NEPAL

Con­sti­tu­tion-mak­ing has be­come a hard nut to crack in post-monar­chy Nepal. Sev­eral se­ri­ous at­tempts have been made in this di­rec­tion but po­lit­i­cal par­ties and leg­is­la­tors are still strug­gling to give the coun­try a work­able con­sti­tu­tion.

Southasia - - Front page - By Aditya Man Shrestha

Cir­cu­lar Mis­trust

Nepal did well in the rev­o­lu­tion of 2006 when it ended its 240-year old ab­so­lute monar­chy. But it did not man­age the change well. With the tra­di­tional power cen­ter and the king side­lined, Nepal was caught in po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and is still strug­gling hard to come out of its im­passe. The demo­cratic and com­mu­nist par­ties that joined hands in over­throw­ing the king have in­dulged since then in un­abated wran­gling over power shar­ing and claim­ing the booty. The for­ma­tion of a 601-mem­ber Con­stituent Assem­bly (si­mul­ta­ne­ously func­tion­ing as na­tional par­lia­ment) in 2008 by a gen­eral elec­tion to write a new con­sti­tu­tion did not help re­solve the prob­lem. The na­tional poll com­pli­cated the power equa­tion when the United Com­mu­nist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a rebel group, un­ex­pect­edly emerged as the big­gest party in Nepal’s par­lia­ment with 238 seats. Nepali Congress, the old­est demo­cratic party bagged only 114 seats, while an­other com­mu­nist party United Marx­ist Lenin­ist (UML) got 109. A fourth re­gional force also emerged in the Terai belt of Nepal, known as the Mad­hes-based party with a to­tal of 71 seats.

The na­tional agenda since the sec­ond Peo­ple’s Move­ment of 2006 (the first one tak­ing place in 1990 that ended the king-guided sys­tem of Pan­chayat) is to write a new con­stitu- tion that is sup­posed to be demo­cratic, repub­li­can, in­clu­sive, sec­u­lar and fed­eral. An in­terim con­sti­tu­tion agreed upon by all the par­ties set a two-year term for the Con­stituent Assem­bly to do the job. When it failed to do so in 2010, the assem­bly ex­tended its term for a year. When it again did not suc­ceed to come up with a new doc­u­ment this May, it added three more months to its life. How­ever, there is still no sat­is­fac­tory progress to­wards the goal.

What will hap­pen if a new con­sti­tu­tion is not formed? Will the term of the Con­stituent Assem­bly come to an end, cre­at­ing a po­lit­i­cal vac­uum? No­body is clear. None of the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, lawyers, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts or any other worth the name have any idea of how the coun­try will func­tion un­der such an even­tu­al­ity.

By far the big­gest hur­dle to con­sti­tu­tion-mak­ing is the ques­tion of integration of some 19,000 com­bat­ants be­long­ing to the Maoist party. The Maoists want to get one half of the num­ber of com­bat­ants, if not the bulk of them, in­te­grated into the Nepal army with the rebel hi­er­ar­chy un­bro­ken. Other par­ties op­posed to this propo­si­tion have con­ceded to only 5,000 at the most to be merged in the reg­u­lar army sub­ject to meet­ing the ba­sic phys­i­cal qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The rebel sol­diers have been kept in a num­ber of can­ton­ments spread over dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, ini­tially un­der UN su­per­vi­sion but later un­der the Spe­cial Com­mit­tee com­pris­ing all par­ties and headed by the Prime Min­is­ter.

The is­sue in­volves not only the num­ber of the com­bat­ants join­ing the army and other se­cu­rity forces like the po­lice or the armed po­lice but also ad­just­ment at the of­fi­cer level, tim­ing of hand­ing over the arms to the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment and com­pen­sa­tion for those opt­ing for civil life. The is­sue has grown too sen­si­tive over long­drawn pub­lic dis­cus­sions and is feared to re­vive the armed con­flicts that took place for ten years from 1996 to 2006 re­sult­ing in ca­su­al­ties of over 16,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing hun­dreds of in­no­cent. Hard bar­gain­ing is con­tin­u­ing among the lead­ers of dif­fer­ent par­ties to achieve a con­sen­sus. How­ever, no pos­i­tive signs are emerg­ing to­wards con­clud­ing the peace process.

An­other fac­tor hin­der­ing con­sti­tu­tion draft­ing is the is­sue of power shar­ing. After the monar­chic tra­di­tional power cen­ter was first emas­cu­lated fol­low­ing the rev­o­lu­tion in 2006 and fi­nally abol­ished in 2008, the big par­ties like Nepali Congress, UML and the Maoists filled the vac­uum and par­tic­i­pated in the na­tional gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, rule by con­sen­sus did

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