The second experiment of the United Nations, in bringing peace to Nepal and helping to democratize the Nepali society with an elected government under a new constitution, is yet to provide some stability to the land locked country that has Maoist Communists dictating terms.
Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda Monday said the month-old ruling coalition of new premier Madhav Kumar Nepal would fall ‘within weeks’ and a new national government would be formed.
Prachanda, whose party’s top leadership Monday winded up their 13-day meeting to chalk out future strategy, dismissed Nepal’s fledgling government as a ‘drop of water’ and said there was no question of his party joining it.
However, he said the six-party communist-led government would fall ‘in a matter of weeks’ and a national government would come to fore. He also dismissed the fresh controversy about the merger of the Maoists’ guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with the national troops, saying the integration would proceed as it had done during his eight-month government when he himself had headed the special committee formed to address the thorny issue.
When Nepal was sworn in last month – as the 18th prime minister of Nepal in less than 19 years – the Maoists had given his government three months. The communist-led government had a rocky start with the cabinet unable to expand beyond three ministers due to bitter infighting among his allies for cushy ministries.
Even now, after three expansions and a cabinet of 30, Nepal is still struggling to include all the allies.
The Maoist prediction comes even as the government Monday formed a team under senior communist leader and former minister Ishwor Pokhrel to reach an understanding with the former rebels.
Since the fall of their government May 4, the Maoists have kept up a siege on parliament, refusing to let it conduct its business. The nearly two-month delay has raised fears that the republic would miss its date with history and fail to promulgate a new constitution by next May.
Pokhrel has been asked to mediate with the Maoists so that the siege is called off. Nepal is asserting that his government would complete its mandate of writing the new constitution by next year.
Sudeshna Sarkar – 29 June, 2009 Copyright Indo-Asian News Service
Nepal PM Madhav Kumar in fresh army controversy
Almost two months after Nepal’s Maoist government became embroiled in a row with the army and was ousted from power, the republic’s new Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal now finds himself dragged into yet another controversy involving both the army and the Maoist guerrilla forces.
The Prime Minister’s Office was forced to issue a clarification Sunday after the controversy snowballed and threatened to wedge a deeper rift between the ruling coalition and the Maoists, who are warning to go on the warpath.
The row erupted after British news agency Reuters asked the new prime minister about the contentious issue of merging the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the Nepal Army.
The agency quoted the premier as saying that Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda ‘had told him and other leaders that up to 5,000 Maoist fighters who fulfilled the recruitment criteria should be absorbed in the army’.
‘So, if their leader confirms that thinking, then there is no question of integrating the total number of Maoist combatants in the army,’ the agency reported the premier as saying.
The report, picked up by other media, caused anger among the Maoists and reportedly, displeasure in the army.
The Maoists accused Nepal of speaking out of turn. According to the peace pact they signed three years ago to end their armed uprising, only the special committee formed to direct the merger is authorised to take a decision on the issue. They have also pointed out that a verification conducted by the UN with the consensus of all major parties, including Nepal’s own, indicates there are about 19,000 PLA combatants who are eligible to be inducted into the army.
The Maoists are also blaming India for the controversy, alleging that the prime minister talked about inducting 5,000 PLA fighters after a ‘secret’ meeting between Defence Minister Vidya Bhandari and the Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood. The statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office Sunday said Nepal had not said anything about inducting 5,000 PLA men in the army. It also said the prime minister should not be misinterpreted on an issue as sensitive as the integration.
The statement pointed out that when asked how the merger would proceed, Nepal had said his government would honour the peace agreement and the integration committee would be reconstituted.
‘(The PM had said that) no homework has yet been done on the total number of people to be inducted in the security forces,’ the statement said. ‘If we have to talk on the basis of a rough idea, Prachanda told me and (former prime minister) Girija Prasad Koirala that 3,000-5,000 combatants have to be inducted into security forces, the army.
‘If the (PLA’s) own leaders confirm this thinking, then there’s no question of absorbing the entire number in the army.’
The merger of the two armies came into dispute earlier this year after a leaked video tape showed Prachanda as saying that he had inflated the number of the PLA from its original 7,000-8,000 to nearly 35,000 so that even after the weeding out by the UN, it would still have a sizeable number left.
Copyright Indo-Asian News Service – 28 June, 2009