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 they vote in large numbers. However, democratic institutions and practices remain weak. Bangladesh is generally a force for moderation in international forums, and it is also a long-time leader in international peacekeeping operations. It is the second-largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, with 10,481 troops and police active in November 2009.
Its activities in international organizations, with other governments, and with its regional partners to promote human rights, democracy, and free markets are coordinated and high-profile. Bangladesh became a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2006, and began a second term in 2009. However, an explicit goal of its foreign policy has been to strengthen relations with Islamic states, leading to actions such as voting against a December 2009 UN resolution to improve human rights conditions in Iran. 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. Consequentially, the Bangladesh Government has 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 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 March 2008, the U. S. Government listed Harkatul Jihadi Islami (HUJI)-Bangladesh as a foreign terrorist organization. In October 2009, The Government of Bangladesh added Hizb-ut-Tahrir to the list of banned terrorist organizations. Given its size and location, a major crisis in Bangladesh could have important consequences for regional stability, particularly if significant refugee movements ensue.