History, Independent Republic
Bangladesh Nationalist Party, populated nation, political disorder, Mujib, parliamentary elections
Bangladesh’s initial government was formed in January 1972 under the leadership of Mujib, who became prime minister. His immediate tasks were to rebuild the war-ravaged nation, reestablish law and order, and reintegrate the numerous Bengali war refugees returning from India and those repatriated from Pakistan. A longer-range goal was to foster economic growth in order to raise the very low living standards of the densely populated nation. In the first years of independence Bangladesh received much aid from abroad, and Mujib nationalized major industries as part of his program of developing the country along the lines of democratic socialism. He had little success, however, in improving the economy, and lawlessness prevailed.
In mid-1974 the country was devastated by floods that destroyed much of the grain crop and led to widespread famine. At the same time, political disorder was increasing, and in late 1974 the government declared a national state of emergency. In early 1975 Mujib became president under a remodeled constitution that granted him virtually dictatorial power. He immediately implemented a one-party system that allowed only his newly formed party, the Bangladesh Krishak-Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL), to participate in government. He was unable to stabilize the political situation, however, and was killed in a military coup d’etat on August 15, 1975. (In 1998 15 former army officers were convicted of his assassination and sentenced to death.)
In November military leaders ousted Mujib’s successor, Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed, who had initiated martial law, and installed Abusadat Muhammad Sayem as president. General Ziaur Rahman (“Zia”) assumed the presidency when Sayem resigned in 1977. Martial law was lifted in 1979, following parliamentary elections in which a party that formed to support Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), gained a majority. Despite a continuing food shortage, the nation made considerable economic progress in 1980 and 1981.
President Zia was assassinated in May 1981 as part of an abortive military coup. He was succeeded by Vice President Abdus Sattar, who won election to the presidency in his own right in November. However, a military coup in March 1982 brought Lieutenant General Hossain Mohammad Ershad to power.
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