Nepal Army rejects coup reports

April 24th, 2009 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 24 (IANS) Warily watching the dogged duel between its chief and the ruling Maoist party and grieving for the death of 13 soldiers in a forest fire, Nepal’s beleaguered army was dragged into fresh controversy Friday by a leading media house whose two dailies accused it of planning a coup.

In a sensational front-page report Friday, two of Nepal’s leading dailies claimed to have been informed by unnamed “senior army officers” that the Nepal Army, once the arch enemy of the Maoists, had planned a “soft coup” to prevent the former guerrillas from establishing their control over the state forces.

According to Nepali daily Kantipur and its sister English publication the Kathmandu Post, the army plot was to “arrest” Maoist leaders, ministers and “other selected individuals”, including the former supreme commander of the army, deposed king Gyanendra.

The former king was to have been put under “line arrest” in the remote old palace in the Nagarjuna forest where he retired after being stripped of his crown and vacating the Narayanhity royal palace last year.

“(Maoist) Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, (opposition) Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala and a number of other leaders (would have been) cut off from public,” the reports said, presenting almost a mirror-image of the situation that had prevailed in Nepal four year ago after Gyanendra sought to head the government with the support of the army.

The two dailies alleged that army officers began plotting the new coup after the Maoist government trained its guns on army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal and tried to dismiss him.

As part of the grand plan, Nepal’s administrative complex Singha Durbar, which houses the key ministries, would have been “under siege” along with the prime minister’s official residence, the ministers’ official residences and even the cantonments where the Maoists’ guerrilla army has been corralled, the reports alleged.

However, while the army took control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) weapons, the PLA combatants would not have been harmed and allowed to go home or abroad, the reports said.

The UN officials monitoring the cantonments would have been flown back to Kathmandu, they added.

The reports also alleged that the Maoists were planning to get rid of the army chief “by any means”. “Even by killing or abducting him or putting him under house arrest.”

However, the coup was apparently averted following pressure from India and the international community that prevented the Maoists from firing the army chief.

Stung by the reports that appeared on the third anniversary of Democracy Day, when King Gyanendra’s royal government collapsed in 2006, the Nepal Army Friday issued a strongly worded denial, calling them “imaginary” and “false”.

Branding the reports as a “premeditated conspiracy” to create a rift between the government and the army, the Nepal Army urged Nepalis as well as the international community not to believe them.

“The army remains united, disciplined and under a chain of command,” the rebuttal said. “It is dedicated to protecting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland and national unity.”

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