Pakistan, as a part of the newly formed state of Pakistan. It was separated from West Pakistan by 1,400 kilometres (870 mi) of Indian territory. Because of political exclusion, ethnic and linguistic discrimination and economic neglect by the politically dominant western wing, nationalism, popular agitation and civil disobedience led to the Bangladesh Liberation War and independence in 1971. After independence, the new state endured poverty, famine, political turmoil and military coups. The restoration of democracy in 1991 has been followed by relative calm and economic progress. In 2014, the Bangladeshi general election was boycotted by major opposition parties, resulting in a parliament and government dominated by the Awami League and its smaller coalition partners.

Bangladesh is a unitary parliamentary republic with an elected parliament called the Jatiyo Sangshad. The native Bengalis form the country's largest ethnic group, along with indigenous peoples in northern and southeastern districts. Geographically, the country is dominated by the fertile Bengal delta, the world's largest delta. This also gives Bangladesh a unique name tag as "the land of rivers". Bangladesh has a rich heritage of ancient civilization.[9][10] Bangladesh's documented history spans 4,000 years.[11][12] Bangladesh human history has lasted for more than 20,000 years.[13]

Bangladesh is a Next Eleven emerging economy. It has achieved significant strides in human and social development since independence, including progress in gender equality, universal primary education, food production, health, and population control.[14][15][16] However, Bangladesh continues to face numerous political, economic, social and environmental challenges, including political instability, corruption, poverty, overpopulation, and global warming.

The country is a founding member of SAARC, the Developing 8 Countries and BIMSTEC. It contributes one of the largest peacekeeping forces to the United Nations. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Etymology

The name Bangladesh was originally written as two words, Bangla Desh. Starting in the 1950s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan. The term Bangla is a major name for both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The earliest references to the term date to the Nesari plate in 805 AD. The term "Vangaladesa" is found in South Indian records in the 11th century.[17][18][19] The term gained official status during the Sultanate of Bengal in the 14th century.[20][21] Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the first "Shah of Bangala" in 1342.[20] Persian writers frequently used the term Bangala to refer to the Bengal Sultanate.[citation needed] The word Bangla became the most common name for the region during the Islamic period. Taking a cue from the Persianate term,[citation needed] the Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century.[citation needed] This probably gave rise to the English term Bengal.[citation needed] The origins of the term Bangla are unclear, with theories pointing to a Bronze Age proto-Dravidian tribe,[22] the Austric word "Bonga" (Sun god),[23] and the Iron Age Vanga Kingdom.[23] 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".[17][18][19]

History

Main article: History of Bangladesh
Part of a series on the
History of Bangladesh
History of India

Ancient and classical Bengal

Stone age tools found in the Greater Bengal region indicate human habitation for over 20,000 years.[24] Remnants of Copper Age settlements date back 4,000 years.[24]

Ancient Bengal was settled by Austroasiatics, Tibeto-Burmans, Dravidians and Indo-Aryans in consecutive waves of migration.[25][26] Major urban settlements formed during the Iron Age in the middle of the first millennium BCE,[27] when the Northern Black Polished Ware culture developed in the Indian subcontinent.[28] In 1879, Sir Alexander Cunningham identified the archaeological ruins of Mahasthangarh as the ancient city of Pundranagara, the capital of the Pundra Kingdom mentioned in the Rigveda.[29][30] The Wari-Bateshwar ruins are regarded by archaeologists as the capital of an ancient janapada, one of the earliest city states in the subcontinent.[31] An indigenous currency of silver punched marked coins dating between 600 BCE and 400 BCE has been found at the site.[31] Excavations of glass beads suggest the city had trading links with Southeast Asia and the Roman world.[32] 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.[31] The site is also identified with the prosperous trading center of Souanagoura mentioned in Ptolemy's world map.[32] Roman geographers noted the existence of a large and important seaport in southeastern Bengal, corresponding to the modern-day Chittagong region.[33]

Somapura Mahavihara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built during the Pala Empire. It was once the largest Buddhist vihara in the Indian subcontinent

The legendary Vanga Kingdom is mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata covering the region of Bangladesh. It was described as a seafaring nation of South Asia. According to Sinhalese chronicles, the Bengali Prince Vijaya led an maritime expedition to Sri Lanka, conquering the island and establishing its first recorded kingdom.[34] The Bengali people also embarked on overseas colonization in Southeast Asia, including in modern-day Malaysia and Indonesia.[35]

Bengal was ruled by the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. With their bastions in the Bengal and Bihar regions (collectively known as Magadha), the Mauryans built the first geographically extensive Iron Age empire in Ancient India. They promoted Jainism and Buddhism. The empire reached its peak under emperor Ashoka. They were eventually succeeded by the Gupta Empire in the 3rd century. According to historian H. C. Roychowdhury, the Gupta dynasty originated in the Varendra region in Bangladesh, corresponding to the modern-day Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions.[36] The Gupta era saw the invention of chess, the concept of zero, the theory of Earth orbiting the Sun, the study of solar and lunar eclipses and the flourishing of Sanskrit literature and drama.[37][38]

In classical antiquity, Bengal was divided between various kingdoms. The Pala Empire stood out as the largest Bengali state established in ancient history, with an empire covering most of the north Indian subcontinent at its height in the 9th century. The Palas were devout Mahayana Buddhists. They strongly patronized art, architecture and education, giving rise to the Pala School of Painting and Sculptural Art,[39] the Somapura Mahavihara and the universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila. The proto-Bengali language emerged under Pala rule. In the 11th-century, the resurgent Hindu Sena dynasty gained power. The Senas were staunch promoters of Brahmanical Hinduism and laid the foundation of Bengali Hinduism. They patronized their own school of Hindu art taking inspiration from their predecessors.[40] The Senas consolidated the caste system in Bengal.[41]

Bengal was also a junction of the Southwestern Silk Road.[42]

Islamic Bengal

Islam arrived on the shores of Bengal in the late first millennium, brought largely by missionaries, Sufis and merchants from Middle East. Some experts have suggested that early Muslims, including Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas (an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad), used Bengal as a transit point to travel to China on the Southern Silk Road.[43] The excavation of Abbasid Caliphate coins in Bangladesh indicate a strong trade network during the House of Wisdom Era in Baghdad, when Arab scientists absorbed pre-Islamic Indian and Greek discoveries.[44] This gave rise to the Indo Arabic numerals. Writing in 1154, Al-Idrisi noted a busy shipping route between Chittagong and Basra.[45]

A Bengali diplomat presenting a giraffe at the Chinese imperial court in 1414

Subsequent Muslim conquest absorbed the culture and achievements of pre-Islamic Bengali civilization in the new Islamic polity.[46] Muslims adopted indigenous customs and traditions, including in dress, food and way of life. This included the wearing of the sari, bindu and bangles by Muslim women; and art forms in music, dance and theater.[46] Muslim rule reinforced the process of conversion through the construction of mosques, madrasas and Sufi Khanqahs.[47]

Minaret of the Sixty Dome Mosque, a medieval Bengal Sultanate mosque completed in 1459

The Islamic conquest of Bengal began when Bakhtiar Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate conquered northern and western Bengal in 1204.[48] The Delhi Sultanate gradually annexed the whole of Bengal over the next century. By the 14th century, an independent Bengal Sultanate was established.[49] The rulers of the Turkic[50][51][52] Ilyas Shahi dynasty built the largest mosque in South Asia, and cultivated strong diplomatic and commercial ties with Ming China.[53][54] Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah was the first Bengali convert on the throne.[49] The Bengal Sultanate was noted for its cultural pluralism. Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists jointly formed its civil-military services. The Hussain Shahi sultans promoted the development of Bengali literature.[citation needed] It brought Arakan under its suzerainty for 100 years.[55] The sultanate was visited by numerous world explorers, including Niccolo De Conti of Venice, Ibn Battuta of Morocco and Admiral Zheng He of China. However, by the 16th century, the Bengal Sultanate began to disintegrate. The Sur Empire overran Bengal in 1532 and built the Grand Trunk Road. Hindu Rajas and the Baro-Bhuyan zamindars gained control of large parts of the region, especially in the fertile Bhati zone. Isa Khan was the Rajput leader of the Baro-Bhuyans based in Sonargaon.

Ruins of Lalbagh Fort in Dhaka, 1875; the city was the Mughal capital of Bengal, an imperial commercial center and nicknamed the City of Mosques

In the late 16th-century, the Mughal Empire led by Akbar the Great began conquering the Bengal delta after the Battle of Tukaroi,[56] where he defeated the Bengal Sultanate's last rulers, the Karrani dynasty. Dhaka was established as the Mughal provincial capital in 1608. The Mughals faced stiff resistance from the Baro-Bhuyans, Afghan warlords and zamindars, but were ultimately successful in conquering the whole of Bengal by 1666, when the Portuguese and Arakanese were expelled from Chittagong. Mughal rule ushered economic prosperity, agrarian reform and flourishing external trade, particularly in muslin and silk textiles. Mughal Viceroys promoted agricultural expansion and turned Bengal into the rice basket of the Indian subcontinent. The Sufis gained increasing prominence. The Baul movement, inspired by Sufism, also emerged under Mughal rule. The Bengali ethnic identity further crystallized during this period, and the region's inhabitants were given sufficient autonomy to cultivate their own customs and literature. The entire region was brought under a stable-long lasting administration.[53]

By the 18th century, Bengal was the wealthiest part of the subcontinent.[57] It generated 50% of Mughal GDP.[58] Its towns and cities were filled with Eurasian traders. The Nawabs of Bengal established an independent principality in 1717, with their headquarters in Murshidabad. The Nawabs granted increasing concessions to European trading powers. Matters reached a climax in 1757, when Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah captured the British base at Fort William, in an effort to stem the rising influence of the East India Company. Siraj-ud-Daulah was betrayed by his general Mir Jafar, who helped Robert Clive defeat the last independent Nawab at the Battle of Plassey on 23 June 1757.

British Eastern Bengal

Flag of the British Raj
The first steam engine in Eastern Bengal. Railways in Bangladesh date back to 1862, being one of the earliest rail networks in the world
The leading Bengali statesman during the early 20th century: A. K. Fazlul Huq, Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin and H. S. Suhrawardy
A Royal Air Force Spitfire landing in Chittagong Airfield during World War II. East Bengali cities were key bases for Allied Forces, including the British Indian Army, in the Burma Campaign

The defeat of the last independent Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey ushered the rule of the British East India Company in 1757. The British displaced the ruling Muslim class of Bengal.[59] The Bengal Presidency was established in 1765, with Calcutta as its capital. The Permanent Settlement created an oppressive feudal system. A number of deadly famines struck the region.

The Mutiny of 1857 was initiated in the Presidency of Bengal, with major revolts by the Bengal Army in Dacca, Calcutta and Chittagong.[60][61] Eastern Bengal witnessed numerous native rebellions, including the Faraizi Movement by Haji Shariatullah, the activities of Titumir, the Chittagong armoury raid and revolutionary formations such as the Anushilan Samiti. The Bengal Renaissance flowered as a result of educational and cultural institutions being established across the region, especially in East Bengal and the imperial colonial capital Calcutta. The Presidency of Bengal became the cradle of modern South Asian political and artistic expression. It included the notable contributions of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Mir Mosharraf Hossain, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah, Rabindranath Tagore, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Begum Rokeya. Gopal Krishna Gokhle, the mentor of Mahatma Gandhi, remarked that "what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow".[62]

During British rule, East Bengal developed a plantation economy centered on the jute trade and tea production. Its share in world jute supply peaked in the early 20th century, at over 80%.[63] The Eastern Bengal Railway and the Assam Bengal Railway served as important trade routes, connecting the Port of Chittagong with a large hinterland.

As a result of growing demands for educational development in East Bengal, the British partitioned Bengal in 1905 and created the administrative division of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Based in Dacca, with Shillong as the summer capital and Chittagong as the chief port, the new province covered much of the northeastern subcontinent. The All India Muslim League was formed in Dacca in 1906 and emerged as the standard bearer of Muslims in British India. The partition of Bengal outraged nationalist Hindus and anti-British Muslims, leading to the Swadeshi movement by the Indian National Congress. The partition was annulled in 1911 after a long civil disobedience campaign by the Congress. The Indian Independence Movement enjoyed strong momentum in the Bengal region, including the constitutional struggle for the rights of Muslim minorities.

The Freedom of Intellect Movement thrived in the University of Dacca. By the 1930s, the Krishak Praja Party led by A. K. Fazlul Huq and the Swaraj Party led by C. R. Das came to represent the new Bengali middle class. Huq became the Prime Minister of Bengal in 1937. With the breakdown of Hindu-Muslim unity in the British Raj, Huq allied with the Muslim League to present the Lahore Resolution in 1940, which envisioned independent states in the eastern and northwestern subcontinent.

During the Second World War, the Japanese Air Force conducted air raids in Chittagong in 1942, displacing several thousand people.[64][65] The war-induced Bengal famine of 1943 claimed the lives of over a million people. Allied forces were stationed in bases across East Bengal in support of the Burma Campaign. Axis-allied Subhash Chandra Bose also had a significant following in East Bengal.

The Muslim League formed a parliamentary government in Bengal in 1943, with Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin and later H. S. Suhrawardy as its premiers. At the Indian provincial elections, 1946, the decisive victory of the Bengal Muslim League set the course for the Partition of British India and the creation of the Dominion of Pakistan on 14 August 1947. Assam was partitioned in order to allow Bengali-speaking Sylhet to join East Bengal. There was also an unsuccessful attempt to form a United Bengal. The Radcliffe Line divided Bengal on religious grounds, ceding Hindu-majority districts to the Indian dominion, and making Muslim-majority districts the eastern wing of Pakistan.

East Pakistan

The Dominion of Pakistan in 1947, with East Bengal as its eastern wing

East Bengal was the most populous province in the new Pakistani federation led by Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947, with Dacca as the provincial capital.[66] While the state of Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims of the former British Raj, East Bengal was also Pakistan's most cosmopolitan province, being home to peoples of different faiths, cultures and ethnic groups. In 1950, land reform was accomplished in East Bengal with the abolishment of the permanent settlement and the feudal zamindari system.[67] The successful Bengali Language Movement in 1952 was the first sign of friction with West Pakistan.[68] The One Unit scheme renamed the province as East Pakistan in 1955. The Awami League emerged as the political voice of the Bengali-speaking population,[69] with its leader H. S. Suhrawardy becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1956. He was ousted after only a year in office due to tensions with West Pakistan's establishment and bureaucracy.[70] The 1956 Constitution ended dominion status with Queen Elizabeth II as the last monarch of the country. Dissatisfaction with the central government increased over economic and cultural issues. The provincial government of A. K. Fazlul Huq was dismissed on charges of inciting secession.[71] In 1957, the radical left-wing populist leader Maulana Bhashani warned that the eastern wing would bid farewell to Pakistan.[72]

Students during the Bengali Language Movement

The first Pakistani military coup ushered the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. In 1962, Dacca was designated as the legislative capital of Pakistan in an appeasement of growing Bengali political nationalism.[73] Khan's government also constructed the Kaptai Dam which controversially displaced the Chakma population from their indigenous homeland in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[74] During the 1965 presidential election, Fatima Jinnah failed to defeat Field Marshal Ayub Khan despite strong support in East Pakistan.[75]

According to senior international bureaucrats in the World Bank, Pakistan applied extensive economic discrimination against the eastern wing, including higher government spending on West Pakistan, financial transfers from East to West and the use of the East's foreign exchange surpluses to finance the West's imports.[76] This was despite the fact that East Pakistan generated 70%[77] of Pakistan's export earnings with jute and tea.[76] East Pakistani intellectuals crafted the Six Points which called for greater regional autonomy, free trade and economic independence. The Six Points were championed by Awami League President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1966, leading to his arrest by the government of President Field Marshal Ayub Khan on charges of treason. Rahman was released during the 1969 popular uprising which ousted President Khan from power.

Ethnic and linguistic discrimination was abound in Pakistan's civil and military services, in which Bengalis were hugely under-represented. In Pakistan's central government, only 15% of offices were occupied by East Pakistanis.[78] They formed only 10% of the military.[79] Cultural discrimination also prevailed, causing the eastern wing to forge a distinct political identity.[80] Pakistan imposed bans on Bengali literature and music in state media, including the works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.[81] In 1970, a massive cyclone devastated the coast of East Pakistan killing up to half a million people.[82] The central government was criticized for its poor response.[83] The military junta governing the country organized the first democratic election in Pakistan's history in December 1970. In 1971, Maulana Bhashani voiced the first calls for the independence of Bangladesh.[84]

Bangladesh Liberation War

A DVD reissue cover of the Concert for Bangladesh held in 1971, which was the first benefit concert in history and raised funds for refugees fleeing the Bangladesh genocide

The anger of the Bengali population was compounded when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose Awami League had won a majority in Parliament in the 1970 elections, was blocked from taking office.[85] A massive civil disobedience movement erupted across East Pakistan, with open calls for independence.[86] Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed a huge pro-independence rally in Dacca on 7 March 1971. The Bangladeshi flag was hoisted for the first time on 23 March 1971, Pakistan's Republic Day.[87] On 26 March 1971, the Pakistani military junta[88] led by Yahya Khan launched Operation Searchlight, a sustained military assault on East Pakistan,[89][90] and detained the Prime Minister-elect[91][92] under military custody.[93] The Pakistan Army, with the help of supporting militias, massacred Bengali students, intellectuals, politicians, civil servants and military defectors during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.[94] Several million refugees fled to neighboring India. Estimates for those killed throughout the war range between 300,000 and 3 million.[95] Global public opinion turned against Pakistan as news of atrocities spread,[96] with the Bangladesh Movement gaining support from prominent political and cultural figures in the West, including Ted Kennedy, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Victoria Ocampo and Andre Malraux.[97][98][99][100] The Concert for Bangla Desh was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City to raise funds for Bangladeshi refugees. It was the first major benefit concert in history and was organized by Beatles star George Harrison and Indian Bengali sitarist Ravi Shankar.[101]

During the liberation war, Bengali nationalists announced a declaration of independence and formed the Mukti Bahini (the Bangladeshi National Liberation Army). The Provisional Government of Bangladesh operated in exile from Calcutta, India. Led by General M. A. G. Osmani and eleven Sector Commanders, the Mukti Bahini held the Bengali countryside during the war, and waged wide-scale guerrilla operations against Pakistani forces. Neighboring India and its leader Indira Gandhi, a longstanding nemesis of Pakistan, provided crucial support to the Bangladesh Forces and intervened in support of the provisional government on 3 December 1971. The Soviet Union and the United States dispatched naval forces to the Bay of Bengal amid a Cold War standoff during the Indo-Pakistani War. Lasting for nine months, the entire war ended with the surrender of Pakistan's military to the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces on 16 December 1971.[102][103] Under international pressure, Pakistan released Mujib from imprisonment on 8 January 1972, after which he was flown by the Royal Air Force to a million strong homecoming in Dhaka.[104][105] Indian troops were withdrawn by 12 March 1972, three months after the war ended.[106]

The cause of Bangladeshi self-determination was widely recognized around the world.[96] By the time of its admission for UN membership in August 1972, the new state was recognized by 86 countries.[96] Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in 1974 after pressure from most of the Muslim world.[107]

Post independence

Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as Prime Minister, with U.S. President Gerald Ford at the Oval Office in 1974

After independence, Bangladesh became a secular democracy and a republic within the Commonwealth. The world's 7th most populous nation at the time was ravaged by wartime devastation and widespread poverty, receiving massive international aid as a result. It joined the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC in 1973, followed by the United Nations in 1974. The Mujib administration signed a 25-year friendship treaty with India and was courted by Western and Eastern bloc powers. Bangladesh expressed strong solidarity with Arab countries during the Arab-Israeli War in 1973, sending medical teams to Egypt and Syria.[108][109] Mujib's government faced growing political agitation from left-wing groups, especially the National Socialist Party. Chakma politician M. N. Larma protested the lack of recognition for indigenous Chittagong Hill Tracts minorities in the new constitution.[110] Mujib briefly declared a state of emergency to maintain law and order.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh signed tripartite agreement in 1973 calling for peace and stability in the subcontinent.[111] A nationwide famine occurred in 1974.[112] In early 1975, Mujib initiated one party socialist rule. On 15 August 1975, Mujib and most of his family members were assassinated by mid-level army officers during a military coup.[113] Vice President Khandaker Mushtaq Ahmed was sworn in as President, with most of Mujib's cabinet intact. The country was placed under martial law. Mushtaq interned four prominent associates of Mujib, including Bangladesh's first prime minister Tajuddin Ahmad. Two Army uprisings on 3 and 7 November 1975 led to a reorganised structure of power. Between the two coups, the four interned Awami League leaders were assassinated by army men in Dhaka Central Jail. Mushtaq was replaced by Justice Abu Sayem as President, while the three chiefs of the armed services become martial law administrators. A technocrat cabinet was formed with Moudud Ahmed as Deputy Prime Minister. Bangladesh was one of the first countries to recognize the provisional revolutionary government of South Vietnam after the withdrawal of U.S. forces.[114]

Former military ruler Ziaur Rahman and erstwhile first lady Khaleda Zia being hosted by the Dutch royal family in 1979

Lieutenant General Ziaur Rahman took over the presidency in 1977 when Justice Sayem resigned. In 1979, President Zia reinstated multi-party politics and restored civilian rule. He promoted free markets and founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Zia reoriented Bangladesh's foreign policy, moving away from the Awami League's strong ties with India and Soviet Union, and pursued closer relations with the West.[115] He opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Domestically, Zia faced as many as 21 coup attempts. An insurgency began in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, due to demands by the region's indigenous people for autonomy. The Bangladesh Army was accused of persecuting the area's diverse ethnic minorities. Zia also advocated the idea of a South Asian regional community, inspired by the formation of ASEAN.[116] A military crackdown on Rohingyas in neighboring Burma led to an exodus of several hundred thousand refugees into southeastern Bangladesh.[111] Zia's rule ended when he was assassinated by elements of the military in 1981.[113] He was succeeded by Abdus Sattar, who served in office for less than a year.

Bangladesh's next major ruler was Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad. As President, Ershad pursued administrative reforms, including a devolution scheme which divided the country into 64 districts and 5 divisions. Ershad hosted the founding summit of SAARC in Dhaka in 1985, which brought together 7 South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bhutan and Bangladesh, into a landmark regional union.[117] He also expanded the country's road network and started important projects like the Jamuna Bridge. In 1986, Ershad restored civilian rule and founded the Jatiya Party. Elections were held in 1986 and 1988. Ershad sent Bangladeshi troops to join the US-led coalition in the Persian Gulf War after a request from King Fahd.[118] Ershad faced a revolt by opposition parties and the public in 1990, which coupled with pressure from Western donors for democratic reforms, forced him to resign on 6 December that year. He handed over power to Justice Shahbuddin Ahmed. Ershad was later indicted and convicted on corruption charges.[111]

President Ershad arrives at Andrews Air Force Base for a state visit to the U.S. in 1983. Despite strained relations in 1971, the United States emerged as one of Bangladesh's principal development and strategic partners after independence.[119][120]

In 1991, Bangladesh reverted to parliamentary democracy. Former first lady Khaleda Zia led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to victory at the general election in 1991 and became the first female Prime Minister in Bangladeshi history. Zia's finance minister Saifur Rahman launched a series of economic reforms aimed at liberalizing the Bangladeshi economy, mirroring similar initiatives by Manmohan Singh in India in 1991. Prime Minister Zia was forced to implement the caretaker government provision in the constitution in 1996 by the opposition. At the next election in 1996, the Awami League, headed by Sheikh Hasina, one of Mujib's surviving daughters, returned to power after 21 years. Hasina ended the Chittagong Hill Tracts insurgency after a peace accord with PCJSS rebels. She also secured a treaty with India on sharing the water of the Ganges. Hasina held a trilateral economic summit between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1999 and helped establish the D8 grouping with Turkey.[121] However, the economy took a downturn with a depletion of foreign exchange reserves.[122] Hasina also refused to export Bangladesh's natural gas, despite major investment offers from international oil companies. The Awami League lost again to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in the 2001 election. In her second term as Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement with China.[123] The economy picked up steam from 2003, with a GDP growth rate of 6% in spite of the 2005 floods. Zia faced criticism for her alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, which was accused of war crimes in 1971, and accusations against her son Tarique Rahman of corruption. The Awami League waged a series of strikes against the government after an assassination attempt on former premier Sheikh Hasina. Widespread political unrest followed the end of the BNP's tenure in late October 2006. A caretaker government led by the pro-BNP President Iajuddin Ahmed worked to bring the parties to election within the required ninety days, but was accused by opposition parties of being biased. At the last minute, the Awami League announced an election boycott. On 11 January 2007, the Bangladesh Armed Forces intervened to support both a state of emergency and a continuing but neutral caretaker government under a newly appointed Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, the former governor of the Bangladesh Bank. Ahmed strengthened the Anti Corruption Commission and launched an anti-graft drive, detaining more than 160 people, including politicians, civil servants, businessmen and two sons of Khaleda Zia. The Awami League won a landslide majority in the 2008 general election.[124][125] The BNP boycotted the general election in 2014 due to Sheikh Hasina's cancellation of the caretaker government system.

Bangladesh has significantly reduced poverty since it gained independence, with the poverty rate coming down from 57% in 1990[126] to 25.6% in 2014.[127] Per-capita incomes have more than doubled from 1975 levels. Bangladesh has also achieved successes in human development, including greater life expectancy than India and Pakistan.[128] The country continues to face challenges of unstable politics, climate change, religious extremism and inequality.

Geography

Map of Bangladesh

The geography of Bangladesh is divided between three regions. Most of the country is dominated by the fertile Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. 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. The alluvial soil deposited by the rivers when they overflow their banks has created some of the most fertile plains in the world. Bangladesh has 57 trans-boundary rivers, making water issues politically complicated to resolve – in most cases as the lower riparian state to India.[129]

The country is predominated by rich fertile flat land. Most parts of Bangladesh are less than 12 m (39.4 ft) above sea level, and it is estimated that about 10% of the land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 m (3.28 ft).[130] 17% of the country is covered by forests and 12% is covered by hill systems. The country's haor wetlands are of significant importance 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 multiagency endeavor, building roads, culverts, embankments, cyclone shelters, toilets and ponds, as well as distributing land to settlers. By fall 2010, the program will have allotted some 27,000 acres (10,927 ha) to 21,000 families.[131] With an elevation of 1,064 m (3,491 ft), the highest peak of Bangladesh is Saka Haphong, on the border with Myanmar.

Climate

Main article: Climate of Bangladesh
Climate change is causing increasing river erosion in Bangladesh, threatening an estimated 20 million people

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, with a record low of 1.1 °C in the north west city of Dinajpur on 3 February 1905.[132] 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,[133] combined with the effects of deforestation, soil degradation and erosion. The cyclones of 1970 and 1991 were particularly devastating. A cyclone that struck Bangladesh in 1991 killed some 140,000 people.[134]

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, with 135,000 cattle killed, 50 km2 (19 sq mi) of land destroyed and 11,000 km (6,800 mi) of roads damaged or destroyed. Two-thirds of the country was underwater. There were several reasons for the severity of the flooding. Firstly, there were unusually high monsoon rains. Secondly, the Himalayas shed off an equally unusually high amount of melt water that year. Thirdly, trees that usually would have intercepted rain water had been cut down for firewood or to make space for animals.[135]

Bangladesh is now widely recognised to be one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Natural hazards that come from increased rainfall, rising sea levels, and tropical cyclones are expected to increase as climate changes, each seriously affecting agriculture, water and food security, human health and shelter.[136] It is believed that in the coming decades the rising sea level alone will create more than 20 million[137] climate refugees.[138] Bangladeshi water is contaminated with arsenic frequently because of the high arsenic contents in the soil. Up to 77 million people are exposed to toxic arsenic from drinking water.[139][140] Bangladesh is one of those countries which are most prone to natural floods, tornados and cyclones.[141][142] Also, there is evidence that earthquakes pose a threat to the country. Evidence shows that tectonics have caused rivers to shift course suddenly and dramatically. It has been shown that rainy-season flooding in Bangladesh, on the world's largest river delta, can push the underlying crust down by as much as 6 centimetres, and possibly perturb faults.[143]

Biodiversity

Axis deer in the Sunderbans

Bangladesh ratified the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 3 May 1994.[144] As of 2014, the country is set to revise its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.[144]

Bangladesh is located in the Indomalaya ecozone. 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.[145] There are 6000 species of plant life, including 5000 flowering plants.[146] Water bodies and wetland systems provide a habitat for many aquatic plants. Water lilies and lotuses grow vividly during the monsoon. The country has 50 wildlife sanctuaries.

Bangladesh is home to much of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest. It covers 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.

The Bengal tiger is the national animal of the country

Bangladesh has an abundance of wildlife in its forests, marshes, woodlands and hills.[145] The vast majority of animals dwell within a habitat of 150,000 km2.[147] The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, saltwater crocodile, black panther and fishing cat are among the chief predators in the Sundarbans.[148][149] Northern and eastern Bangladesh is home to the Asian elephant, hoolock gibbon, Asian black bear and oriental pied hornbill.[150] 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 population of Irrawaddy dolphins and Ganges dolphins. A 2009 census found 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins inhabiting the littoral rivers of Bangladesh.[151] The country has numerous species of amphibians (53), reptiles (139), marine reptiles (19) and marine mammals (5). It has 628 species of birds.[152]

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. However, rapid urban growth has threatened natural habitats. Though many areas are protected under law, a large portion of Bangladeshi wildlife is threatened by this growth. 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.[150]

Politics

Government

The National Parliament House in Dhaka was designed by American architect Louis Kahn

The politics of Bangladesh takes place in the framework of a multiparty parliamentary representative democracy, modeled on the Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. Traditionally, Bangladesh has been a two party system since democracy was restored in 1990. However, concerns over the fairness of elections and annulment of the caretaker government system led to a boycott of the national election in 2014 by major opposition parties. Critics have accused the government of trying to turn Bangladesh into a dominant party state under the ruling Awami League.[153]

The Bangladeshi state has a unitary structure, with the central government in Dhaka.

Foreign affairs

The first summit of SAARC held at the Parliament in Dhaka in 1985. Bangladesh played a pioneering role in the formation of the South Asian community
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Moscow Kremlin in 2013. Hasina's government has increased military, energy and economic links with Russia, including the singing of a civilian nuclear deal

Bangladesh's foreign policy follows a principle of friendship to all and malice to none, which was first articulated by Bengali statesman H. S. Suhrawardy in 1957.[157][158] Today, countries considered as Bangladesh's most important partners include India,[159] China,[160] Japan,[161] Russia,[162] the United States[163] and the United Kingdom.[164] During the Cold War, Bangladesh cultivated good relations with both the United States and the Soviet Union; but it remained nonaligned with either superpower.[165] It asserted itself on many international issues, including those affecting decolonized and developing countries.[165] Bangladesh places a heavy reliance on multilateral diplomacy, especially in the United Nations. Since independence, it was twice elected to the UN Security Council in 1978 and 2000. Humayun Rashid Choudhury served as President of the United Nations General Assembly during its 41st session.[166]

During the Gulf War in 1991, Bangladesh contributed 2,300 troops to the US-led multinational coalition for the liberation of Kuwait. It has since become the world's largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, providing 113,000 personnel to 54 UN missions in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and the Caribbean, as of 2014.[167] Bangladeshi aid agencies work in many developing countries worldwide. An example are the operations of BRAC in Afghanistan, which benefit 12 million people in that country.[168]

Key to Bangladesh's self-assertiveness is its desire to project soft power on matters of international stability and security. It also relies on its Islamic heritage, being an OIC member and the world's third largest Muslim-majority country, and enjoys fraternal relations with many nations in the Muslim world. It is a founding member of the Developing 8.[165]

Bangladesh Army UN peacekeeping patrol in Darfur, Sudan. Bangladesh is the world's largest contributor of UN peacekeeping forces.[169]

As part of efforts to stimulate regional development plans, Bangladesh has been instrumental in organizing regional economic cooperation in the South Asian subcontinent.[165] The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded in Dhaka in 1985. Since then, three Bangladeshis have served as its Secretary-General. The Bangladeshi capital also hosts the headquarters of the Bay of Bengal Initiative (BIMSTEC). Located on the western doorstep of Southeast Asia, Bangladesh has prioritized on building economic, political and strategic relations with member states of ASEAN. Other regional groupings where it s a key member include the BCIM, BBIN, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Bangladesh's most complex bilateral relationship is with neighboring India. Relations are bounded by shared history, cultural affinities and Indian support for the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The two nations were initially very strong allies, but differences soon emerged over water sharing, border security and trade barriers. Bangladesh distanced itself from the Indo-Soviet Cold War axis in South Asia, and pursued stronger relations with Western countries.[170] Any hint of Indian intimidation or enroachment on territorial rights elicited a strong nationalistic response from all levels of Bangladeshi society.[165] Since 2009, as a sign of improving relations, the two countries have resolved long pending border disputes, and have forged joint initiatives in counter-terrorism, energy security and developing transport links. Bangladesh and India are today the largest trading partners in South Asia.[171]

Japan and Bangladesh have strong relations with common strategic and political goals.[157] Japan has been Bangladesh's largest development partner since independence, providing US$11 billion in assistance since 1972. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a further US$6 billion aid package for the country in 2014.[172]

Bangladesh enjoys very warm relations with China and Russia. Economic cooperation between Dhaka and the two major powers have increased. China is both a major trade partner and defense supplier to Bangladesh. A civilian nuclear agreement was signed with Russia in 2011. The Bangladesh Armed Forces operate Russian and Chinese warships, fighter jets, tanks and missiles.

Bangladesh is an important strategic ally of the United States in South Asia.[173] The two countries enjoy robust strategic cooperation in defense, maritime security, and counter-terrorism. The U.S. is also Bangladesh's largest trade partner and foreign investor. According to a Pew research poll in 2014, 76% of Bangladeshis express a favorable view of the U.S., making it one of the most pro-American Muslim majority countries in the world.[174] Bangladesh is an important member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It has growing economic ties with Latin American countries, particularly Brazil and Mexico.

Military

A Bangladesh Navy frigate in the Bay of Bengal

As of 2012, the current strength of the army is around 300,000 including reservists,[175] the air force 22,000, and navy 24,000.[176] In addition to traditional defence roles, the military has been called on to provide support to civil authorities for disaster relief and internal security during periods of political unrest. Bangladesh has consistently been the world's largest contributor to UN peacekeeping forces for many years. In February 2015, Bangladesh had major deployments in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Darfur, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti, South Sudan, Lebanon, Cyprus and the Golan Heights.[177]

Human rights and corruption

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has been described as a "death squad". Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have been accused of regular widespread human rights abuses

Bangladesh is ranked by Freedom House as "Partly Free" in its Freedom in the World report.[178] The Economist Intelligence Unit classifies the country as a hybrid regime, which is the third best rank out of four in its Democracy Index.[179] Bangladesh ranked as the 3rd most peaceful country in South Asia in the Global Peace Index in 2015.[180] In recent years, the vibrant civil society and media in Bangladesh have come under attack from both the ruling centre-left Awami League government and far-right Islamic extremists.[181] According to Mizanur Rahman, the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, 70% of the allegations of human rights violations they receive are against the law-enforcement agencies.[182] Targets have included Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, secularist bloggers, pro-opposition newspapers and television channels. The United Nations has said that it was deeply concerned by the government's "measures that restrict freedom of expression and democratic space".[181] Bangladeshi security forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have faced strong international condemnation for human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. Over 1,000 people have been murdered in extrajudicial killings by RAB since its inception under the last BNP government.[183] The agency has been singled out by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as a "death squad".[184][185] They have called for the force to be disbanded.[184][185] The British and American governments have been widely criticized for funding and engaging the force in counter-terrorism operations.[186]

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the government is yet to fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.[187] The Hill Tracts region remains heavily militarized despite the signing of the peace treaty with indigenous people led by the United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[188]

Secularism in Bangladesh is legally enshrined in the constitution. Religious parties are banned from contesting elections, but the government is accused of courting religious extremist groups for votes. Ambiguities over Islam being the state religion have been criticized by the United Nations.[189] Despite relative inter-religious and communal harmony, minorities in Bangladesh have faced persecution on occasions. The Hindu and Buddhist communities have faced religious violence from Islamic groups, notably the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Shibir. The highest vote share achieved by Islamic far right candidates during Bangladeshi elections was 12% in 2001; the lowest was 4% in 2008.[190]

According to Transparency International, Bangladesh ranked 14th in the list of countries with the most perceived corruption in 2014.[191] The country's Anti Corruption Commission was highly active under a state of emergency in 2007 and 2008, when it indicted many leading politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen for graft. After assuming power in 2009, the Awami League government greatly reduced the commission's independent powers for investigation and prosecution.[192]

Administrative divisions

Bangladesh is divided into eight administrative divisions,[193][194][195] each named after their respective divisional headquarters: Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Rangpur.

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 for each union (or ward), electing 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.[196]

Administrative Divisions of Bangladesh
Division Capital Established Area (km2)[197] Population[197] Density[197]
Barisal Barisal
1 January 1993
13,297
8,325,666
626
Chittagong Chittagong
1829
33,771
28,423,019
841
Dhaka Dhaka
1829
20,593
36,054,418
1,751
Khulna Khulna
1 October 1960
22,272
15,687,759
704
Mymensingh Mymensingh
14 September 2015
10,584
11,370,000
1,074
Rajshahi Rajshahi
1829
18,197
18,484,858
1,015
Rangpur Rangpur
25 January 2010
16,317
15,787,758
960
Sylhet Sylhet 1 August 1995
12,596
9,910,219
780

Economy

Main article: Economy of Bangladesh
A central business district in Dhaka
The Port of Chittagong is Bangladesh's chief international seaport and the busiest on the Bay of Bengal. It handled US$60 billion in annual trade in 2011

Bangladesh is a developing country, with a market-based mixed economy and is listed as one of the Next Eleven emerging markets. The per capita income of Bangladesh was US$1,190 in 2014, with a GDP of US$209 billion.[198] In South Asia, Bangladesh has the third-largest economy after those of India and Pakistan, and has the second highest foreign exchange reserves after India. The Bangladeshi diaspora contributed US$15.31 billion in remittances in 2015.[199]

In the early five years of independence, Bangladesh adopted socialist policies which proved to be a critical blunder by the Awami League.[200] The subsequent military regime and BNP and Jatiya Party governments restored free markets and promoted the Bangladeshi private sector. In 1991, finance minister Saifur Rahman launched a range of liberal reforms. The Bangladeshi private sector has since rapidly expanded, with numerous conglomerates now driving the economy. Major industries include textiles, pharmaceuticals, shipbuilding, steel, electronics, energy, construction materials, chemicals, ceramics, food processing, and leather goods. Export-oriented industrialization has increased in recent years, with the country's exports amounting to US$30 billion in FY2014-15.[201] The predominant export earnings of Bangladesh come from its garments sector. The country also has a vibrant social enterprise sector, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winning microfinance institution Grameen Bank and the world's largest nongovernmental development agency BRAC.

The insufficient power supply is a significant obstacle to growth. According to the World Bank, poor governance, corruption and weak public institutions are major challenges for Bangladesh's development.[202] In April 2010, Standard & Poor's awarded Bangladesh a BB- long term credit rating, which is below India and well above Pakistan and Sri Lanka.[203]

Primary

Bangladesh is notable for its fertile land, including the Ganges delta, the Sylhet Division and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Agriculture is the single largest producing sector of the economy since it comprises about 18.6% (data released on November, 2010) of the country's GDP and employs around 45% of the total labor force.[204] The performance of this sector has an overwhelming impact on major macroeconomic objectives like employment generation, poverty alleviation, human resources development and food security. A plurality of Bangladeshis earn their living from agriculture. The country ranks among the top producers of rice (4th), fish (5th), jute (2nd), tea (10th) and tropical fruits (5th).[205][206]

Bangladesh is the 7th largest natural gas producer in Asia, ahead of its neighbor Myanmar. Gas supplies generate 56% of the country's electricity. Major gas fields are located in northeastern (particularly Sylhet) and southern (including Barisal and Chittagong) regions. Petrobangla is the national energy company. The American multinational Chevron produces 50% of Bangladesh's natural gas.[207] According to geologists, the Bay of Bengal holds large untapped gas reserves in Bangladesh' exclusive economic zone.[208] The country also has substantial reserves of coal, with several coal mines operating in northwestern Bangladesh.

Jute exports continue to be significant, however the global jute trade has reduced considerably since it peaked during World War II. Bangladesh has one of the oldest tea industries in the world. It is also major exporter of fish and seafood.

Secondary

Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry meets 97% of domestic demand
A Danish ferry constructed in a Bangladeshi shipyard
For over a century, Bangladesh (East Bengal) has been the world's largest jute exporter

The Bangladesh textile industry is the largest manufacturing sector, accounting for US$25 billion in exports in 2014.[209] Leather goods manufacturing, particularly in footwear, is the second largest export oriented industrial sector. The pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh meets 97% of domestic demand and exports to 52 countries.[210][211] The shipbuilding industry in Bangladesh has seen rapid growth with exports to Europe.[212] The steel industry in Bangladesh is concentrated in the port city of Chittagong. The ceramics industry in Bangladesh is a prominent player in the international ceramics trade. In 2005, Bangladesh was the world's 20th largest cement producer. The country's cement industry depends on limestone imports from North East India. Food processing is a major sector of the local economy, with prominent brands like PRAN that are increasingly gaining an international market. The electronics industry in Bangladesh is witnessing rapid growth, with the Walton Group being its dominant player.[213] Bangladesh also has its own defense industry, including the establishments such as Bangladesh Ordnance Factories and the Khulna Shipyard.

Tertiary

The service sector accounts for 51% of GDP. Bangladesh ranks with Pakistan in having the second largest banking sector in South Asia.[214] The Dhaka Stock Exchange and the Chittagong Stock Exchange are the twin financial markets of the country. The telecoms industry in Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with 114 million cellphone subscribers in December 2013.[215] The main telecom companies are Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi, Airtel and BTTB. Tourism in Bangladesh is a developing sector, with the beach resort town of Cox's Bazar being the center of the industry. The Sylhet region, home to Bangladesh's tea country, also receives a large number of visitors. Bangladesh has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and five tentative listed sites.

Microfinance was pioneered in Bangladesh by Muhammad Yunus and has been replicated in many countries. There are more than 35 million microcredit borrowers.[216]

Transport

The Jamuna Multi-purpose Bridge is the longest bridge in Bangladesh. Bridges are critical arteries over the country's 700 rivers

Transport is a major sector in the Bangladesh economy. The aviation industry has seen rapid growth and includes the national flag carrier Biman and other privately owned airlinies. The country has a 2,706 km rail network operated by the Bangladesh Railway. It has one of the largest inland waterway networks in the world,[217] with 8,046 km of navigable waterways. The southeastern Port of Chittagong is its busiest seaport, handling over US$60 billion in annual trade.[218] More than 80% of the country's export-import trade passes through Chittagong.

The second busiest seaport is Mongla in southwestern Bangladesh.

Nobel laureate banker Muhammad Yunus speaking at the World Economic Forum

Energy

Electricity generation in Bangladesh had an installed capacity of 10,289 MW in January 2014.[219] Commercial energy consumption is mostly natural gas (around 56%), followed by oil, hydropower and coal.

Bangladesh has planned to import hydropower from Bhutan and Nepal.[220]

Nuclear energy in Bangladesh is being developed with Russia in the landmark Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant project.[221]

In renewable energy, Bangladesh has the fifth-largest number of green jobs in the world. Solar panels are increasingly used to power both urban and off grid rural areas.[222]

Water

The share of the population with access to an improved water source was estimated at 98% in 2004,[223] a very high level for a low-income country. This has been achieved to a large extent through the construction of handpumps with the support of external donors. However, in 1993 it was discovered that groundwater, the source of drinking water for 97% of the rural population and a significant share of the urban population, is in many cases naturally contaminated with arsenic.

Another challenge is the low level of cost recovery due to low tariffs and poor economic efficiency, especially in urban areas where revenues from water sales do not even cover operating costs. Concerning sanitation, estimated 56% of the population have had access to adequate sanitation facilities in 2010.[224] A new approach to improve sanitation coverage in rural areas, the community-led total sanitation concept that has been first introduced in Bangladesh, is credited for having contributed significantly to the increase in sanitation coverage since 2000.[225]

Science and technology

SPARRSO, Bangladesh's space agency, was founded in 1983 with assistance from the United States.[226] Bangladesh plans to launch the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite in 2018.[227] The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission operates a TRIGA research reactor at its atmoic energy facility in Savar.[228] The Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was founded in 1973, and traces to its roots to the East Pakistan Regional Laboratories established in Dhaka (1955), Rajshahi (1965) and Chittagong (1967).

Demographics

The population of Bangladesh as of 15 March 2011 is 142.3 million (census 2011 result),[229] much less than recent (2007–2010) estimates of Bangladesh's population ranging from 150 to 170 million and it is the 8th most populous nation in the world. In 1951, the population was 44 million.[230] It is also the most densely populated large country in the world, and it ranks 11th in population density, when very small countries and city-states are included.[231]

Historical populations in millions
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1971 67.8 —    
1980 80.6 +1.94%
1990 105.3 +2.71%
2000 129.6 +2.10%
2010 148.7 +1.38%
2012 161.1 +4.09%
Source: OECD/World Bank[232]
Bangladeshi women during the Bengali Spring Festival
Tripuri girls in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Bangladesh's population growth rate was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when its population grew from 65 to 110 million. With the promotion of birth control in the 1980s, the growth rate began to slow. The fertility rate now stands at 2.55, lower than India (2.58) and Pakistan (3.07) The population is relatively young, with 34% aged 15 or younger and 5% 65 or older. Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 70 years for both males and females in 2012.[194] Despite the rapid economic growth, about 26% of the country still lives below the international poverty line which means living on less than $1.25 per day.[233] Bengalis constitute 98% of the population.[234]

Minorities include indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and other parts of northern Bangladesh. The Hill Tracts are home to 11 ethnic tribal groups, notably the Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya, Tripuri, Kuki and Bawm. The Sylhet region is home to the Manipuri tribe. The Mymensingh region has a substantial Garo population. The North Bengal region is home to aboriginal Santals. Bangladesh is also home to a significant Ismaili community.[235]

The southeastern region has received an influx of Rohingya refugees from Burma, particularly during Burmese military crackdowns in 1978 and 1991.[236] During renewed sectarian unrest in Rakhine State in 2012, Bangladesh closed its borders amid fears of a third major exodus from Burma.[237] Stranded Pakistanis are a contentious dispute between Bangladesh and Pakistan. In 2008, the Bangladesh High Court granted full citizenship to all second generation Stranded Pakistanis born after 1971.[238] The Hill Tracts region suffered unrest and an insurgency from 1975 to 1997 due to a movement by indigenous people for autonomy. A peace accord was signed in 1997; however, the region remains heavily militarized.[239]

Urbanization

Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. The cities with a city corporation, having mayoral elections, include Dhaka South, Dhaka North, Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Comilla and Gazipur. Other major cities, these and other municipalities electing a chairperson, include Mymensingh, Gopalganj, Jessore, Bogra, Dinajpur, Saidapur, Narayanganj and Rangamati. Both the municipal heads are elected for a span of five years.


Languages

More than 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as their native language, which is also the official language.[241][242] English is also used as a second language among the middle and upper classes and is also widely used in higher education and the legal system.[243] Historically, laws were written in English and were not translated into Bengali until 1987, when the procedure was reversed. Bangladesh's Constitution and all laws are now in both English and Bengali.[244] There are also several indigenous minority languages.

Religion

Religions in Bangladesh[2]
Religion Percent
Muslim
  
86.6%
Hindu
  
12.1%
Buddhist
  
0.6%
Christian
  
0.4%
Others
  
0.3%

Islam is the largest religion in Bangladesh, making up 86.6% of the population. The country is home to most Bengali Muslims, the second largest ethnic group in the Muslim world. The majority of Bangladeshi Muslims are Sunni, followed by the Shia and Ahmadiya. Roughly 4% are non-denominational Muslims.[245] Bangladesh has the fourth-largest Muslim population in the world and is the third-largest Muslim majority country after Indonesia and Pakistan.[246]

A Buddhist temple in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Hinduism makes up 12.1% of the population, with most being Bengali Hindus. Bangladeshi Hindus are the country's second biggest religious group and the third largest Hindu community in the world after India and Nepal. Buddhism is the third largest religion, at 0.6%. Bangladeshi Buddhists are largely concentrated among ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, particularly the Chakma and Marma peoples; while coastal Chittagong is home to the Bengali Buddhist community. Christianity is the fourth largest religion at 0.3%, with most being Bengali Christians.[247]

Many people in Bangladesh practice Sufism, which has a long heritage in the region.[248] The largest gathering of Muslims in the country is the Bishwa Ijtema, held annually by the Tablighi Jamaat. The Ijtema is the second largest Muslim congregation in the world after the Hajj.

The Constitution of Bangladesh declares Islam as the state religion, but bans religion-based politics. It proclaims equal recognition of Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and people of all faiths.[249] Earlier in 1972, Bangladesh became the first constitutionally secular country in South Asia.[250] The U. S. State Department describes Bangladesh as a secular pluralistic democracy.[251]

Education

Bangladesh has a low literacy rate, estimated at 61.3% for males and 52.2% for females in 2010.[194] The educational system in Bangladesh is three-tiered and highly subsidized. The government operates many schools in the primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels. It subsidises parts of the funding for many private schools. In the tertiary education sector, the government funds more than 15 state universities through the University Grants Commission.

Curzon Hall, the Faculty of Science building at the University of Dhaka, is named after the British viceroy Lord Curzon

The education system is divided into five levels: Primary (from grades 1 to 5), Junior Secondary (from grades 6 to 8), Secondary (from grades 9 to 10), Higher Secondary (from grades 11 to 12) and tertiary.[252] The five years of lower secondary education concluded with a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, but since 2009 it concludes with a Primary Education Closing (PEC) examination. Earlier, students who pass this examination proceed to four years secondary or matriculation training, which culminate in a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Examination. Since 2010 the Primary Education Closing (PEC) passed examinees proceed to three years Junior Secondary, which culminate in a Junior School Certificate (JSC) Examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years secondary or matriculation training, which culminate in a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of Higher Secondary or intermediate training, which culminate in a Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) examination.[252]

Education is mainly offered in Bengali, but English is commonly taught and used. A large number of Muslim families send their children to attend part-time courses or even to pursue full-time religious education, which is imparted in Bengali and Arabic in madrasahs.[252]

Bangladesh conforms fully to the Education For All (EFA) objectives, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and international declarations. Article 17 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all children between the ages of six and ten years receive a basic education free of charge.

Universities in Bangladesh are mainly categorized into three types: public (government owned and subsidized), private (private sector owned universities) and international (operated and funded by international organizations). Bangladesh has 34 public, 64 private and two international universities. Bangladesh National University has the largest enrollment among them and University of Dhaka (established 1921) is the oldest. Islamic University of Technology, commonly known as IUT, is a subsidiary organ of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), representing 57 member countries from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Asian University for Women in Chittagong is the preeminent liberal arts university for women in South Asia, representing 14 countries from Asia. The faculty members are from many well-known academic institutions of North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.[253] BUET, CUET, BUTex, DUET are among the six public engineering universities in the country. There are some science and technology universities including SUST, MIST, PUST, etc.

Bangladeshi universities are accredited by and affiliated with the University Grants Commission (UGC), created according to the Presidential Order (P.O. No 10 of 1973) of the government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.[254]

Medical education is provided by 29 government and some other private medical colleges. All medical colleges are affiliated with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Recently Bangladesh literacy rate improved as it stands at 71% as of 2015 thanks to modernization of schools and education funds. At present, 16,087 schools and 2,363 colleges were getting Monthly Pay Order (MPO) facilities. 27,558 madrasas, and technical and vocational institutions were enlisted for the facilities. 6036 educational institutions were outside the MPO coverage and that the ruling party enlisted 1,624 private schools for MPO in 2010.[255][256]

Health

Main article: Health in Bangladesh

Health and education levels remain relatively low, although they have improved recently as poverty (26% at 2012[257]) levels have decreased. In the rural areas, village doctors with little or no formal training constitute 62% of the healthcare providers practicing modern medicine and the formally trained providers are occupying a mere 4% of the total health workforce. A survey conducted by Future Health Systems revealed significant deficiencies in treatment practices of village doctors, with a wide prevalence of harmful and inappropriate drug prescriptions.[258] There are market incentives for accessing health care through informal providers and it is important to understand these markets in order to facilitate collaboration across actors and institutions in order to provide incentives for better performance.[259]

A 2007 study of 1000 households in rural Bangladesh found that direct costs (payment to formal and informal health care providers) and indirect costs (loss of earnings associated with workdays lost because of illness) associated with illness were important deterrents to accessing health care from qualified healthcare providers.[258] A community survey with 6183 individuals in rural Bangladesh found a clear gender difference in treatment-seeking behaviour, with women less likely to seek treatment compared to men.[260] The use of skilled birth attendants, however, has risen between 2005 and 2007 by women in all wealth quintiles except the highest quintile.[261] A pilot community empowerment tool, called a health watch, was successfully developed and implemented in south-eastern Bangladesh in order to improve uptake and monitoring of public health services.[262]

The poor health conditions in Bangladesh is attributed by the lack of healthcare and services provision by the government. The total expenditure on healthcare as a percentage of their GDP was only 3.35% in 2009, according to a World Bank report published in 2010.[263] The number of hospital beds per 10,000 population is 4.[264] The General government expenditure on healthcare as a percentage of total government expenditure was only 7.9% as of 2009 and the citizens pay most of their health care bills as the out-of-pocket expenditure as a percentage of private expenditure on health is 96.5%.[263]

Malnutrition has been a persistent problem for the poverty-stricken country. The World Bank estimates that Bangladesh is ranked 1st in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition.[265][266] In Bangladesh, 26% of the population are undernourished[267] and 46% of the children suffers from moderate to severe underweight problem.[268] 43% of children under 5 years old are stunted. One in five preschool age children are vitamin A deficient and one in two are anemic.[269] Child malnutrition in Bangladesh is amongst the highest in the world. Two-thirds of the children, under the age of five, are under-nourished and about 60% of them, who are under six, are stunted.[270] More than 45 percent of rural families and 76 percent of urban families were below the acceptable caloric intake level.[271]

Culture

Literature

Syed Mujtaba Ali is noted for his cosmopolitan Bengali worldview

The oldest evidence of writing in Bangladesh is the Mahasthan Brahmi Inscription, which dates back to the 3rd century BCE.[272] During the Gupta Empire, Sanskrit literature thrived in the region. Bengali developed from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit in the 11th century. Bengali literature is a millennium old tradition. The Charyapada are the earliest examples of Bengali poetry. Sufi spiritualism inspired many Bengali Muslim writers. During the Bengal Sultanate, medieval Bengali writers were influenced by Arabic and Persian works. Syed Alaol was a noted secular poet and translator. The Chandidas are an example of Bangladeshi folk literature which developed during the Middle Ages. The Bengal Renaissance shaped the emergence of modern Bengali literature, including novels, short stories and science fiction. Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature and is described as the Bengali Shakespeare.[273] Kazi Nazrul Islam was a revolutionary poet who espoused spiritual rebellion against colonialism and fascism. Begum Rokeya was a pioneer of Bengali writing in English, with her early of work of feminist science fiction. Other renaissance icons included Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

The eminent writer Syed Mujtaba Ali is noted for his cosmopolitan Bengali worldview.[274] Humayun Ahmed was a popular writer of modern Bangladeshi magical realism and science fiction. Shamsur Rahman was the poet laureate of Bangladesh for many years. Jasimuddin was a renowned pastoral poet. Farrukh Ahmed, Sufia Kamal, Kaiser Haq and Nirmalendu Goon are important figures of modern Bangladeshi poetry. Notable writers of Bangladeshi novels include Mir Mosharraf Hossain, Akhteruzzaman Elias, Syed Waliullah, Shahidullah Kaiser, Shawkat Osman, Selina Hossain, Taslima Nasreen, Haripada Datta, Razia Khan, Anisul Hoque, Al Mahmud, Bipradash Barua, Tahmima Anam, Neamat Imam, Monica Ali and Zia Haider Rahman. Many Bangladeshi writers, such as Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, K. Anis Ahmed and Farah Ghuznavi, are acclaimed for their short stories.

The annual Ekushey Book Fair and Dhaka Literature Festival organized by the Bangla Academy are among the largest literary festivals in South Asia.

Architecture

Bungalows originated from Bengali vernacular housing.

The architectural traditions of Bangladesh have a 2,500-year-old heritage.[275] Terracotta architecture is a distinct feature of Bengal. Pre-Islamic Bengali architecture reached its pinnacle during the Pala Empire, when the Pala School of Sculptural Art established grand structures such as the Somapura Mahavihara. Islamic architecture began developing under the Bengal Sultanate, when local terracotta styles influenced medieval mosque construction. The Adina Mosque of undivided Bengal was the largest mosque built in the Indian subcontinent. The Sixty Dome Mosque was the largest medieval mosque built in Bangladesh, and is a fine example of Turkic-Bengali architecture. The Mughal style replaced indigenous architecture when Bengal became a province of the Mughal Empire and influenced the development of urban housing. The Kantajew Temple is an example of late medieval Hindu temple architecture. Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, based on Indo-Islamic styles, flourished during the British period. The zamindar gentry in Bangladesh built numerous Indo-Saracenic palaces and country mansions, such as the Ahsan Manzil, Tajhat Palace, Dighapatia Palace, Puthia Rajbari and Natore Rajbari.

Bengali vernacular architecture is noted for pioneering the bungalow. Bangladeshi villages consist of thatched roofed houses made of natural materials like mud, straw, wood and bamboo. In modern times, village bungalows are increasingly made of tin.

Muzharul Islam was the pioneer of Bangladeshi modern architecture. His varied works set the course of modern architectural practice in the country. Islam brought leading global architects, including Louis Kahn, Richard Neutra, Stanley Tigerman, Paul Rudolph, Robert Boughey and Konstantinos Doxiadis, to work in erstwhile East Pakistan. Louis Kahn was chosen to design the National Parliament Complex in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Kahn's monumental designs, combining regional red brick aesthetics, his own concrete and marble brutalism and the use of lakes to represent Bengali geography, are regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. In more recent times, award winning architects like Rafiq Azam have set the course of contemporary architecture by adopting influences from Islam and Kahns' works.

Museums and libraries

The Varendra Research Museum is the oldest museum in Bangladesh. It houses important collections from both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods, including the sculptures of the Pala-Sena School of Art and the Indus Valley Civilization; as well as Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian manuscripts and inscriptions. The Ahsan Manzil, the former residence of the Nawab of Dhaka, is a national museum housing collections from the British Raj. It was the site of the founding conference of the All India Muslim League and hosted many British Viceroys in Dhaka. The Tajhat Palace Museum preserves artifacts of the rich cultural heritage of North Bengal, including Hindu-Buddhist sculptures and Islamic manuscripts. The Mymensingh Museum houses the personal antique collections of Bengali aristocrats in central Bengal. The Ethnological Museum of Chittagong showcases the lifestyle of various tribes in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh National Museum is located in Ramna, Dhaka and has a rich collection of antiquities. The Liberation War Museum documents the Bangladeshi struggle for independence and the 1971 genocide.

Northbrook Hall, a public library opened in 1882 with rare book collections from the British Raj.[276]

In ancient times, manuscripts were written on palm leaves, tree barks, parchment vellum and terracotta plates and preserved at monasteries known as viharas. The Hussain Shahi dynasty established royal libraries during the Bengal Sultanate. Libraries were established in each district of Bengal by the zamindar gentry during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th-century. The trend of establishing libraries continued until the beginning of World War II. In 1854, four major public libraries were opened, including the Bogra Woodburn Library, the Rangpur Public Library, the Jessore Institute Public Library and the Barisal Public Library. The Northbrook Hall Public Library was established in Dacca in 1882 in honour of Lord Northbrook, the Governor General. Other libraries established in the British period included the Victoria Public Library, Natore (1901), the Sirajganj Public Library (1882), the Rajshahi Public Library (1884), the Comilla Birchandra Library (1885), the Shah Makhdum Institute Public Library, Rajshahi (1891), the Noakhali Townhall Public Library (1896), the Prize Memorial Library, Sylhet (1897), the Chittagong Municipality Public Library (1904) and the Varendra Research Library (1910). The Great Bengal Library Association was formed in 1925.[277] The Central Public Library of Dhaka was established in 1959. The National Library of Bangladesh was established in 1972. The World Literature Center, founded by Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Abdullah Abu Sayeed, is noted for operating numerous mobile libraries across Bangladesh and was awarded the UNESCO Jon Amos Comenius Medal.

Women and feminism

Main article: Women in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a long history of feminist activism dating back to the 19th century. Roquia Sakhawat Hussain and Faizunnessa Chowdhurani played an important role in emancipating Bengali Muslim women from the purdah in undivided Bengal and promoting girls' education. Hussain was also a pioneer of feminist science fiction, with her work Sultana's Dream. Several women were elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in the British Raj. The first women's magazine Begum was published in 1948. Women played an important role in Bengali civil society in East Pakistan. Salma Sobhan was the first female barrister in Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1959. Sufia Kamal was a leading cultural activist and feminist in the Bengali nationalist movement. Women battalions were formed in the Mukti Bahini in the 1971 Liberation War. Jahanara Imam iniatied a major movement demanding justice for the 1971 war crimes. In 1991, Khaleda Zia became the second elected woman to lead a Muslim-majority country. She was followed by Sheikh Hasina in 1996. As of 2015, women occupy three major political offices in Bangladesh, including that of Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Leader of the Opposition.

Female workforce participation in Bangladesh is among the highest in the Muslim world, at 59%.[278] Women dominate blue collar jobs in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Agriculture, social services, healthcare and education are also major occupations for Bangladeshi women; while employment in white collar jobs has steadily increased. Bangladesh is the first country in South Asia to achieve gender parity in primary education, and ensures free education for girls up to Grade 12. However, women continue to suffer challenges such as lack of equal pay and patriarchal social regimes.

Performance, visual and martial arts

Bengali Jatra theatre
The Baul tradition is a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Theatre in Bangladesh includes various forms, with a history dating back to the 4th century AD.[279] It includes narrative forms, song and dance forms, supra-personae forms, performances with scroll paintings, puppet theatre and processional forms.[279] The Jatra is the most popular form of Bengali folk theatre. The dance traditions of Bangladesh include indigenous tribal and Bengali dance forms, as well as classical Indian dances, including the Kathak, Odissi and the Manipuri dances.

The music of Bangladesh features the Baul mystical tradition, listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage.[280] Numerous lyric based musical traditions exist including Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya, varying from one region to the next. Folk music is accompanied by the ektara, an instrument with only one string. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bengali classical music includes Tagore songs and Nazrul geeti. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of Indian classical music, which uses instruments like the sitar, tabla, sarod and santoor.[281]

Bangladesh has a rich heritage of ancient Indian and Islamic art, including in painting, sculpture and architecture. Terracotta works are a distinctive feature of Bengali art. Bengal also influenced the art of China, Japan, South East Asia and Tibet. The Pala-Sena School is regarded as the high point of ancient Bengali art. Islamic medieval art was highly influenced by Persian art, particularly in architecture, gardening and miniature painting. The Mughal Emperors patronized the weaving of artistic Bengali silk and muslin textiles, including the famed Jamdani muslin. The Nawabs of Bengal were noted for patronizing ivory craftsmanship.

Modern Bangladeshi art began with the works of Zainul Abedin, a renowned painter. Other notable painters include SM Sultan, Mohammad Kibria, Shahabuddin Ahmed, Quamrul Hassan, Qayyum Chowdhury and Kanak Chanpa Chakma. Notably early modern sculptors included Novera Ahmed and Nitun Kundu. The country has a thriving contemporary art scene which has received international acclaim. The Dhaka Art Summit is a biannual event showcasing Bangladeshi works to an international audience.

Bangladeshi martial arts evolved in villages where zamindars employed large private armies to protect their landholdings. The Lathi khela and Boli Khela are two major forms of Bengali martial arts.

Textiles, clothing and fashion

19th century Nakshi kantha

The sari is the national dress for Bangladeshi woman. Mughal Dhaka was renowned for producing the finest muslin saris, including the famed Dhakai and Jamdani, the weaving of which is listed by UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of humanity's intangible cultural heritage.[282] Bangladesh also produces the Rajshahi silk. The Nakshi Kantha is a centuries-old embroidery tradition in Bangladesh. The shalwar kameez is also widely worn by Bangladeshi women. In urban areas some woman can be also seen in western clothing. The kurta and sherwani are the national dresses of Bangladeshi men. The lungi and dhoti is worn by Bengali men in informal settings. The handloom industry supplies of 60-65% of clothing demand.[283] Aside from ethnic wear, domestically tailored suits and neckties are usually worn by men in the country, and it is customary in offices, schools and social events.

The Bengali ethnic fashion industry has flourished well in the changing environment of the fashion world. The retailer Aarong is one of the most successful ethnic wear brands in South Asia. The development of the Bangladesh textile industry, which supplies leading international brands, has promoted the production and retail of modern Western attire locally, with the country now having a number of expanding local brands like Westecs and Yellow. Bangladesh is the world's second largest garments exporter.

Among Bangladesh's fashion designers, Bibi Russell has achieved international acclaim for her "Fashion for Development" shows.[284]

Cuisine

A variety of Bangladeshi foods— smoked ilish with mustard-seeds, biryani and pithas

White rice is the staple of Bangladeshi cuisine, along with many vegetables and lentils. Rice preparations also include Bengali biryanis, pulaos, and khichuris. Mustard sauce, ghee, sunflower oil and fruit chutneys are widely used in Bangladeshi cooking. Fish is the main source of protein in Bengali cuisine. The Hilsa is the national fish and immensely popular across Bangladesh. Other fishes eaten include rohu, butterfish, catfish, tilapia and barramundi. Fish eggs are a gourmet delicacy. Seafood holds an important place in Bengali cuisine, especially lobsters, shrimps and dried fish. Meat consumption includes chicken, beef, mutton, venison, duck and squab. In Chittagong, Mezban feasts are a popular tradition featurjg the serving of hot beef curry. In Sylhet, the shatkora lemons are used to marinate dishes. In the tribal Hill Tracts, bamboo shoot cooking is prevalent. Bangladesh has a vast spread of desserts, including distinctive sweets like Rôshogolla, Rôshomalai, Chomchom, Mishti Doi and Kalojaam. Pithas are traditional boiled desserts made with rice or fruits. Halwa is served during religious festivities. Naan, paratha, luchi and bakarkhani are the main local breads. Black tea is the national beverage and offered to guests as a gesture of welcome. Kebabs are widely popular across Bangladesh, particularly seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and shashliks.

Bangladesh shares its culinary heritage with the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal. The two regions have several differences, however. In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, meat consumption is greater; whereas in Hindu-majority West Bengal, vegetarianism is more prevalent. The Bangladeshi diaspora dominates the South Asian restaurant industry in many Western countries, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Festivals

The annual Bengali New Year parade

Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali new year, is the major festival of Bengali culture and sees widespread festivities. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh, only Pohela Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations (specific religious identity, culture of gift-giving, etc.). Unlike holidays like Eid al-Fitr, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an integral part of the holiday, Pohela Boishakh is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. As a result, more people can participate in the festivities together without the burden of having to reveal one's class, religion, or financial capacity. Other cultural festivals include Nabonno, and Poush porbon (festival of Poush), both Bengali harvest festivals.

The Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the Bengali New Year, Independence day, Victory Day, the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Krishna Janmashtami, the Buddhist festival of Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, and Christmas, called Borodin (" the Great day"), are national holidays in Bangladesh and see the most widespread celebrations in the country.

Alongside these are national days like the remembrance of 21 February 1952 Language Movement Day (International Mother Language Day), Independence Day and Victory Day. On Language Movement Day, people congregate at the Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to remember the national heroes of the Bengali Language Movement, and at the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho on Independence Day and Victory Day to remember the national heroes of the Bangladesh Liberation War. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies, parades, rallies by citizens, political speeches, fairs, concerts, and various other public and private events celebrating the history and traditions of Bangladesh. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs. And many schools and colleges organise fairs, festivals, and concerts in which citizens from all levels of society can participate.

Sports

Main article: Sports in Bangladesh

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Bangladesh, followed by football. The national cricket team participated in their first Cricket World Cup in 1999, and the following year was granted elite Test cricket status. But they have struggled to date, recording only ten Test match victories: eight against Zimbabwe with five in 2005 and three in 2014, the other two came in a 2-0 series victory over the West Indies in 2009.[285] The team has been more successful in One Day International cricket. In July 2010, they celebrated their first ever win over England in any form of match. Later in 2010, they beat New Zealand for the first time. In late 2012, they won a five-match home ODI series 3-2 against a full-strength West Indies National team. In 2011, Bangladesh successfully co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 with India and Sri Lanka. In 2012, the country hosted the Asia Cup. The team beat India and Sri Lanka but failed to keep the reputation in the final game against Pakistan. However, it was the first time Bangladesh had advanced to the final of any major cricket tournament. They participated at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, defeating Afghanistan to claim their Gold Medal in the first ever cricket tournament held in the Asian Games. Bangladeshi cricketer Sakib Al Hasan is no.1 on the ICC's all-rounder rankings in all three formats of the cricket.[286]

Kabaddi is a very popular game in Bangladesh, considered the national game.[287] Other popular sports include field hockey, tennis, badminton, handball, basketball, volleyball, chess, shooting, angling. The National Sports Council regulates 42 different sporting federations.[288]

Bangladesh has 5 grand masters in chess. Among them, Niaz Murshed was the first grand master in South Asia. In another achievement, Margarita Mamun, a Russian rhythmic gymnast of Bangladeshi origin, became world's champion in 2013 and 2014.

Media and cinema

The Bangladeshi press is diverse, outspoken and privately owned. Over 200 newspapers are published in the country. Bangladesh Betar is the state-run radio service.[289] The British Broadcasting Corporation operates the popular BBC Bangla news and current affairs service. Bengali broadcasts from Voice of America are also very popular. Bangladesh Television (BTV) is the state-owned television network. There more than 20 privately owned television networks, including several news channels. Freedom of the media remains a major concern, due to government attempts at censorship and harassment of journalists.

The cinema of Bangladesh dates back to 1898, when films began screening at the Crown Theatre in Dacca. The first bioscope in the subcontinent was established in Dacca that year. The Dhaka Nawab Family patronized the production of several silent films in the 1920s and 30s. In 1931, the East Bengal Cinematograph Society released the first full-length feature film in Bangladesh, titled the Last Kiss. The first feature film in East Pakistan, Mukh O Mukhosh, was released in 1956. During the 1960s, 25-30 films were produced annually in Dacca. By the 2000s, Bangladesh produced 80-100 films a year. While the Bangladeshi film industry has achieved limited commercial success; the country has produced notable independent film makers. Zahir Raihan was a prominent documentary-maker who was assassinated in 1971. The late Tareque Masud is regarded as one of Bangladesh's outstanding directors due to his numerous productions on historical and social issues. Masud was honored by FIPRESCI at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002 for his film The Clay Bird. Tanvir Mokammel, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Humayun Ahmed, Alamgir Kabir and Chashi Nazrul Islam are other prominent directors of Bangladesh cinema.

Rickshaws

The backside of a cycle rickshaw parked in Sonargaon

Cycle rickshaws are the most popular form of public transport in Bangladesh. There are an estimated one million cycle rickshaws in Bangladesh.[290] Dhaka, the nation's biggest city, is nicknamed the Rickshaw Capital of the World.[290] Rickshaws also ply the streets of other major cities, as well as the countryside. Bangladeshi rickshaws are decorated with colorful posters and boards, often depicting movie stars, national monuments or religious icons. Rickshaw art is considered a form of neo-romanticism. This unique trend started in Rajshahi and Dhaka in the 1950s. Each region of Bangladesh has a distinct style of rickshaw art. For example, rickshaw art in Chittagong and Comilla are dominated by floral scenery and Arabic texts. Auto-rickshaws are widely seen in urban centers. Cycle-driven carts are found in many parts of the country. Bangladeshi rickshaw art has received international fame, and has been called "people's art".

Rickshaw driving provides employment for many poor Bangladeshis coming from rural areas.[291]

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ Bengali is the sole official language and also the de jure national language. Alongside Bengali, English is often used for official purposes, especially in the judiciary.

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Further reading

  • Iftekhar Iqbal (2010) The Bengal Delta: Ecology, State and Social Change, 1840–1943, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, Pages: 288, ISBN 0-230-23183-7
  • M. Mufakharul Islam (edited) (2004) Socio-Economic History of Bangladesh: essays in memory of Professor Shafiqur Rahman, 1st Edition, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, OCLC 156800811
  • M. Mufakharul Islam (2007), Bengal Agriculture 1920–1946: A Quantitative Study, Cambridge South Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press, Pages: 300, ISBN 0-521-04985-7
  • Meghna Guhathakurta & Willem van Schendel (Edited) (2013) The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The World Readers), Duke University Press Books, Pages: 568, ISBN 0-8223-5304-0
  • Sirajul Islam (edited) (1997) History of Bangladesh 1704–1971(Three Volumes: Vol 1: Political History, Vol 2: Economic History Vol 3: Social and Cultural History), 2nd Edition (Revised New Edition), The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Pages: 1846, ISBN 984-512-337-6
  • Sirajul Islam (Chief Editor) (2003) Banglapedia: A National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh.(10 Vols. Set), (written by 1300 scholars & 22 editors) The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Pages: 4840, ISBN 984-32-0585-5
  • Srinath Raghavan (2013) '1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh', Harvard University Press, Pages: 368, ISBN 0-674-72864-5

External links