Separate eastern part of Pakistan (1947-71)
When India was partitioned (1947), the predominantly Muslim part of Bengal came to Pakistan and, as East Pakistan, formed its eastern half of the state; it was separated from West Pakistan by a distance of about 1,500 km through the territory of the Indian Union. The concentration of political and economic power in the western half of Pakistan as well as linguistic and cultural differences between the two parts of the country triggered tensions and led to the emergence of an autonomy movement supported by the Awami League in East Pakistan. In the 1970 general election, the Awami League won 167 of the 169 mandates envisaged by the electoral law for East Pakistan and at the same time gained an absolute majority in the Pakistani parliament.
Independence Movement and Indo-Pakistani Armed Forces (1971)
On March 26, 1971, M. Rahman , the leader of the Awami League, proclaimed the independent Republic of Bangladesh. With the help of the army, the Pakistani central government brutally suppressed these efforts and thus triggered a civil war and a strong flow of refugees (almost 10 million people) to India. The Biharis who immigrated to East Pakistan from Bihar in India in 1947 were also involved in the conflict. a. because of their partisanship for the Pakistani central government, under which they had a privileged position, directed pogroms by the Bengalis (afterwards part of the Biharis moved to what is now Pakistan, several hundred thousand are placed in camps in Bangladesh).
The Indian government’s massive support for East Pakistan’s striving for independence (including for the Mukti Bahini guerrilla units set up by the Awami League and other parties) exacerbated the Indian-Pakistani tensions that had repeatedly erupted since the division of the Indian subcontinent and led to it in December 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
“People’s Republic” under Mujibur Rahman (1971–75)
After the surrender of the Pakistani troops (December 16, 1971), M. Rahman, who was released from Pakistani custody, took over as Prime Minister of the government of the new state of Bangladesh in January 1972 (on December 16, 1972 the constitution of the » People’s Republic of Bangladesh «). Through extensive nationalization, v. a. In industry, trade, banking and transport, a planned economy system should be created. The Awami League emerged from the first general election in 1973 as the strongest party (with an absolute majority in parliament). In 1974, Bangladesh and Pakistan recognized each other.
In the same year, famine and domestic power struggles brought Bangladesh to the brink of civil war again. M. Rahman responded with an amendment to the constitution (January 1975), which gave him dictatorial powers as president and elevated the Awami League to a state party (the only approved party as the »People’s League of Workers and Peasants of Bangladesh«); domestic political repression increased sharply. In August 1975, M. Rahman was overthrown in an officer coup and murdered along with almost his entire family. The country came under martial law.
Bangladesh under martial law administration and presidential rule (1976-90)
After further military coups, General Zia ur-Rahman prevailed as the leading politician in Bangladesh. Since 1976 “Supreme Martial Law Administrator” and since 1977 also President of the State, he initiated domestic political stabilization, supported by the military. In the presidential elections of 1978, the population confirmed him as head of state with a large majority. After a lengthy process of democratization, the newly founded Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which supports Zia ur-Rahman , won a two-thirds majority in the 1979 elections; the Awami League became the strongest opposition party.
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When President Zia ur-Rahman was assassinated in a failed coup on May 30, 1981, Vice-President Abdus Sattar (* 1906, † 1985) took office (confirmed by popular election in November 1981). In March 1982, however, he was overthrown by a bloodless military coup. General Husain Mohammed Ershad (* 1930, † 2019) took over the leadership of the country as »Supreme Martial Law Administrator«, re-imposed martial law (until 1986) and named himself President in 1983 (confirmed by elections in 1986, victory in 1986 and 1988 for those he led Jatiya Dal party). After continuing unrest against his regime, President Ershad had to go resign in December 1990 (sentenced to long imprisonment in several trials 1991–93, released in 1997).
Return to the parliamentary system and power struggle between two politicians (since 1991)
The parliamentary elections on February 27, 1991 were won by the BNP under the leadership of Khaleda Zia , who in 1981 assumed the political inheritance of her murdered husband Zia ur-Rahman. In March 1991, she became the first woman in Islamic Bangladesh to assume the office of prime minister. After a constitutional amendment by referendum in September 1991 (replacement of the presidential regime by a parliamentary system), Abdur Rahman Biswas (* 1926, † 2017) was elected President in October 1991.
The military persecution of Muslims living in Myanmar (the Rohingya in the Rakhine state, who are ethnically related to the Bengali) triggered their mass exodus to Bangladesh (around 250,000 people by spring 1992); After tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar (border crossing by soldiers from Myanmar in December 1991), the two countries agreed on April 28, 1992 to repatriate the Muslim refugees, although their number initially continued to rise.
After Islam was elevated to the status of the state religion (1988), the activities of Muslim fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh intensified (including the demand for the introduction of a blasphemy law, persecution of the Islam-critical writer Taslima Nasrin).
In the power struggle with the Zia government, the opposition, especially the Awami League led by Hasina Wajed , Mujibur Rahman’s eldest daughter, initiated numerous militant demonstrations and general strikes from 1994 onwards, which severely impaired the country’s economy. After a parliamentary boycott that began in March 1994, the opposition politicians resigned their seats in December 1994 in order to force the government to resign and to establish a neutral transitional government before the new elections. In November 1995, President Rahman Biswas dissolved parliament.
The elections of February 15, 1996, boycotted by the opposition and carried out with a very low turnout, were won by the BNP under Khaleda Zia , but ongoing mass protests and the transfer of state officials to the side of the opposition paralyzed government work and finally led to the resignation at the end of March 1996 by Prime Minister Zia and her cabinet. After that, an interim government under the former Chief Justice Mohammed Habibur Rahman (* 1928, † 2014) took over the official business.
After the victory of the Awami League in the parliamentary elections on June 12, 1996, Hasina Wajed became Prime Minister. On October 8, 1996, Shahabuddin Ahmad (* 1930) , a retired Chief Justice, took office as President. In December 1997, the government signed a peace treaty with the underground Buddhist Chakma (Shanti Bahini) movement, which has been guerrilla fighting in the mountainous region of Chittagong in the south-east since the 1970s.
Domestically, the disputes between the government and the v. a. opposition consisting of Islamists and representatives of the previous regime (general strikes, violent demonstrations). The parliamentary elections on October 1, 2001, overshadowed by bloody incidents, were won by an alliance formed by the BNP with two Islamist parties (Jamaat-e-Islami and the United Islamic Front), which won a two-thirds majority; The opposition leader Khaleda Zia then became prime minister. After the short term of office of Badruddoza Chowdhury (* 1932) as President (November 2001 – June 2002; resignation), he was followed in September 2002 by the former university professor Yazuddin Ahmed (* 1931, † 2012)as head of state. The time after that was also characterized by persistent domestic political instability (further general strikes, protests) and rampant corruption, religious violence (attacks by Islamist extremists on pilgrimage sites) and an increase in political murders, which mostly remained unexplained. On August 21, 2004, Hasina Wajed narrowly escaped a bomb attack after a mass rally in Dhaka, which killed 19 people. The irreconcilable rivalry between Khaleda Zia and Hasina Wajed continued to prevent consensus-oriented domestic political developments.
In a civil war-like power struggle with the ruling BNP, the opposition Awami League forced the suspension of the parliamentary election planned for early January 2007. President Yazuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency and appointed a transitional government under Fakhruddin Ahmed (* 1940) , a former director of the state bank. Former heads of government Hasina Wajed and Khaleda Zia , arrested since 2007 on charges of corruption, were released in June and September 2008, respectively. Hasina Wajed won the Awami League in the parliamentary elections on December 29, 2008a clear victory and secured 263 of the 300 seats in parliament together with allied parties; the BNP with its allies and with its top candidate Khaleda Zia only got 33 seats. Hasina Wajed took up the post of Prime Minister again on January 6, 2009. AL politician Mohammad Zillur Rahman (* 1929, † 2013) took over the post of head of state on February 12 , 2009.
In 2010, Bangladesh set up a special tribunal (International Crimes Tribunal, ICT) to investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated against civilians during the 1971 struggle for independence. Charges were brought against leading members of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami in particular. The tribunal also passed several death sentences, which exacerbated conflicts with the opposition, which accused the government of using the special tribunal to eliminate political opponents.
In 2011, parliament abolished a constitutional amendment introduced in 1996 with the provision that 90 days before parliamentary elections the business of government should be transferred to a transitional government in order to ensure an orderly election process. As a result, the domestic political disputes between the ruling Awami League and the BNP escalated again, which, as a result of the constitutional amendment, no longer saw a fair electoral process as a given. After the death of Mohammad Zillur Rahman in March 2013, the previous speaker of parliament, Abdul Hamid (* 1944), became the country’s new head of state.
On April 24, 2013, a building complex in Dhaka that contained several textile factories collapsed. Over 1100 people lost their lives in the process. As a result, hundreds of thousands protested against the inadequate working and safety conditions in the textile industry.