KATMANDU, Nepal – King Gyanendra (search) announced a 10-member Cabinet dominated by his own supporters on Wednesday, one day after he dismissed Nepal's government, declared emergency rule and virtually cut his nation off from the world.
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, Katmandu, where civil liberties were severely curtailed.
Gyanendra will head the newly appointed Cabinet, state radio said in a report that gave few details other than the new body's members.
"The king has expressed confidence that everyone will support and cooperate with the new Cabinet," the palace said in a statement.
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 king has the chief executive authority now, so it will be easier for the rebels to come for peace talks. It is what they have been wanting," Shahi said in comments carried on state radio.
The Maoists, who control much of rural Nepal, broke off peace talks in August 2003. The rebels balked at later invitations from the government of ousted Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba (search) to renew the talks, insisting that real authority remained in the hands of the king.
The king on Tuesday fired Deuba's interim government, accusing it of failing to hold parliamentary elections or control the Maoist insurgency. World leaders condemned the power grab — Gyanendra's second in three years — saying it undermined democracy and the fight against the insurgency.
Police began arresting politicians on Tuesday when the king declared emergency rule and continued the arrests Wednesday, said Shovakar Parajuli of the Nepali Congress party.
"We don't even know how many of our people have been arrested," Parajuli said. He estimated that at least 50 of the group's top leaders were arrested.
The tiny Himalayan nation remained largely isolated Wednesday, with telephone and Internet lines cut. The airport was open, but only limited flights were going into Katmandu.
Despite the political turmoil, life appeared largely normal in Katmandu, with most shops open and traffic still heavy enough to clog the city's maze-like streets.
The situation could grow more complicated Thursday, when a nationwide three-day strike called by the country's Maoist rebels could shut down much of the country. The strike was announced before the current political crisis began.
The United Nations, Britain, India and the United States were among the critics of Gyanendra's actions. Australia and New Zealand advised their citizens not to visit Nepal.
The developments in this constitutional monarchy were a throwback to the era of absolute power enjoyed by the royals before King Birendra (search), Gyanendra's elder brother, introduced democracy in 1990.
Gyanendra denied Tuesday's takeover was a coup, although soldiers surrounded the houses of former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other government leaders.
The king suspended several provisions of the constitution, including freedom of the press, speech and expression, peaceful assembly, the right to privacy, and the right against preventive detention, according to a statement from the Narayanhiti Palace.
Three human rights groups — Amnesty International (search), Human Rights Watch (search) and the International Commission of Jurists (search) — expressed concern that the monarch's moves put "the Nepalese people at even greater risk of gross human rights abuses."
"Nepal's last state of emergency in 2001-2002 had led to an explosion of serious human rights violations, including increased extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and a breakdown in the rule of law," the rights groups said in a statement.
The king fired Deuba as prime minister in 2002, sparking mass protests demanding the restoration of an elected government. He reinstated Deuba last year with the task of holding elections by next month and conducting peace talks with Maoist rebels.
Nepal has been in turmoil since Gyanendra, 55, assumed the crown in 2001 after his brother, Birendra, was gunned down in a palace massacre apparently committed by Birendra's son, the crown prince, who also died. In all, 10 members of the royal family were killed.
Riots shook Katmandu after the killings. Soon after, fighting intensified between government forces and the rebels, who control large parts of Nepal's countryside.