DHAKA, Bangladesh — President Hossain Mohammad Ershad declared a state of emergency in Bangladesh today and banned all anti-government strikes and protests.
He said in a proclamation that he was forced to assume emergency powers because the country was faced with internal strife, insecurity and economic danger.
Ershad assumed the emergency powers to forestall a 72-hour general strike called for Sunday by the country's 21 opposition parties in a national campaign to oust him.
The opposition has staged a total of 192 hours of strikes in recent weeks. A government minister said the stoppages, the longest in the country's history, had shattered the economy.
The government also imposed a 36-hour curfew on the capital, Dhaka, and the two southern port towns of Chittagong and Khulna.
"Whereas the president is satisfied that an emergency condition exists in the country for which Bangladesh has been exposed to internal strife, security and economic danger, he is therefore pleased to proclaim a state of emergency," the announcement said.
Ershad also ordered suspension of all fundamental rights of citizens and said courts will be barred from trying any cases related to them.
A separate order by the Interior Ministry said the proclamation of emergency and its ordinances could not be questioned by signs, words or hints.
The order banned publication of any news or comments on activities prohibited by emergency powers. It also outlawed criticism of any government decision.
Ershad's proclamation, broadcast on state television, said curfew will be imposed from tonight to 6 p.m. on Sunday in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Narayanganj and Rajshahi.
All industries and offices will remain shut during the curfew until Sunday, said the order, also broadcast by state radio.
Strikes, Lockouts Banned
It added that strikes and lockouts in mills, factories and commercial establishments are banned for two months and all kinds of rallies and marches are prohibited.
The ministry also ordered that all educational establishments in Bangladesh remain closed until Dec. 4.
It said anyone violating the emergency orders could be jailed for up to three years and fined.
State television said Ershad would make a national broadcast Saturday and explain the reasons that led to the proclamation of emergency.
Opposition sources said police arrested several political leaders soon after the declaration of the emergency. Among those detained were former Speaker of Parliament Mirza Golam Hafiz and an opposition Parliament member, Zillur Rahman.
Police said several other opposition leaders went into hiding.