Success in 2001-2006:
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was established with the aim of strictly suppressing illegal activities, including both local and international terrorist activities, without regard for individual and party interests. Its purpose is to protect the lives, property, and dignity of the people, as well as to establish peace, order, and the rule of law in the country. To strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the law enforcement forces, they have been developed as a valuable force for maintaining internal peace and order. This is achieved by providing them with the necessary training, advanced equipment, modern weapons, and other essential facilities.
- Corruption has spread among all segments and classes of society, leading to extensive and, in many cases, excessive propaganda both domestically and internationally. As a result, even though the majority of the people in Bangladesh lead honest and moral lives, the country's image has been tarnished, particularly abroad. The Anti-Corruption Commission was established to address this situation. In addition to enabling the Anti-Corruption Commission to function independently, impartially, and effectively in accordance with the constitution and the law, active cooperation from elected local government institutions, media, and the public is sought to raise awareness and foster public opinion against corruption.
- The economic development of Bangladesh and the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) are closely intertwined. Each time the BNP has assumed responsibility for governing the country, there has been significant economic progress. If re-elected, the BNP government, which believes in the politics of production and development, will prioritize the private sector and cooperatives to ensure the continued growth of the national economy, industry, and trade. To accelerate this trend of economic development, domestic and foreign investors, particularly expatriate Bangladeshis, will be encouraged to invest in the country by providing necessary facilities. The garment industry, which employs the largest number of workers, especially women, and generates significant foreign exchange, will receive comprehensive support to thrive and expand in international competition. All necessary measures will be taken to protect and promote the development of indigenous industries, especially jute, tea, textiles, sugar, medicine, ceramics, and leather industries. Special training and loan assistance will be provided to educated youth, women entrepreneurs, and cooperatives for the development of small and cottage industries. To balance export trade and create more employment opportunities, full assistance will be provided for the establishment and expansion of agriculture-based and export-oriented industries.
- With the goal of minimizing agricultural production costs and stabilizing and reducing product prices, measures will be taken to apply new technology, research, and research findings in the agricultural sector for the purpose of modernization and development. Adequate arrangements will be made for proper storage, transportation, and marketing of agricultural produce to ensure that farmers receive fair prices for their products while consumers are not compelled to purchase them at inflated prices.
- Despite various obstacles, the four-party coalition government has established and promoted numerous higher education institutions, offering free exams and education for girls. Scholarships are provided to support economically disadvantaged but academically promising students.
- Overall, improving the country's economic condition will create new employment opportunities, with a greater emphasis on rural areas. The rural economy will be strengthened by encouraging small and cottage industries and providing support to the cooperative movement. Efforts will be made to attract more labor-intensive industries to the country and revive production activities in closed industries. Training programs are offered to enhance the employment prospects of skilled workers abroad. Additionally, various programs are implemented to support self-employment initiatives.
- During the tenure of the BNP and the four-party coalition government, there were significant advancements in the country's communication system. Major highways across the country were developed, bridges were constructed over large rivers, a new mooring terminal was built in Chittagong, Bangladesh Railway underwent modernization, the Meghna Bridge near Bhairab and the Dhaleshwari Bridge in Munshiganj was constructed, progress was made in the construction of a third bridge over the Kornaphuli River, and commitments were received from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Japanese financial aid for the construction of the Padma Bridge. Additionally, two new terminal buildings were constructed at Chittagong and Sylhet airports. These achievements highlight the developments in the communication sector during the last five years of the previous BNP and four-party coalition government.
- The BNP has consistently worked towards the overall development of the country, aiming to decentralize administration, establish good governance, and foster competent leadership at the village level. The elected BNP government expanded the opportunities for marginalized individuals to participate in local development and public welfare while maintaining the traditional local government system and the powers and responsibilities of elected representatives.
- The policy of sending members of the defense and police forces to UN peacekeeping missions was maintained, and initiatives were undertaken to further expand its scope.
- The previous BNP coalition government implemented a historic reform program to ensure an independent judiciary, providing easy and cost-effective access to speedy justice and establishing a trusted and dynamic judiciary in the country.
- Efforts were made to empower and elevate the status of women, including providing loans on favorable terms and low-interest rates to women interested in business and self-employment. Priority was given to the recruitment and promotion of women in jobs. Strict measures were taken to prevent dowry, acid attacks, and trafficking of women and children. Ongoing efforts were made to minimize maternal and child mortality rates.
- The BNP, as promised during the 2001 elections, facilitated Bangladesh's connection to the information highway through fiber optic submarine cables. The number of mobile phones increased significantly during the tenure of the BNP and four-party coalition government, from 5 million in 2001 to around 30 million by the end of 2006.
- Special attention was given to providing clean water and sanitation in rural areas, resulting in 90 percent of villagers having access to clean water and nearly all having access to low-cost sanitary sewer systems. Bangladesh achieved the Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule in this regard.
- Efforts were made to ban the use of polythene bags and two-stroke baby taxis and implement plantation and afforestation programs nationwide to protect the environment.
- Recognizing the significant contribution of expatriate workers to the country's economic development, the previous BNP government established the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and endeavored to ensure that Bangladesh embassies abroad played a meaningful role in the welfare of expatriates.
- Steps were taken to gradually establish an effective social safety net for war-wounded and distressed freedom fighters, as well as for poor and destitute women, men, children, and vulnerable senior citizens.
- The government consistently upheld the principles of promoting communal harmony and safeguarding the equal rights of people of all castes and creeds. All malicious attempts to disrupt communal harmony were firmly suppressed.
- Efforts were made to protect the cultural heritage of backward hill and tribal communities, extend employment and educational opportunities, and promote development activities in hilly areas.
Success in 1996 (February – March):
Begum Khaleda Zia won second term in 1996 February election to introduce the caretaker government system in the constitution.
Restructuring democratic transition
To enable a democratic transition through a fair and credible election, the Begum Khaleda Zia government of 1996 introduced an election-time Caretaker Government system within a week of the election. After that, offered her resignation and ran for re-election, which is a rare incident in the history of South Asian politics.
Begum Khaleda Zia won the first election to be held after the 1990 mass uprising where she played a pivotal role in mobilizing people to force Ershad to resign. Begum Zia thus became the first female Prime Minister in Bangladesh and the second female Prime Minister of a Muslim-majority country in the world.
During Begum Khaleda Zia's first tenure as the Prime Minister macroeconomic stability was restored that fueled the economic growth for the next decades. She also brought the country out of foreign aid dependence. It should be noted that in the last year of Ershad's government, Bangladesh was completely dependent on foreign aid. Her trusted finance minister M Saifur Rahman took the lead in driving Bangladesh's economy and bringing prosperity to the nation. As a result, stable economic growth was achieved in the early 1990s when Saifur Rahman emphasized macroeconomic stability -- steady growth, low inflation, and sustainable external deficits.
Bangladesh gradually began to come out from foreign aid dependence due to the introduction of the VAT system and increased revenue collection capacity under Begum Zia. Besides, during Begum Zia's first regime, Bangladesh's GDP grew at an average rate of 4.5% per year, compared to 1.8% during Ershad's tenure.
The government led by Begum Zia enacted several laws and institutions to establish good governance in the economic field, including the Bank Companies Act 1991, Financial Institutions Act 1993, Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission Act 1993 etc. Also, during her rule, the Privatization Board was established to institutionalize the issue of privatization and the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission was established to look after the stock market. These measures were instrumental in restoring investors' confidence.
In 1990, the number of students enrolled at the primary level was about 120 lakh, of which about 54 lahks were female students. In 1996, the total enrollment increased to 176 lahks, of which about 84 lahks were female students. In five years, the enrollment of female students at the primary level has increased by about 30 lakhs.
In January 1994, to encourage women to pursue education and to encourage families to send their daughters to educational institutions, scholarships were provided for female students in educational institutions and free education for girls up to class 10 was ensured.
The government undertook four projects that year. They are Women's Secondary School Support Scheme II, Women's Secondary School Scheme, Secondary Education Sector Development Scheme and Female Secondary Education Scholarship Scheme.
Besides, since 1993, Begum Zia's government introduced a food for education scheme which was gradually expanded to 1,255 unions by 1996.
Note that when Begum Zia was elected as the country's first woman prime minister in 1991, the ratio of male to female students in the country's schools was 55:45, when she finished her term in 1996, this ratio stood at 52:48.
In October 1993, The New York Times wrote about Begum Zia's initiative, 'Now as Prime Minister, Mrs Zia -- in contrast with Benazir Bhutto when she first became Prime Minister of Pakistan -- is aggressively promoting education and vocational training, especially of girls.'
Creating Employment Opportunities
According to a study published by BIDS, between 1990 and 1995 employment in Bangladesh's ready-made garment sector increased by 29%. This employment growth rate did not even reach double digits in the next ten years. When Begum Zia became the prime minister, there were 834 garment factories in the country, by mid-1996 this number had increased to 2,353, that is, the size of the industry had almost tripled. During this time, the foreign exchange income from this sector also increased by three and a half times. Most of the workers in the RMG sector were female and thus, thanks to her policies, women were empowered.
Repatriating Rohingya Refugees
In 1991, soon after the BNP government came to power, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya community started in Myanmar, as a result of which about 270,000 Rohingya refugees entered Bangladesh from the Cox's Bazar border. Begum Zia granted shelter to the Rohingyas and quickly took steps to initiate their repatriation process.
At this time, Bangladesh did not rely on any third party or country and directly identified the issue as an international problem and raised the issue of Rohingya repatriation to the international arena through the United Nations. When Begum Zia visited the White House at the invitation of the U.S. President in March 1992, she requested the U.S. to put pressure on Myanmar and its allies and said she had raised the issue in the UN Security Council. President Bush promised him that he would work to solve the problem through Myanmar's allies in the ASEAN countries.
At that time the behaviour of the Myanmar army was arrogant and they attacked the border of Bangladesh once. In response, Bangladesh also strengthened its military presence on the border with Myanmar.
Begum Zia's initiative yielded quick results. On 5 November 1993, the Myanmar government was forced to sign an agreement with Bangladesh in the mediation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and took back 2,29,483 refugees.
In 1991, when Cyclone Gorki, the strongest cyclone to date, hit Bangladesh, Begum Zia's government was in its third month. The state of the disaster management sector in Bangladesh was poor and lacked coordination.
After the cyclone hit, Begum Khaleda Zia participated in rescue operations in the coastal districts and was involved in monitoring. On her request military personnel from the United States, United Kingdom, China, India, Pakistan and Japan also assisted in the rescue operation. Operation Sea Angel, one of the largest military disaster management and relief efforts in history, was launched. Later, the Japanese government provided assistance in the reconstruction of the affected towns.
Learning from the experience of 1991, Begum Zia's government took up the project of developing a coastal green belt in 1993. It was approved by the Asian Development Bank on 2 March 1995. The loan agreement was signed on April 18. This green belt has subsequently helped Bangladesh mitigate the effects of several cyclones, which are now threatened by coal-fired power plants built along the coast.
The rule of law was re-established in the country within a few days of Ziaur Rahman taking charge. He traveled from one end of the country to the other, aiming to build and unite the nation. He witnessed the people's problems firsthand and gained an understanding of the challenges faced by the country. Swift actions were taken to address these issues. Ziaur Rahman encouraged the direct involvement of the people in development activities, and the citizens responded positively to his call. President Zia successfully fostered strong national unity, and this momentum was channeled into development initiatives.
For the first time in the country, it was freed from the shadow of terror, and a breath of peace blew, marking a transition from instability to stability. The political vacuum came to an end as Ziaur Rahman, after assuming state responsibility, released approximately 10,000 political leaders and activists from prison. He withdrew from the state of emergency and established multi-party democracy in the country.
Zia introduced several successful policies for the development of the country. These included:
Presidential and National Assembly elections held by all parties; increased powers of the National Parliament; restoration of the freedom of the judiciary and the press; an agricultural revolution in the country, revolution in public education and revolution in industrial production; 1400 canals dug and re-dug with a combination of voluntary labor and government assistance to expand irrigation systems; literacy provided to 4 million people in a very short time through the introduction of a mass education program; construction of thousands of miles of roads; increased access to treatment for rural people by appointing 27,500 rural doctors; removal of economic sterility through the establishment of new industrial plants; increased industrial production by introducing three shifts in factories;
increased agricultural production and elevation of the country to the level of food exports; involvement of youth and women society in the development activities of the country through the creation of the Ministry of Youth Development and the Ministry of Women Affairs; increased opportunities for all people to practice their own religion by establishing the Ministry of Religion; progress made in the field of technology by creating the Ministry of Science and Technology; introduction of a village government system to involve village people in the local administration system and development activities at the grassroots level, and create leadership in nation-building from the lowest level; Bangladesh's election to the United Nations Security Council; Bangladesh's inclusion in the three-member Al-Quds Committee; initiatives taken to establish 'SAARC' in the South Asian region; encouragement of the private sector and enterprise; opening doors for the export of all non-traditional products, including manpower export, ready-made garments, frozen food, and handicrafts; and an increase in private investment in industry and expansion of the investment sector. Additionally, during the time of the martyred President Ziaur Rahman, he added "Bismillahir – Rahmani Rahim" (In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Most Merciful) to the beginning of the Constitution.
Bangladesh's election to the United Nations Security Council; Bangladesh's inclusion in the three-member Al-Quds Committee; Taking initiatives to establish 'SAARC' in the South Asian region; Encouraging the private sector and enterprise; Opening doors for the export of all non-traditional products, including manpower export, ready-made garments, frozen food, handicrafts; Increase in private investment in the industry and expansion of the investment sector. Apart from this, the following achievements were attained during the time of martyred President Ziaur Rahman:
Shaheed Zia added "Bismillahir – Rahmani Rahim" (In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Most Merciful) to the beginning of the Constitution.
- In Articles 8(1) and 8(1a), the phrase "full trust and faith in Allah" is added.
- Muslims are given the opportunity to follow the social and legal principles of Shariah and Sunnah.
- Article 12/2 enunciates "the principle of establishing, developing, and strengthening good relations with the Islamic Ummah in the light of brotherhood."
- Bangladeshi nationalism was introduced.
- By initiating a holistic national identity, President Ziaur Rahman gained immense popularity among Bangladeshi minorities such as the Sawtal, Gando, Manipuri, Chakma and even the Urdu-speaking population (Bihari). He replaced the national identifier "Bangladeshi" with the cultural identifier "Badhani" in the constitution.
- Shaheed Zia established and appointed a Hill Development Commission in 1976 with the aim of cultural integration and economic development.
- He organized a tribal convention to facilitate dialogue between the government and various tribal groups.
- The number of Bangladesh Police was doubled, and the strength of the military was increased from 50,000 to 90,000.
- Introduction of the village government system.
- Establishment of a security system in rural areas of Bangladesh and the establishment of village defense forces for the suppression and prevention of crime.
- Various programs aimed at expanding primary and youth education across Bangladesh, especially in rural areas.
- Introduction of readymade garments in Bangladesh and the introduction of the back-to-back LC system.
- Development of economic growth through rapid industrial expansion in the economy of Bangladesh.
- Closer relations and development with the United States and Western Europe.
- Expanding and modernizing relations with Saudi Arabia and China.
- Normalization of relations with Pakistan.
- Development of relations with all Islamic countries.
- Taking necessary initiatives to increase the reputation of Bangladesh in the Middle East.
- Proposing the formation of a regional alliance with South Asian countries with the aim of increasing and strengthening economic and political cooperation at the regional level. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was formed in 1985 through the implementation of this proposal by then-President Hussain Muhammad Ershad. President Shahid Zia was given a special award by this organization for his vision of forming SAARC.