2007年 01月 12日







Curfew ends in Bangladesh capital

An overnight curfew in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, imposed under a national state of emergency, has ended.

President Iajuddin Ahmed applied the measures and quit as interim leader in a surprise announcement on Thursday.

He also postponed a planned 22 January vote, saying it was "not possible to hold the elections on schedule".

The move follows weeks of violent protests amid claims by a political alliance, led by the Awami League party, that the vote is being rigged.

Across the country the violence has left more than 40 people dead.

Following the lifting of the overnight curfew early on Friday morning, the streets of Dhaka are again full of traffic, correspondents say.

The state of emergency raised concern in a country which has experienced periods of military rule and coup attempts since independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The measures suspended some basic rights under the constitution, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech.

And although the newspapers contain pictures of Mr Ahmed's late-night television address announcing the state of emergency, private media organisations have already been told to stop broadcasting news and current affairs programmes and newspapers warned not to criticise the government.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Dhaka says nobody knows how long the state of emergency will remain.

Under the Bangladesh constitution the caretaker government must organise elections within 90 days - Thursday's developments take the country into uncertain and uncharted territory.

'Victory for people'

The Awami League party has described the decision to postpone the elections as a "victory for the people".

"By admitting that the voter list had errors, and quitting as head of the interim government, he [the president] has in fact accepted our main demands," opposition spokesman Abdul Jalil told the AFP news agency.

Amending the electoral register was a central demand, as was Mr Ahmed's removal as chief adviser to the caretaker government.

There as no immediate reaction from the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which stepped down as the ruling party in October to pave the way for the caretaker government.

Mr Ahmed said on Thursday that he would stay on in his largely ceremonial post of president. Nine of 10 members of his caretaker administration are also reported to have resigned.

The president said one of his advisers, Fazlul Haque, would serve as head of the caretaker government until he had named a replacement.

"I will, in a couple of days, appoint a new interim leader to hold an election in which all parties will be able to participate," he told the nation.

Change needed

Mr Ahmed did not specify a new general election date, but made clear there should be key changes before the vote is held.

"We need a flawless voter list to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible."

The Awami League party and its allies announced last week they were boycotting the vote because they said it was not going to be fair.

The party has led mass demonstrations which have at times brought the country to a standstill in recent months. There have been violent clashes between police and supporters of rival political groupings.

The Awami League has long alleged electoral bias in favour of its bitter rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which left office in October. The BNP rejected the allegations of bias and had said it would take part in the vote.

by kototora | 2007-01-12 14:26 | life in Dhaka

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