Aug 13 to decide Nepal PM’s fate

August 2nd, 2011 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 2 (IANS) Though he survived a threat by his largest ally, the Maoists, to withdraw support to his five-month-old government, reprieved Nepal Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal now faces a new acid test 11 days later when he says it will be his “moral duty” to quit.

The communist leader, who pacified the Maoists by inducting nine new ministers named by them despite stiff resistance by his own party and the opposition, now says if his government fails to create an environment of trust by Aug 13, he will step down as prime minister.

“This government will fail to prove its necessity if by Aug 31 it fails to execute the main tasks of the peace process and create national consensus in an environment of trust,” Khanal said in a “special appeal” after swearing in new ministers Monday.

“If by Aug 13 we fail to execute the main tasks of the peace process and create an environment of trust, then I shall … take new steps … and step down as my political and moral duty.”

However, with another crisis looming close Aug 31, the declaration is more a ploy to win over the opposition Nepali Congress than expressing real commitment to resign.

The Nepali Congress began a blockade of parliament last month, vowing to keep it up till Khanal resigns.

By saying he will resign after Aug 13 and not now, Khanal is taking a calculated risk: that none of the major parties would like to be held responsible for the fall of the government days ahead of a crisis and he will be able to survive once more.

The government has to unveil a new constitution Aug 31 or lose legitimacy.

Nepal’s parties failed two earlier deadlines to get the statute ready and now the Supreme Court has warned the government that it cannot go on extending the constitutional deadline endlessly.

With the parties frittering away more than three years fighting for power, Khanal is now saying that the preliminary draft of the constitution can be ready by Aug 31.

Blamed by the people for the failure to conclude the peace process, the Maoists are also claiming that by Aug 31, their nearly 20,000-strong guerrilla army can move a step closer to rehabilitation.

The Maoist army was to have been disbanded within six months of the signing of the peace pact in 2006. However, the difficult task was shelved due to the former guerrillas’ reluctance to let go of their army.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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