|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Bangla President steps down, polls postponed
January 11, 2007 19:30 IST
Last Updated: January 12, 2007 00:28 IST
Bowing to pressure from the Awami League-led major alliance, President Iajuddin Ahmed stepped down as head of Bangladesh's interim government on Thursday and postponed the controversial general elections scheduled for January 22, soon after declaring a state of emergency.
In an address to the nation, Ahmed said he had quit as head of the interim government to 'pave the way for an acceptable election to be participated in by all political parties'.
Official sources said the elections were postponed and no fresh dates had been set for the polls.
The voters' list would be corrected during the emergency, they said.
The fast-paced developments came as violence loomed in the wake of the decision by the alliance led by Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina to stay away from the elections and organise nationwide street protests to press for the removal of Ahmed as head of the interim goverment to ensure free and fair polls.
The United Nations and the European Union suspended the monitoring duties of their observers, saying the political crisis had jeopardized the legitimacy of the polls.
The UN also threatened to remove the Bangladesh Army from peacekeeping duties if it mobilised to support the polls.
All nine other advisors of the 10-member interim government also tendered their resignations, a presidential palace spokesperson said.
The seniormost member of the interim government, Supreme Court Justice Mohammad Fazlul Haque, took over as its acting chief.
Following the declaration of emergency, fundamental rights under the constitution were suspended and an indefinite curfew was imposed in Dhaka and other district headquarters from 11 pm to 5 am.
The right to stage 'all kinds of' rallies and street marches was suspended.
Ahmed said he would constitute a new advisory council in the next few days to organise an 'acceptable poll in the quickest possible time' after consulting all concerned parties.
Until then, Haque would discharge the duties of the head of the interim government.
"The debate sparked by my installation as the chief advisor in addition to my office as the president has divided the nation...in two opposite streams. This situation must end in the interest of the country's progress and advancement," Ahmed said in his televised speech late on Thursday night.
Over 60,000 army and paramilitary forces deployed across the country on Wednesday to maintain law and order and aid the civil administration continued to patrol the streets.
The country's eight private television stations suspended news broadcasts following the declaration of emergency and were asked by the information ministry to relay bulletins from state-run Bangladesh Television.