KATHMANDU: Nepal's King Gyanendra unveiled a 10-member cabinet under his leadership yesterday, a day after he sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for failing to hold elections or end an escalating civil war with Maoist rebels. Dozens of politicians have been arrested and many more have gone underground to avoid detention, an opposition figure said, as extra riot police and soldiers patrolled the streets of the capital, where civil liberties were severely curtailed.
Shortly after the king swore in his new Cabinet, Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi said the government would soon be approaching the Maoist rebels to renew talks. The Maoists broke off peace talks in August 2003. The rebels balked at later invitations from the government of Deuba to renew the talks, insisting that real authority remained in the hands of the king.
The UN, Britain, India and the US were among the critics of Gyanendra's actions. Australia and New Zealand advised their citizens not to visit Nepal.
Three human rights groups - Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists - also rapped the move.
But many Nepalis seemed happy to see the back of politicians widely regarded as corrupt and incompetent. Tourists still come to Nepal in their tens of thousands. Despite the political turmoil, life appeared largely normal in Kathmandu, with most shops open and traffic still heavy.
However, the nation remained largely isolated yesterday, with telephone and Internet lines cut.
Soldiers were deployed at the offices of many of the country's top newspapers and editors were warned to be careful about what they publish in the coming days.