Bangladesh History and Politics

Bangladesh History and Politics


The exact origin of the word “Bangla” or “Bengal” is unknown, although it is believed that it derives from Bang, a Dravidian-speaking tribe that settled in the region around 1000 BC. In this area, the kingdom of Gangaridai was formed from the end of the 7th century BC, although later it was united with the kingdom of Bihar, to finally be subdued by the empires of Magadha, Nanda, Maurya and Sunga.

From the 3rd to the 6th century, Bengal was part of the Gupta and Harsha Vardhana empires. After the fall of the latter, a Bengali leader named Shashanka founded a short-lived kingdom in Bengal. In this way, Shashanka is considered the first independent king in the history of Bangladesh. 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.

According to localcollegeexplorer, Islam was introduced to Bengal in the 12th century by Muslim merchants and Sufi missionaries; subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread Islam throughout the region.

In 1204, Bakhtiar Khilji, a Turkic general, defeated Lakshman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered much of Bengal. For the next several centuries, the region was ruled by dynasties of Bhuiyan sultans and lords.

In the 16th century, the Mughal Empire conquered the territory of Bengal, while Dhaka became an important center of the Mughal administration.

Twentieth century

When India was divided in 1947, Bengal was separated according to religious tendencies: the western part was integrated with India and the eastern part was united with Pakistan, as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), with its capital in Dhaka.

In 1950, a major land reform was carried out in East Bengal with the abolition of the Zamindari feudal system. However, despite the economic and demographic importance of the eastern part, the Pakistani government and army were largely dominated by the upper classes of the western part.

The 1952 Bengali Language Movement was the first sign of friction between the two parts of Pakistan. Discontent with the central government over economic and cultural issues continued to rise over the next decade, during which the Awami League emerged as the political voice of the Bengali-speaking population.

In the 1960s it called for the autonomy of the region and in 1966, its president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was imprisoned, being released in 1969 after an unprecedented popular uprising.

In 1970, a strong cyclone devastated the coast of East Pakistan, killing more than half a million people, but the response from the central government was almost nil. The discontent of the Bengali population grew when Sheikh Mujibur Rahmanwas prevented from taking office, when the Awami League candidate won a majority in Parliament in the 1970 elections.

After holding negotiations with Mujibur Rahman, Pakistani President Yahya Khan arrested him in the early morning of March 26, 1971 and launched Operation Searchlight, a military assault carried out in East Pakistan. Yahya’s methods were extremely bloody and the violence of the war resulted in numerous civilian deaths.

The main targets of this operation included intellectuals and Hindus, while around 10 million refugees fled to India. Estimates of war victims range from 300,000 to 3 million people dead. Before his arrest by the Pakistani army, Mujibur Rahmanformally declared Bangladesh’s independence and encouraged the entire population to fight until the last soldier in the Pakistani army was expelled from East Pakistan.

The leaders of the Awami League established a government in exile in Calcutta, India. The 14 of April of 1971, this government in exile swore in Mujib Nagar formally as the first president of Bangladesh, with Tajuddin Ahmad as the prime minister of the country.

Government and politics

The parliament building is known as Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban and was designed by architect Louis Kahn. Currently, the parliament has 345 members including 45 seats reserved for women, elected in electoral districts.

The prime minister, like the head of government, chooses the members of the cabinet and is in charge of the day-to-day affairs of the state.

The president is the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the Bangladeshi army, in addition to being elected by the parliament. While the prime minister is formally appointed by the president, the latter must be a member of parliament to fill the position.

The powers of the president increase during the term of a transitional government, which is responsible for the conduct of elections and the transfer of power. Officials in this government must be impartial and have three months to complete their task. This transitional period is an innovation that was pioneered in the 1991 elections and was later institutionalized in 1996 through the 13th constitutional amendment.

The Constitution of Bangladesh was drawn up in 1972 and has undergone fourteen amendments. The most important judicial body is the Supreme Court, whose judges are appointed by the president. However, judicial institutions and the application of justice are weak.

The separation of the judiciary from the executive power was implemented on November 1, 2007, and it is expected that with this the legal system will become stronger and more impartial. Laws are loosely based on English common law, but family matters, such as marriage and inheritance, are based on religious customs and therefore differ according to the beliefs of each community.

The two most important political parties are the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP is led by Khaleda Zia and its allies include several Muslim parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh and the Islami Oikya Jot, while the Awami League of Sheikh Hasina aligns itself with leftist and secular ideology parties. Hasina and Zia are rivals who have dominated the political scene for more than fifteen years; each is related to one of the leaders of the independence movement. Another important party is the Jatiya Party, headed by former military dictator Ershad.

The rivalry between the Awami League and the BNP has been characterized by protests, violence and murder. The study of politics is important among young Bangladeshis, one of the legacies of the era of the liberation movement. Almost all parties have highly active student groups, plus some student leaders have been elected as members of parliament. In February 2005, two radical Muslim terrorist organizations, the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and the Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), were identified and banned.

Several small-scale terrorist attacks, which occurred since 1999, have been attributed to these groups, and dozens of suspected members have been detained in security operations, including the heads of the two parties in 2006. Thanks to both leaders being tried and Executed, the Bangladeshi government was praised by various world leaders, including some Western leaders, for its strong stance against terrorism.

Bangladesh History and Politics