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Nepal after Three Months

Uddhab Pyakurel is Doctoral Fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
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  • June 17, 2011

    Nepal’s Constituent Assembly (CA) received an extension of three months, following a five-point agreement signed by the heads of the three major political parties (the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist) on May 28, 2011. The agreement states that the basic tasks of the peace process will be concluded within three months; the first draft of the constitution will be presented to the CA; various agreements reached previously with the Madhesi Front, including the one to make the Nepal Army (NA) an inclusive institution, will be effectively implemented; and the Prime Minister will resign to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government based on consensus.

    However, till date, no progress has been seen as far as implementation of the five-point agreement is concerned. Rather, the concerned parties have started interpreting the clauses of the agreement on their own. The clauses are ambiguous and lack clarity and detail on crucial issues. For instance, Clause 1 of the agreement states that “basic tasks related to the peace process will be concluded.” There is no precision about what “basic tasks” means. According to the Maoists, Clause 1 is related only to the issues of management of its combatants, removing the dual security provision of its leadership, and in reaching an agreement on the modality of integration. Clause 1, as per the Maoists, deals with the number of combatants to be integrated, the ranks of the combatants after integration, the rehabilitation package, and the regrouping of combatants. But, the Nepali Congress (NC) and other non-Maoist parties link this clause with other issues such as surrendering of arms to the state, returning the seized property to the owners, dismantling the Maoist’s paramilitary force (the Youth Communist League), etc. Also, there is party-wise and individual-wise interpretation about when the Prime Minister must resign, and who would lead the country after his resignation.

    Regarding the presentation of the first draft of the constitution within three months, it seems impossible unless the parties intensify parleys to resolve the 99 crucial issues that remain unsettled. 78 of the total 99 debated issues are related to state structuring. The three major parties have agreed to form a State Restructuring Commission (SRC) to recommend the model of federation. However, the decision has not materialised as yet. There is speculation that the Maoists, the NC and the CPN-UML may agree to promulgate a new constitution without declaring the form of the federal set-up. Rather, they would agree to have a federation only after the recommendation of the SRC. On the contrary, Madhesi parties and ethnic organisations, doubting the intention of the three major parties, have said that they will not allow promulgation of the new constitution without a clear-cut provision on federation.

    Also, the issue of mass integration of Madhesi youth into the Nepal Army seems to have complicated Nepal’s political transition. Though no numbers are mentioned in the recent agreement, Madhesi parties are demanding that 10,000 Madhesi youth should be given a chance to join the Nepal Army. This agenda will be initially backed by those who oppose Maoist combatants’ integration, thus complicating the integration issue. Eventually, all hill people including the Maoists are likely to oppose the proposal to integrate Madhesis in the army, though the move will help the army become an inclusive institution. Consequently, Madhesi parties are likely to launch protests demanding the implementation of that clause signed by the three major parties just before the extension of the CA on May 28, 2011.

    In other words, there is no movement on implementing the five-point deal based on which the CA was extended for three months up to August 28, 2011. As all non-Maoist parties seem to be reluctant about further extending the term of the CA and as common people also seem to be tired of its repeated extension, unless there is substantial progress in the peace process the CA may become defunct by August 28, 2011. Once the tenure of the CA gets over, and there is no progress in the integration process of Maoist combatants, the Maoists are likely to either focus on constitution-writing and ending the peace process or prepare for a “people’s revolt” within a year. The Maoists have changed their decision thrice earlier There is evidence to indicate that the Maoists are not interested in concluding the on-going peace process before writing the new constitution. Instead, they want to maintain their control over the cantonments till the new elections so that it helps them to influence the election outcome. The Maoists receive large monetary benefits from the cantonments as levy. The “ideological” rift which has been seen between the Baidhya and Dahal factions of the Maoist party in recent days could be a deliberate exercise to continue with their strategy of not surrendering their arms and cantonments.

    As a consequence, it is likely that the achievements of the Janaandolan-II would be endangered. Also, ethnic violence in the hill and Tarai areas is likely to spread. In fact, it will lead to chaos, which will further intensify youth migration towards India and the Middle East as happened during the Maoist’s “people’s war”.