Maoist army reshuffle plan dealt fresh blow

October 23rd, 2008 - 5:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Oct 23 (IANS) The Nepali Maoist party’s ambitious plan to fuse its once dreaded guerrilla army with the latter’s arch enemy, the Nepal Army, has come unstuck yet again with the opposition party refusing to toe the former rebels’ line.Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, who till two months ago was also the supreme commander of the guerrilla People’s Liberation Army (PLA), had announced this week that a special committee would be formed by Wednesday to begin the controversial reintegration process.

However, the panel could not be formed as the opposition, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC), raised the voice of dissent at the meeting of four major parties Wednesday, shooting down the Maoist proposal that the committee should be headed by a Maoist representative.

“Both the peace process and the drafting of the new constitution are tasks that should be executed on the basis of consensus among the parties,” NC leader and former minister Ram Chandra Poudel said.

“Since the integration process involves the Maoist army, the committee should not be headed by the same party. The other option is that the committee chairmanship should be rotated among the parties.

“If there is no consensus, we will not sit on the committee.”

NC leaders have also begun protests against what they say is a move by the Maoists to appoint Nand Kishore Pun “Pasang”, the chief of PLA after Prachanda stepped down, as the chief of the re-shuffled army.

Due to the infighting among the two biggest parties, Prachanda, for the second time Thursday, put off the scheduled cabinet meeting that was to have announced the formation of the committee.

More homework and parleys among the parties need to be done, the embattled Maoist chief told the media Thursday.

The merger of the PLA with the Nepal Army remains one of the biggest blocks in the ongoing peace process in Nepal.

Over 19,000 PLA fighters are leading a grim life in cantonments for nearly two years, hoping for eventual state recognition by being included in the state army.

The merger was a key condition of the peace pact signed by the Maoists in 2006, which paved the way for their relinquishing arms and the restoration of peace in insurgency-racked Nepal.

The NC, which was the ruling party in 2006, had agreed to the condition. Now however, smarting under a poll defeat, it has begun opposing the integration, saying the PLA was a political animal that could not be trusted to be non-partisan.

The army is also opposing the merger. The army chief, Gen. Rukmangud Katawal, has said that the army would accept only those who met international recruitment norms.

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