Nepal: On the Cusp Again?

The United Nations Security Council is deliberating on request by the Unified CPN M or the Maoist for extension of the United Nations Mission In Nepal (UNMIN), even as the Maoists in a recent plenum threatened to take the route of a people’s revolt a mini revolution to bring about change in the country. Nepal remains under a Caretaker government for over six months now. Continued delay in formation of a government and progress of drafting of Constitution as well as reintegration of People’s Liberation Army cadres is thus becoming a serious concern in Nepal which appears to be on the brink again. 

Constituent Assembly (CA) chairman Subas Nemwang expressed dismay over the failure of the leaders of the major parties to arrive at an agreement for prime ministerial election in the proverbial solution of Nepali politics arrived at the Eleventh hour. "The time to finalise the new constitution is less than half of the total time allotted by these leaders," Nemwang said, "There are slim chances to achieve the new constitution within the deadline." 

The division amongst the Maoist leadership with the radicals under Mohan Vaidya winning over centrist as Chairman Prachanda and possible marginalization of Mr Bhattarai who is seen as pro India also underlines the possibility of a split in the Party in the months ahead. Unified CPN M Deputy Baburam Bhattarai agreed that the priority should be completion of peace process and the Party has also sought to extend the tenure of the UNMIN. Bhattarai assured in an interview with the Kantipur that the Party has not officially abandoned the path of peace and constitution.
There are three possibilities for formation of a new government in Nepal. First, a Nepal Congress led majority government, within the current coalition, second, a CPN-UML-led majority government and third a Maoist-led majority government with UML backing it. Differences within the Nepal Congress between the Ram Chandra Poudel and the Sher Bahadur Deuba camp may render the first option difficult at present. The second option may be a possibility and both the Nepal Congress and the Maoists could support the CPN UML government which may be the least challenging way out. On the other hand if the Maoists make some progress towards integration of the combatants, scenario three could be feasible. All three major parties will have to also seek support of the Madhes block which is going through the usual churning of splits and mergers. The major problem remains that of differences between leaders of the three main parties, Deuba versus Poudel in Nepal Congress, Oli versus Khanal in CPN UML and Bhattarai versus Vaidya in Unified CPN M. 

On the Constitution drafting front, a meeting of 27 political parties endorsed some of the key decisions taken by the seven-member high-level taskforce led by Maoist Chairman Prachanda which was formed to sort out disputed issues. The Task Force has referred to the Constitutional Committee to make final decision on the form of government, installing bicameral system (legislature comprising two houses) at the center and unicameral system (legislature with only one house) at the state level.

Meanwhile the issue of continuance of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) the tenure of which ends on 15 January remains unresolved. Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Rakam Chemjong, said Nepal doesn't need the UN mission anymore for concluding the peace process. The government is thus not seeking extension of tenure of UNMIN. Minister Chemjong mentioned that the Special Committee for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist army combatants would be able to handle the remaining works of peace process after the UNMIN departs from Nepal.

The Maoists on the other hand have already sought extension of the UNMIN and have written to the UN Security Council which may become a fait accompli in case the government is not able to set up a body for the monitoring of peace process. The UCPN (Maoist) had proposed to extend the term of UNMIN until the formation of the constitution to the Government. But the Nepal Congress (NC) and CPN-UML rejected the proposal.
On the other hand, the Secretariat of the Special Committee for the Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist Combatants which is supposed to replace the UNMIN has proposed a five-phase action plan that aims to conclude the process by 2013. The UCPN (Maoist) representative however, registered a note of dissent at the meeting and sought to know the status of Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of the Arms and Armies (AMMA) and the provision of monitoring over both Nepal Army and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) before finalising the new command-control mechanism.  

The first phase of the plan of Secretariat comprises of establishing chain of command over the Maoist combatants within the next four weeks by employing retired security personnel. In the second phase combatants will be categorised in the integration (I), rehabilitation (R) and voluntary retirement (V) groups with the latter being discharged while the 'R' group will be despatched to locations decided by the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. In the third phase, which will start from the first week of March, combatants will report to the security forces integration centres concerned, the qualifying combatants will report to the security forces training centres concerned and the disqualified will report to the rehabilitation camps established by the government.

In the fourth phase, from June 2011-June 2013, combatants selected for integration will be trained at the training centre of the security forces and combatants opting for rehabilitation will be enrolled in various skill development centres established by the Peace Ministry and in the fifth and the final phase, those who complete training will be integrated into the security agencies and those in the rehabilitation process will be rehabilitated.

The Five phase plan of integration proposed by the Secretariat of the Special Committee for the Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist Combatants is theoretically well structured and if implemented would result in smooth integration of Maoists in the mainstream in a phased manner. The key issue is that of arms monitoring mechanism to be established immediately after the departure of the UNMIN and for this purpose the government would have to raise a suitable force so far planned from ex servicemen. 

How well this force will be able to carry out its tasks and what would be the level of cooperation of Maoists and the Nepal Army would determine success. The other stages are also well structured however implementation is the main test and for this political consensus is the key issue which has not taken place so far. Nevertheless if the Special Committee for the Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist Combatants is allowed to carry out its tasks smoothly there should be no dangers of chaos after the UNMIN leaves, but this is a big IF?


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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