Government and politics
Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy. The President is the head of state, a largely ceremonial post. The real power is held by the Prime Minister, who is the head of government. The president is elected by the legislature every five years and has normally limited powers that are substantially expanded during the tenure of a caretaker government, mainly in controlling the transition to a new government.
Bangladesh has instituted a unique system of transfer of power; at the end of the tenure of a government, power is handed over to members of a civil society for three months, who run the general elections and transfer the power to elected representatives. This system was first practiced in 1991 and institutionalized in 1996 as the 13th amendment to the constitution.
The prime minister is ceremonially appointed by the president and must be a member of parliament (MP), commanding the confidence of the majority of the MPs. The cabinet is composed of ministers selected by the prime minister and appointed by the president. The unicameral parliament is the 300-members House of the Nation or Jatiyo Sangshad, elected by popular vote from single-member constituencies for five-year terms of office. There is universal suffrage for all citizens from the age of 18.
The Constitution of Bangladesh was written in 1972 and has undergone thirteen amendments. The highest judiciary body is the Supreme Court, whose Chief Justices and other judges are appointed by the President. The Judiciary is not separate from the administration, which has caused much commotion in recent years. Laws are loosely based on English common law, but family laws such as marriage and inheritance are based on religious scripts, and hence differ from one religious community to another.
The two major parties in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Awami League. BNP finds its allies among Islamist parties like Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and Islami Oikya Jot, while Awami League aligns with leftist and secularist parties. Another important player is the Jatiya Party, headed by former military ruler Ershad. The Awami League-BNP rivalry has been bitter and punctuated by protests, violence and murder. Student politics is particularly strong in Bangladesh, a legacy from the liberation movement era. Almost all parties have highly active student wings, and students have been elected to the Parliament.
Two radical Islamist parties, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), were banned in February 2005. Since 1999 series of bomb attacks took place causing loss of lives and spreading panic in the country and have been blamed on those groups, and hundreds of suspected members have been detained in numerous security operations, including the head the of those two parties in 2006. The first recorded case of a suicide bomb attack in Bangladesh took place in November 2005.
Bengali 98%, tribal groups, non-Bengali Muslims
Remnants of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back four millennia , when the region was settled by Dravidians and Tibeto-Burmans. The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang that settled in the area around the year 1000 BCE. The region was mostly fractured into unaffiliated units, ruled by foreign and domestic kingdoms and empires. After the arrival of Indo-Aryans, Bengal was ruled by the Gupta Empire from the fourth to the sixth centuries CE. Then, a dynamic Bengali named Shashanka founded an impressive yet short-lived kingdom. After a period of anarchy, the Buddhist Pala dynasty ruled the region for four hundred years, followed by a shorter reign of the Hindu Sena dynasty. Islam was introduced to Bengal in the twelfth century by Sufi missionaries, and subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread Islam throughout the region. Bakhtiar Khilji, a Turkish general, defeated Lakshman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered large parts of Bengal. The region was ruled by dynasties of Sultans and feudal lords for the next few hundred years. By the sixteenth century, the Mughal Empire controlled Bengal, and Dhaka became an important provincial center of Mughal administration.
The Shaheed Minar, which commemorates the Language Movement, is a well known landmark in BangladeshEuropean traders arrived late in the 15th century, and their influence grew until the British East India Company gained control of Bengal following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 . The bloody rebellion of 1857, known as the Sepoy Mutiny, resulted in transfer of authority to the crown, with a British viceroy running the administration . During colonial rule, famine racked the Indian subcontinent many times, including the 1770 Bengal famine that claimed 3 million lives. Between 1905 and 1911, an abortive attempt was made to divide the province of Bengal into two zones, with Dhaka being the capital of the eastern zone. When India was partitioned in 1947, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines, with the western part going to India and the eastern part joining Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), with its capital at Dhaka. In 1950, land reform was accomplished in East Bengal with the abolishment of the feudal zamindari system. However, despite the economic and demographic weight of the east, Pakistan's government and military were largely dominated by the upper classes from the west. The Language Movement of 1952 was the first sign of friction between the two wings of Pakistan. ) Dissatisfaction with the central government over economic and cultural issues continued to rise through the next decade, during which the Awami League emerged as the political mouthpiece of the Bengali population. It agitated for autonomy in the 1960s, and in 1966, its president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was jailed; he was released in 1969 after an unprecedented popular uprising.
In 1970, a massive cyclone devastated the coast of East Pakistan, and the central government responded poorly. The Bengali population's anger was compounded when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose Awami League won a majority in Parliament in the 1970 elections,was blocked from taking office. After staging compromise talks with Mujib, President Yahya Khan arrested him on the night of March 25, 1971, and launched Operation Searchlight, a sustained military assault on East Pakistan. Yahya's methods were extremely bloody, and the violence of the war resulted in many civilian deaths. Chief targets included intellectuals and Hindus, and about ten million refugees fled to neighbouring India. Estimates of those massacred range from several hundred thousand to 3 million. Most of the Awami League leaders fled and set up a government-in-exile in Calcutta, India. The Bangladesh Liberation War lasted for 9 months. The guerrilla Mukti Bahini and Bengali regulars eventually received support from the Indian Armed Forces in December 1971. Under the command of Lt. General J.S. Arora, the Indian Army achieved a decisive victory over Pakistan on 16 December 1971, taking over 90,000 prisoners of war in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
Bangladesh - also showing road and rail lines.After its independence, Bangladesh became a parliamentary democracy, with Mujib as the Prime Minister. In the 1973 parliamentary elections, the Awami League gained an absolute majority. A nationwide famine occurred during 1973 and 1974, and in early 1975, Mujib initiated a one-party socialist rule with his newly formed BAKSAL. On August 15, 1975, Mujib and his family were assassinated by mid-level military officers. A series of bloody coups and counter-coups in the following three months culminated in the ascent to power of General Ziaur Rahman, who reinstated multi-party politics and founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Zia's rule ended when he was assassinated in 1981 by elements of the military. Bangladesh's next major ruler was General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, who gained power in a bloodless coup in 1982 and ruled until 1990, when he was ousted in a popular uprising. Since then, Bangladesh has reverted to a parliamentary democracy. Zia's widow, Khaleda Zia, led the BNP to parliamentary victories in 1991 and 2001 and was Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001 to the present. Sheikh Hasina, one of Mujib's surviving daughters and the head of the Awami League, was in power from 1996 to 2001. Zia and Hasina maintain an unfriendly rivalry. In spite of widespread poverty and corruption, Bangladesh remains a democracy to date.