Bangladesh is surrounded by India, Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal. A republic in south Asia, Bangladesh was formerly East Pakistan, one of the five provinces into which Pakistan was divided at its creation, when Britain’s former Indian Empire was partitioned in August 1947. East Pakistan and the four western provinces were separated by about 1600 km of Indian territory. East Pakistan was formed from the former Indian province of East Bengal and the Sylhet districts of Assam. Although the East was more populous, government was based in West Pakistan. From the very inception of its formation, language remained the most problematic issue.
Same status for Bengali language with Urdu and English was the demand and the movement involving all sections of the people of East Pakistan gave a strike call on 21 Feb, 1952. On that very day, police fired on a student’s rally and several students died. Since then the day has been observed as the Language Day (Bhasa Divas). East Pakistan became and independent entity named Bangladesh on 16, December, 1971, following civil war in which India actively supported the East. Leader of this independence movement, Sheikh Manipur Rahman became the first prime Minister.
In January 1957 parliamentary government was replaced by a presidential form of Government. Sheikh Manipur Rahman became President, assuming absolute power. In February, Bangladesh became a one-party state.
On 15 August, 1957 Sheikh Manipur and his family were assassinated in a coup. Chief of Army Staff, Major-Gen. Ziaur Rahman (Gen. Zia) took over power on 7 November, 1957. In June 1978 the country’s first direct presidential election resulted in a victory for Zia, who formed a Council of Advisers. Parliamentary elections followed in February 1979, in which President Ziaur Rahman’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won 207 of the 300 directly elective seats in the Jatiya Sangsad.
Political instability recurred, however, when Gen. Ziaur was assassinated on 30 May 1981 during an attempted military coup. The elderly Vice-President , Justice Adbus Sattar, took over as acting President but was faced with Strikes and demonstrations over the execution of several officers who had been involved in the coup. On 24 March, 1982 there was a bloodless Military coup, by which Lieut. Gen. Ershad became chief martial law administrator. President Sattar was deposed. The Constitution was suspended and Parliament ceased to function. Assanuddin Chowdhury was sworn is as civilian president on 27 March. Lieut. Gen. Ershad assumed the presidency on 11 Dec,1983.
Although the Government’s economic politics achieved some success and gained a measure of popular support for Ershad, the all party alliance of MRD – Movement for the Restoration of Democracy gained momentum. In Jan 1986 a National Executive Committee was formed and the National Party launched, composed of government supporters. Gen. Ershad was re-elected President on 15 October, 1986. Gen. Ershad was deposed and arrested after a popular uprising in December 1990. Mr Shahabuddhin Ahmed took over as Acting President. In the general elections held in February 1991 Bangladesh National Party led by Begum Khaleda Zia won 140 seats. Begum Zia was sworn in PM. In the general elections help in June, 1996, Awai League won 146 seats and Sheikh Hasina Wazed, daughter of the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, became the PM of Bangladesh. Jatiya Party quit the Govt in Mar ’98’.
Bangladesh is the second largest Muslim country in the world. Dhaka, with 2000 mosques, is known as the city of mosques. Tribal Shanti Bahini guerrillas fighting for autonomy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts surrendered in Feb 98, ending as 25-year insurgency that claimed more than 8500 lives. In May 97 cyclone battered Bangladesh coast killing over 1000 people and leaving 100,0000 homeless. Floods in 1998 stranded 30 million people and killed about 1500. Bangladesh entered Test Cricket in Nov 2000.