Despite serious problems related to a dysfunctional political system, weak governance, and pervasive corruption, Bangladesh remains one of the few democracies in the Muslim world. Bangladeshis regard democracy as an important legacy of their bloody war for independence, and vote in large numbers. However, the practice and understanding of democratic concepts is often shallow. The current government has banned all political activities and has yet to set a date for elections or its own departure from office. Bangladesh is generally a force for moderation in international forums, and it is also a long-time leader in international peacekeeping operations. Its activities in international organizations, with other governments, and its regional partners to promote human rights, democracy, and free markets are coordinated and high profile. In May 2005, Bangladesh became a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Bangladesh lies at the strategic crossroads of South and Southeast Asia. Potential terrorist movements and activities in or through Bangladesh pose a potentially serious threat to India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Burma, as well as Bangladesh itself. The Bangladesh Government routinely denies Indian allegations that Indian insurgents in northeast India operate out of Bangladesh and that extremist Islamist forces are overwhelming Bangladesh’s traditionally moderate character. It also denies there is any international terrorist presence in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Government, however, banned a number of Islamic extremist groups in recent years. In February 2002, the government banned Shahdat al Hiqma, in February 2005 it banned Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and in October 2005 it banned Harkatul Jehad Al Islami (HUJI). Following the August 17, 2005 serial bombings in the country, the government launched a crackdown on the extremists. In 2006, seven senior JMB leaders were sentenced to death for their role in the 2005 murder of two judges. Six of the seven were executed in March 2007; another leader was tried and sentenced to death in absentia in the same case. In May 2005, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) killed six alleged Indian rebels in a raid on a house near the border with India in north-eastern Maulvibazar district. In June 2006, army and RAB personnel killed 10 gunrunners, who media reports described as suspected Indian insurgents, in a remote forest in southeastern Rangamati Hill district. Given its size and location, a major crisis in Bangladesh could have important consequences for regional stability, particularly if significant refugee movements ensue.