Nepal Army seeks 2,400 soldiers while Maoist fighters wait

November 5th, 2008 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 5 (IANS) The Nepal Army is seeking to recruit 2,400 new soldiers, unmoved by deepening controversy about the fate of Maoist guerrilla fighters.Along with the soldiers, the army is also seeking to hire 27 assistant Hindu priests and 457 “followers”, whose duties would range from looking after the horses in the army to washing clothes.

Brigadier-General Ramindra Chhetri, the army spokesman, said the recruitments were part of the routine hiring that the army conducts four times a year to fill up vacant posts.

“It is done in accordance with the Public Service Commission and the Defence Ministry,” he said.

Though the recruitment is in accordance with the constitution, it remains to be seen how it is going to be regarded by political parties, especially the ruling Maoists and parties from the Terai plains.

Nepal Army, once a ceremonial force, began to be developed aggressively as the Maoist insurgency started growing in Nepal. Currently, the army has over 92,000 personnel.

Though the insurgency has ended, the army could still grow in size as the Maoist-led government is planning to integrate the guerrilla People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the state troops.

Over 19,000 PLA fighters who have been verified by the UN could be inducted into the army if they meet the eligibility criteria.

But the integration process has run into difficulties.

Though the major parties and the Maoists agreed on the merger and signed a peace pact two years ago, now the Nepali Congress, the main opposition party, is against the fusion. It says the guerrillas are politically indoctrinated and would be partisan to their own party.

The Nepali Congress is supported by two regional parties from the Terai plains, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Sadbhavana Party, both of which are in the government.

The integration was to have been done by a special committee within six months. However, though the new government was formed in August, the committee is still incomplete with the Nepali Congress refusing to join it unless given greater representation.

Now a fourth party has begun voicing objections.

The Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP), the fifth largest party in parliament, says the earlier government of former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala signed a pact with the Terai parties before the election in April, agreeing to induct Terai people in the army en masse on the basis of population.

If the promise is not met, the TMLP has threatened to start a new protest movement.

The army recruitment bid could therefore stir a hornet’s nest with the TMLP demanding proportional recruitment of Terai residents and the Maoist combatants regarding it as a move to block their induction, especially as the army recruitment regulations say the applicants would have to be apolitical.

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