Bangladesh emerged as an independent state on 16 December 1971 with an empty treasury, a destroyed infrastructure and a traumatised population who had suffered inhuman tragedy at the hands of the Pakistan Army. A large part of the population was displaced by the war, homes were destroyed, the principal breadwinner of many families killed, and innumerable women raped. In 1974, the country faced yet another human tragedy in the form of a famine where thousands perished. At that time, various pundits stated that Bangladesh would not survive as an independent nation. Some even called the new country a ‘bottomless basket’.
While the predictions of collapse have proved wrong, the country has had a turbulent history. Two presidents were assassinated and national leaders have been shot and killed inside the Dhaka Central Jail. Today, inter-party and intra-party political assassinations take place with terrifying frequency. In the past forty-six years, Bangladesh was under military rule on three occasions and each rule lasted several years. The last time the military took over it was practically invited by politicians to do so because the leading political parties could not agree on how the caretaker government or the election commission should be composed. The nation is divided between the two main political parties – the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Professional associations are also divided along the same line, no longer pursuing the goals for which they were created – to benefit the profession. Instead, lawyers, engineers, doctors and other professionals pursue narrow political interests often driven by corrupt motives. Consequently, university teachers look after neither the interests of the university nor that of its students. The leaders of student political parties are in their forties and are not students. Many are associated with the underworld. Bangladeshis cannot expect any government service due to them without greasing the palms of officials who provide the service. The same is true if one is aggrieved and seeks justice in the courts.