Nepalese coali­tion inks deal with Maoist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Chi­tra Ti­wari

In Nepal, the rul­ing coali­tion of its Seven Party Al­liance and the Maoist rebels reached a his­toric ac­cord on Nov. 8, pro­duc­ing a new po­lit­i­cal main­stream in which the Maoists will join the in­terim gov­ern­ment on Dec. 1.

Since 1996, the Maoists had been lead­ing a deadly in­sur­gency mod­eled on China’s Chair­man Mao Tse-tung’s doc­trine of peo­ple’s war. Since then, the in­sur­gency and the coun­terin­sur­gency un­der­taken to con­tain it have cost 13,000 lives and thou­sands of peo­ple have been in­jured and dis­placed. An­a­lysts say the agree­ment paves the way for the Maoists to end their peo­ple’s war and join the peace­ful process of peo­ple’s rule.

Maoist leader Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal, who goes by the name Prachanda, told a crowded press con­fer­ence: “Our ex­pe­ri­ences have shown we could not achieve our goals through armed revo­lu­tion, so we have cho­sen the path of ne­go­ti­a­tion and formed an al­liance with the po­lit­i­cal par­ties.” Call­ing the pact “a mile­stone,” the Maoist leader added: “We be­lieve that the his­toric agree­ment that was reached in the early hours of [Nov. 8] will pro­vide a po­lit­i­cal out­let to the long-stand­ing quag­mire, and lead the na­tion in the di­rec­tion of all-around so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment.”

Prime Min­is­ter Gir­ija Prasad Koirala said the his­toric ac­cord be­tween the Seven Party Al­liance (SPA) and the Maoists laid the foun­da­tion for es­tab­lish­ing a new Nepal. Warn­ing against po­ten­tial con­spir­a­cies by re­ac­tionary forces to jeop­ar­dize the agree­ments, Mr. Koirala urged ev­ery­one to move for­ward with pa­tience to pre­vent such at­tempts. The Maoists’ sec­ond in com­mand, Babu­ram Bhat­tarai, de­scribed it as “the be­gin­ning of an end to 238-year-old ab­so­lute monar­chy and a new road to­ward a demo­cratic repub­lic.” U.S. de­mand cited

Both Prachanda and Mr. Bhat­tarai had voiced con­fi­dence of such an out­come dur­ing meet­ings with this re­porter in Kat­mandu in early Septem­ber and late Oc­to­ber. The busi­ness com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly the tourism­re­lated sec­tor, hopes peace will bring pros­per­ity.

The Maoists had been ex­pected to be in the gov­ern­ment since an agree­ment last June be­tween Mr. Koirala and Prachanda, but U.S. Am­bas­sador James F. Mo­ri­arty warned that Wash­ing­ton would not rec­og­nize the gov­ern­ment of Nepal if the Maoists were in­cluded in the gov­ern­ment with­out be­ing dis­armed. Con­tro­versy over the is­sue of arms man­age­ment slowed ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the SPA and the Maoists for months. The stale­mate ended in the wee hours of Nov. 8 as the two sides agreed to end the 11-year-old com­mu­nist in­sur­gency through a six-point agree­ment that cov­ers agree­ments on arms man­age­ment, the sta­tus of monar­chy, an in­terim con­sti­tu­tion, leg­is­la­ture, gov­ern­ment and how to elect a Con­stituent As­sem­bly. The ac­cord also pro­vides a timetable to com­plete the agree­ment.

Un­der the agree­ment, the gov­ern­ment and the Maoists were to sign a com­pre­hen­sive peace agree­ment on Nov. 16. Five days later, the Maoist army of up to 30,000 com­pris­ing seven di­vi­sions are to be sent to can­ton­ments in seven dis­tricts, while a sim­i­lar num­ber of gov­ern­ment troops would be con­fined to bar­racks. The weapons of both armies are to be sep­a­rated and put un­der lock with the keys to be kept by the com­man­ders of the re­spec­tive armies. The can­ton­ments and bar­racks will be mon­i­tored by the United Na­tions through closed­cir­cuit television and siren alarms.

The agree­ment also pro­vides that King Gya­nen­dra lacks any pow­ers un­til the first meet­ing of the Con­stituent As­sem­bly, which will de­ter­mine the fate of the monar­chy for good. The SPA and Maoists’ deal also agrees to na­tion­al­ize all royal an­ces­tral prop­erty. For the roy­al­ists, the only sat­is­fac­tion is that Gya­nen­dra re­mains king, al­beit in a sus­pended form. Char­ter due Nov. 26

The sig­na­to­ries have de­cided to an­nounce an in­terim con­sti­tu­tion by Nov. 26, dis­solve the par­lia­ment and an­nounce for­ma­tion of an in­terim leg­is­la­ture with 330 mem­bers. The new leg­is­la­ture will com­prise 209 mem­bers from the old par­lia­ment, 73 Maoists and 48 mem­bers cho­sen from dif­fer­ent classes and the pub­lic. By Dec. 1, an in­terim coali­tion gov­ern­ment that in­cludes the Maoists is to be led by Mr. Koirala.

The agree­ment also pro­vides that a mixed pro­por­tional sys­tem will be used to elect a 425-mem­ber Con­stituent As­sem­bly next June.

An­a­lysts say the agree­ment be­tween the SPA and the Maoists pro­vides a “win-win” sit­u­a­tion for all the demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal forces. The Maoists, who had con­sis­tently re­fused to sur­ren­der their arms, saved face by get­ting the keys to their locked weapons.

Crit­ics say the po­lit­i­cal par­ties, un­pop­u­lar be­cause of their cor­rupt past and ren­dered al­most ir­rel­e­vant dur­ing Gya­nen­dra’s ab­so­lute rule, won siz­able rep­re­sen­ta­tion — much more than their pop­u­lar base war­rants — in the new in­terim par­lia­ment. All in all, the po­lit­i­cal par­ties have saved the mul­ti­party sys­tem while the Maoists have emerged from be­ing hunted “ter­ror­ists” to be­come a for­mi­da­ble po­lit­i­cal force.

The agree­ment pro­duced a ju­bi­lant and eu­phoric mood through­out Nepal, with politi­cians wel­com­ing it as “his­tor­i­cal” and “the be­gin­ning of a new era.” The Maoists held three days of vic­tory cel­e­bra­tions through­out the coun­try, with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of mil­lions of peo­ple ir­re­spec­tive of their po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion. For­eign re­sponse fa­vor­able

The in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to the agree­ment is equally en­cour­ag­ing.

De­scrib­ing the agree­ments as a “vic­tory for the peo­ple of Nepal,” Pranab Mukher­jee, In­dia’s min­is­ter of ex­ter­nal af­fairs said from New Delhi: “We wel­come this sig­nif­i­cant step in Nepal’s demo­cratic progress. [. . . ] We ex­pect th­ese de­ci­sions to place Nepal on the path of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, peace, sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic re­cov­ery.”

In a state­ment is­sued in Kat­mandu, the U.S. Em­bassy greeted the ac­cord with cau­tious op­ti­mism.

“The U.S. Em­bassy wel­comes the an­nounce­ment that the gov­ern­ment of Nepal and the Maoists have reached agree­ment on ad­dress­ing key po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity is­sues,” it said, adding: “The agree­ment must di­min­ish the fear of vi­o­lence, in­tim­i­da­tion, and ex­tor­tion that the peo­ple of Nepal have en­dured over the past 11 years. In this re­gard, ef­fec­tive mon­i­tor­ing that in­cludes penal­ties for vi­o­la­tors will prove es­sen­tial.”

Mr. Mo­ri­arty told re­porters that U.S. pol­icy on Nepal af­ter the Maoists join the gov­ern­ment will de­pend on the Maoists’ be­hav­ior. He in­di­cated that the “ter­ror­ist” la­bel would not be lifted when he said: “The Maoists have to prove first that they are not ter­ror­ists.”

Kim How­ells, the Bri­tish For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice min­is­ter, con­grat­u­lated the gov­ern­ment of Nepal and the Maoists and said: “This agree­ment is a sig­nif­i­cant step to­wards peace in Nepal. We see it as a demon­stra­tion of both sides’ com­mit­ment to build­ing a stable and peace­ful fu­ture.”

Ian Martin, spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Kofi An­nan, in Kat­mandu to as­sist in Nepal’s peace process, also wel­comed the ac­cord and said Mr. An­nan “was hope­ful that the gov­ern­ment-Maoist agree­ment will pro­vide ground­work for a longterm cease-fire, in­terim rule, and prepa­ra­tions for the Con­sti­tu­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions.”

An­a­lysts say the next two years will be cru­cial, as there are many pot­holes in Nepal’s po­lit­i­cal road map.

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Two men pushed their bi­cy­cles past po­lice­men stand­ing guard near the venue of peace talks be­tween Maoist rebels and mul­ti­party gov­ern­ment in Kat­mandu, Nepal on Nov. 7. Nepalese Prime Min­is­ter Gir­ija Prasad Koirala said Nov. 8 that the his­toric ac­cord be­tween the Seven Party Al­liance and the Maoists laid the foun­da­tion for es­tab­lish­ing a new Nepal.

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