As a modern nation-state, Bangladesh is one of the youngest, born only in 1971. The land that comprises the nation, however, has a history spanning over thousands of years and been known the world over including medieval Europe as the place where paradise is. To be sure, the then Bengal has been one of the most prosperous regions of the sub-continent, so much so, that not only other kings within the sub-continent tried to subjugate it, but sails were set also by Europeans in search of the land. In any case, she was much coveted by all and thus remained at the centre of imperial intrigues, attempted conquests and the valiant resistance by local princes and people. And the last of the marauders before modern times were the British who on 23 June, 1757 defeated the then Nawab of Bengal in a battle and used it as the staging ground for conquering much of the rest of India to start nearly two centuries of colonial exploitation. Came 1947 and the British departed, leaving behind a divided India. Bangladesh became a part of the then Pakistan and came to be known as East Pakistan. She remained a colony in all but name of the West Pakistani ruling clique during the next 24 years.
During these 24 years, political struggle ensued again, first to demand the right of using Bengali, the mother tongue of the majority of the people; then against various economic, social and political injustices. The struggle culminated in 1971 in an armed struggle against Pakistani army, which earlier embarked on a mission of indiscriminate pillage, loot, rape and genocide. The country finally became free of invaders when the Pakistani Army surrendered on 16th December, 1971 to the Mukti Bahini (Bangladesh Liberation Army) and the Indian Army. The political history since liberation had been somewhat checkered. At present, it is a parliamentary democracy along the Westminster model.
Administrative divisions: 6 divisions; Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, and Sylhet;
Independence Day: 26 March, 1971;
National holiday: Independence Day, 26 March; Victory Day, 16 December;
Constitution: Parliamentary democracy ;
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal ;
Head of state: Professor Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed
Head of government: Begum Khaleda Zia
Cabinet: Cabinet selected by the Prime Minister and appointed by the President.
Unicameral National Parliament or Jatiya Sangsad (300 seats; 300 elected by popular vote from single territorial constituencies; members serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court, the Chief Justices and other judges are appointed by the President
International organization participation: All major UN organizations, ADB, World Bank, IMF.
With an area of about 144,000 sq km, Bangladesh is situated between latitudes 20 degrees 34' and 26 degree 38' north and longitudes 88 degree 01' and 92 degree 41' east. The country is bordered by India on the east, west and north and by the Bay of Bengal on the south. There is also a small strip of frontier with Burma on the southeastern edge. The land is a deltaic plain with a network of numerous rivers and canals. Hilly regions on the northeast and southeast with an average elevation of 244m and 610m respectively mark a variation to the general topography of the country. The highest point (1230m) is located at the southeastern extremity of the erstwhile district of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Roughly two-thirds of Bangladesh is fertile arable land and a little over 10% remains forested. The country is home to the Royal Bengal tiger in the Sundarbans, one of the largest mangrove forests in the world. There are also plenty of monkeys, langurs, gibbons (the only ape on the subcontinent), otters and mongooses. Reptiles include the sea tortoise, mud turtle, river tortoise, pythons, crocodiles and a variety of poisonous snakes. There are more than 600 species of birds. Bangladesh also has the largest number of fresh water fish in the world.
Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest, most densely populated, and least developed nations. The economy is largely agricultural, with the cultivation of rice the single most important activity. Major impediments to growth include frequent cyclones and floods, a rapidly growing labor force that cannot be absorbed by agriculture, inadequate power supplies, and slow progress towards various necessary reforms. Natural hazards remain a major worry. Recently, severe floods, lasting from July to October 1998, endangered the livelihood of more than 20 million people.
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