updated 1/12/2007 8:47:13 AM ET 2007-01-12T13:47:13

Soldiers arrested an opposition politician Friday in a pre-dawn raid, one day after the president declared a nationwide state of emergency and postponed upcoming elections after weeks of often-violent protests, a police official said.

Dhaka police official Jasim, who uses only one name, would not say what charges Kamal Majumder was facing. Majumder is a member of the Awami League party that organized many of the protests and a candidate in the now-postponed Jan. 22 vote.

Under Bangladesh’s constitution, many fundamental rights are suspended during a state of emergency.

Despite the arrest, much of Bangladesh was calm and there was little sign of military activity after the surprise announcement Thursday night by the president, who also said he was stepping down as head of the caretaker government.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police official Hamidul Islam told The Associated Press on Friday that the government lifted a nighttime curfew imposed a day earlier in Dhaka and more than 60 other cities and towns in the poor and densely populated South Asian country.

Many Bangladeshis were relieved by the president’s announcement, which they hoped would end the often-violent political standoff.

“We welcome the president’s decision, but on condition,” said S.M. Fazlul Hoque, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “We hope now we’ll be able to run our businesses without disruption.”

Increasing strife between parties
President Iajuddin Ahmed’s announcement Thursday was the latest twist in a tumultuous few months marked by increasing strife between rival political camps that has left at least 34 people dead since October, largely paralyzed the government and slowed the economy.

Ahmed did not say when the elections would be held, and fears remained of further turmoil in a country with a history of military rule and violently bitter democratic politics.

“The next two days will be very crucial,” said Nuh Ul Alam, a senior official with the Awami League, the main opposition party which had called for Ahmed to step down. “The political parties will now have to reach a consensus on a new election date and the new interim government.”

There was no immediate reaction from the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Politics in this country of 144 million people are so bitter that the constitution stipulates a caretaker government take over 90 days before elections to oversee the voting — an unusual setup that led to successful, if violent, votes in the past.

But since the caretaker government took power, a 19-party alliance dominated by the Awami League has charged it with favoring its rivals and organized repeated protests and nationwide strikes.

Threat to boycott elections
Earlier this month, it said it would boycott the elections unless the caretaker government met its two main demands: that Ahmed step down and the voter list be revised. To press its point, the alliance threatened more unrest before the vote — a prospect that appeared to force Ahmed’s hand.

“It’s not possible to hold the elections on schedule. We need a flawless voter list to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible,” the president said in his televised speech.

Ahmed said a new interim leader would be named to oversee the vote. In the meantime, one of his advisers, Fazlul Haque, would serve as the head of the caretaker government, he said.

Ahmed will remain president, a largely ceremonial role.

The country’s eight private TV stations were told by the Information Ministry to suspend news programming and relay bulletins from state-run television, according to broadcasts.

“We want to categorically state that gagging the media is not the answer to solving the present political crisis,” said Mahfuz Anam, editor of Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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