Bangladesh: A Country Study supersedes the 1975 Area Handbook for Bangladesh. Although much of what characterizes Bangladesh--its status as one of the world's largest but poorest countries and its corresponding need for international aid, its susceptibility to severe natural disasters, and the optimism of its people--has not changed in the years between publication of these two books, a considerable number of major developments have occurred. Just before the Area Handbook for Bangladesh went to press in 1975, the founding father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Mujib), and several members of his family were assassinated. The ensuing years brought two periods of transitional political instability, each followed by relative stability under long-term military regimes. More than a year passed after Mujib's death before Bangladesh Army chief of staff Ziaur Rahman (Zia) emerged as chief martial law administrator in November 1976. Zia assumed the presidency in April 1977, but he, too, became the victim of an assassination plot in May 1981. Army chief of staff Hussain Muhammad Ershad, after considerable hesitation, assumed the position of chief martial law administrator following a bloodless coup in March 1982 and became president in December 1983. By 1986 martial law had been relaxed, and civilian control gradually replaced military rule throughout all sectors of society. In 1988 Ershad continued to consolidate his role as civilian ruler of Bangladesh by calling for parliamentary elections and establishment of Islam as the state religion of Bangladesh. Continual pressure from opposition political forces shook the Ershad regime as the 1980s continued.
The authors of the 1975 work were examining a nation only slightly more than three years old. In contrast, the authors of the new edition have aimed to show the maturity Bangladesh has attained over nearly twenty years of development. Despite the continual adversity faced by Bangladeshis as they confront their historical development, difficult climate, burgeoning population, and fractious political forces, a national identity has emerged. Although the nation has much to accomplish in order to meet the basic needs of its people, much has been achieved in the 1970s and 1980s. Economic achievements have been made. Persistent demands by the people for basic freedoms and political expression have moved the country toward democratic rule. In international forums, Bangladesh's representatives had taken strong stands against injustice and in defense of their nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The transliteration of Bangla--the national language--varies widely among Bangladeshi and foreign scholars. Common family names may be transliterated in several ways, for example, Choudhury, Chaudri, Chowdhury, and several other variants. Where it is known, the authors have followed the spelling used by the individual. In other instances, the authors have followed the form used by the Bangladesh government; for example, the word national is transliterated as jatiyo, although many American sources use the less phonetically accurate jatiya. To the extent possible, the authors have used the place-names established by the United States Board on Geographic Names, e.g., Dhaka instead of Dacca.
A bibliography of works used in researching the book is included. Whereas major sources of information are published in English, the readers of this book, after referring to the English- and other Western-language sources cited in the bibliography, may want to consult Bangla- language sources, such as the daily newspapers Azad (Free), Ittefaq (Unity), Sangbad (News), or Dainik Bangla (Daily Bangla); periodicals, such as the weekly Bichitra (Variety), Rahbar (Guide), or Sachitra Sandhani (Seeing Through Pictures); or the armed forces journal Senani (Army).
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