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Bangladesh

The People's Republic of Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that forms
the eastern part of the ancient region of Bengal, with Bangladesh meaning
"Bengal Land". Laying north of the Bay of Bengal, on land it borders India
almost exclusively, save for a small section bordering Myanmar in the
southeast.

                                                 National motto: None
History
                                          Official
                                          language         Bengali
Bengal became islamic starting in the     Capital          Dhaka
13th century and developed into a wealthy
centre of trade and industry under the    President        Iajuddin Ahmed
Mogul Empire during the 16th century.
European traders had arrived in the late  Prime minister   Begum Khaleda
                                                           Zia
15th century and eventually the British
East India Company controlled the region  Area             Ranked 91st
by the late 18th century, from which the  - Total         144,000 km²
British extended their rule over all of   - % water
India. When Indian independence was                        7.0%
achieved in 1947, it was divided in a     Population       Ranked 8th
predominantly Muslim Pakistan and a       - Total (2002)  133,376,684
predominantly Hindu India.                - Density       926/km²

Bengal was thus divided into an eastern   Independence     From Pakistan
part called East Pakistan and a western   - Declared      March 26, 1971
part, the Indian state of West Bengal.    - Recognised    December 16,
                                                           1971
East Pakistan was dominated and
frequently neglected by West Pakistan and Currency         Taka
tensions turned into a struggle for       Time zone        UTC +6
independence in 1971. The attempted
repression of this movement in March      National anthem  Amar Sonar
                                                           Bangla
resulted in the deaths of hundreds of
thousands of Bengalis and a refugee       Internet TLD     .BD
problem that led to Indian intervention   Calling Code     880
in December and, subsequently,
independence from Pakistan.

Politics

The president, while head of state, holds a largely ceremonial post, with
real power held by the prime minister, who is head of government. The
president is elected by the legislature every 5 years and his normally
limited powers are substantially expanded during the tenure of a caretaker
government, mainly in controlling the transition to a new government.

The prime minister is appointed by the president and must be a member of
parliament (MP) whom the president feels commands the confidence of the
majority of other MPs. The cabinet is composed of ministers selected by the
prime minister and appointed by the president.

The unicameral Bangladeshi parliament is the House of the Nation or Jatiya
Sangsad, whose 300 members are elected by popular vote from single
territorial constituencies for five-year terms of office. The highest
judiciary body is the Supreme Court, of which the chief justices and other
judges are appointed by the president.

Divisions

Bangladesh is subdivided into 6 divisions, all named after their respective capitals:

   * Barisal
   * Chittagong
   * Dhaka
   * Khulna
   * Rajshahi
   * Sylhet

Geography

Bangladesh consists mostly of a low-lying river delta located on the Indian
subcontinent with a largely marshy jungle coastline on the Bay of Bengal
known as the Sundarbans, home to the Bengal Tiger. The densely populated
delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges (local name Padma),
Brahmaputra (Jamuna), and Meghna rivers and their tributaries as they flow
down from the Himalayas. Bangladesh's alluvial soil is highly fertile but
vulnerable to both flood and drought. Hills rise above the plain only in the
Chittagong Hill Tracts (highest point: the Keokradong at 1,230 m) in the far
southeast and the Sylhet division in the northeast.

Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, the Bangladeshi climate is tropical with a
mild winter from October to March, a hot, humid summer from March to June,
and a humid, warm rainy monsoon from June to October. Natural calamities,
such as floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and tidal bores affect the
country almost every year, combined with the effects of deforestation, soil
degradation and erosion. Dhaka is the country's capital and largest city,
other major cities include Chittagong, Rajshahi, and Khulna.

Economy

Despite sustained domestic and international efforts to improve economic and
demographic prospects, Bangladesh remains a poor, overpopulated, and
ill-governed nation. Although more than half of GDP is generated through the
service sector, nearly two-thirds of Bangladeshis are employed in the
agriculture sector, with rice as the single most important product.

Major impediments to growth include frequent cyclones and floods,
inefficient state-owned enterprises, inadequate port facilities, a rapidly
growing labour force that cannot be absorbed by agriculture, delays in
exploiting energy resources (such as natural gas), insufficient power
supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms, caused by political
infighting and corruption.

Demographics

Apart from very small countries such as Singapore and Bahrain, Bangladesh is
the most densely populated country in the world.

The Bangladeshi population is relatively homogenous and consists of about
98% ethnic Bengali, who speak Bengali or Bangla. Urdu-speaking, non-Bengali
Muslims from other regions of India such as Bihar, as well as various tribal
groups who live mostly in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast,
comprise the remainder.

Most Bangladeshis (about 83%) are Muslims, but Hindus constitute a sizable
(16%) minority. There also are a small number of Buddhists, Christians, and
animists. Bengali, a member of the Indo-Aryan languages and written in a
script similar to Devanagari, is the official national language, but English
is generally spoken in urban areas and used in (higher) education and
government.

Bangladesh is plagued by overpopulation, while many people are landless and
forced to live on and cultivate flood-prone land. Resulting diseases and
pollution form a problem, but more pressing is the contamination of ground
water by naturally occurring arsenic, caused in part by public health
efforts encouraging the drilling of wells as an alternative to using water
from contaminated surface water. Arsenic poisoning affects about a quarter
of the population.
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