Nation in S Asia, on the Bay of Bengal on the S and bordered by India on the W, N, and E and by Myanmar to the SE. Consisting chiefly of the delta that combines the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers. The land is low-lying, humid, and subject to floods. Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. Its people are 80 percent Muslim. As part of the region long known as Bengal, it has been controlled by various states, including the Mogul Empire. British from the 18th century, it was part of Imperial British India from 1857–1947. In that year it became independent as part of the new nation of Pakistan. As East Pakistan it was separated from West Pakistan by more than 1,000 miles of Indian territory.
Although East Pakistan had the larger population, the government was centered in West Pakistan, and that part of the nation was favored. In December 1970 the Awami League, representing East Pakistan and led by Mujibur Rahman, known as Sheikh Mujib, won a majority of seats in parliament, but the legislators were not allowed to meet. As a result, civil war broke out on March 15, 1971, and independence was declared the next day. After Pakistani army massacres of civilians that shocked the world, in December India recognized Bangladesh, entered the war on its side, and in two weeks defeated West Pakistan. Pakistan did not recognize Bangladesh until February 1974. Dacca became the capital and Sheikh Mujib the president. Banks and many businesses were nationalized in 1972. Mujib’s powers were made dictatorial in January 1975. On August 15, 1975, Mujib was assassinated by a group of army officers. Ziaur Rahman, who became president in 1977, was assassinated on May 30, 1981, in a coup that, though unsuccessful in toppling the government, attested to the instability of Bangladesh. The country remains one of the poorest in the world, and recovery has been hampered by many natural disasters including cyclones and flooding. In 2002, President Badruddoza Chowdhury of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party was forced to resign as governmental instability continued between the ruling coalition and the minority Awami League.