Inch­ing to Sta­bil­ity?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Asma Sid­diqui

Nepal’s po­lit­i­cal his­tory has been pep­pered with con­flicts and in­sta­bil­ity. The Com­pre­hen­sive Peace Agree­ment, signed on 21 Novem­ber 2006, ended a decade­long con­flict with the loss of 14,000 pre­cious lives. Con­se­quently, the in­terim con­sti­tu­tion was adopted on 15 Jan­uary 2007, the same day the Maoists made their land­mark re­turn to Par­lia­ment. The Maoist lobby formed part of the in­terim govern­ment led by the Nepali Congress, which took of­fice on 30 March 2007. The elec­tion of the Con­stituent Assem­bly soon fol­lowed on 10 April 2008, of­fi­cially declar­ing Nepal as the Fed­eral Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Nepal on 28 May 2008 and thus abol­ish­ing a 240-year old monar­chy.

De­spite achiev­ing some sem­blance of po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, Nepal re­mains a frag­ile state, fac­ing new threats caused by the fi­nan­cial cri­sis,

the eco­nomic slow­down and se­cu­rity is­sues.

Nepal is cur­rently un­der­go­ing a pe­riod of his­toric po­lit­i­cal change. The peace process is drag­ging its feet as the govern­ment is con­fronted with new chal­lenges ev­ery day. Po­lit­i­cal in­tol­er­ance has in­creased, fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the first coali­tion govern­ment on 4 May 2009, when the Prime Min­is­ter and for­mer Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Da­hal, aka Prachanda, de­cided to dis­miss the army chief, Gen­eral Rook­man­gud Katawal. Clashes be­tween ac­tivists from dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties have in­ten­si­fied, with in­ci­dents mostly pro­voked by youth wings of po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the stu­dent’s unions af­fil­i­ated with them.

Nepal’s lead­er­ship has failed to draft a new Con­sti­tu­tion. The man­date of the 602-mem­ber Con­stituent Assem­bly elected in 2008 ended on 27th May 2012 with­out a con­sen­sus as to how Nepal should be gov­erned. Dur­ing the ten year long armed re­bel­lion against the monar­chy [19962006], the ma­jor­ity of the ru­ral masses and many re­sid­ing in ur­ban ar­eas sup­ported the Maoists. How­ever, when the Maoists formed nearly 40% of the Con­stituent Assem­bly, they ad­vo­cated for demo­cratic cen­tral­ism akin to the for­mer Soviet Union. The other 60% op­posed it for a myr­iad of rea­sons.

Af­ter the Peo­ple’s Move­ment of 2006 led to the end of the king’s ab­so­lute power, in­terim ar­range­ments were de­cided. The ini­tial de­ci­sion to form an in­terim con­sti­tu­tion was made by the seven main­stream po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Al­though, on the out­side, an ex­pert com­mit­tee, led by an es­teemed Supreme Court judge, was ap­pointed to draft the in­terim con­sti­tu­tion, in re­al­ity, nom­i­nees of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties made the key de­ci­sions. Nearly five thou­sand sub­mis­sions were re­ceived from the peo­ple but there is lit­tle ev­i­dence that much heed was paid to them. The in­terim con­sti­tu­tion was en­acted nearly ten months af­ter the re­call of the ad hoc par­lia­ment.

Though the govern­ment had been led by Babu­ram Bhat­tarai of the Uni­fied Com­mu­nist Party of Nepal (Maoist) since Au­gust 2011, var­i­ous civil func­tions were grad­u­ally shut down with­out a Par­lia­ment. Op­pos­ing par­ties did not want Bhat­tarai to lead the govern­ment dur­ing the elec­tions but Bhat­tarai re­fused to sur­ren­der his post with­out a broad agree­ment on how the elec­tions would be su­per­vised. Mr. Regmi had ear­lier signed on an agree­ment that re­quired him to re­sign from his post while an in­terim chief jus­tice would hold his post. He is ex­pected to re­turn to the court af­ter elec­tions are held in Novem­ber.

With the ex­pan­sion of the cabi­net led by chief jus­tice Khil Raj Regmi, Nepal has firmly stepped into elec­tion pol­i­tics. Look­ing at Nepal’s po­lit­i­cal his­tory over the past six decades, there are rea­sons to be­lieve that elec­tions can’t be held eas­ily or, when held, they won’t be able to bring any respite and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in the coun­try. Nepal’s po­lit­i­cal cri­sis is not only a re­flec­tion of its own in­ter­nal cri­sis, but is one that is be­yond the con­trol of Nepali politi­cians. Renowned Amer­i­can scholar and Nepal ex­pert, late Leo Rose used to ar­gue that the ex­ter­nal re­la­tions of a big­ger coun­try are de­ter­mined by its in­ter­nal pol­i­tics. He also said that the in­ter­nal pol­i­tics of a small coun­try are de­ter­mined by ex­ter­nal pol­i­tics. Be­ing a small coun­try, Nepal’s in­ter­nal pol­i­tics seem to have a lit­tle to do with ma­jor po­lit­i­cal up­heavals of the last sixty years and it seems there’s still a long way to go for the coun­try.

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