Nepal Maoists do u-turn on joining government

February 17th, 2011 - 9:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Feb 17 (IANS) Even a fortnight after becoming the new prime minister of Nepal, communist leader Jhala Nath Khanal’s efforts to expand his four-member cabinet failed again Thursday with his main allies, the Maoists, deciding not to join the government over a protracted power-sharing row.The Maoists, who had helped Khanal win a tri-cornered election earlier this month, refused to join the cabinet for the second time within a fortnight after the prime minister’s party pressured him not to hand over the key home affairs ministry portfolio to the former rebels.

Khanal, who came to power after signing a secret pact with the Maoists, has been under tremendous pressure since then, from both the former guerrillas and his own party with the latter refusing to accept the terms of the agreement.

The contentious points in the secret accord are the decision to form a new security force to accommodate the Maoists’ nearly 20,000-member strong People’s Liberation Army(PLA) and to have the government led by both parties by rotation.

Faced with his own party leaders’ refusal, Khanal this week signed a second modified pact with the Maoists, saying the fate of the PLA would be decided by a special committee comprising representatives of all major parties.

It also agreed the government would be run according to national consensus.

However, when Khanal’s party also pressured him to keep the home ministry for its own, the Maoist standing committee, that met Thursday to finalise the names of its 11 ministers, decided to stay away from the cabinet.

With his key ally’s rejection, the Khanal government is yet to get the support of any other party.

With only 100 days left for the promulgation of a new constitution, the protracted power sharing row makes it nearly impossible that the newgovernment would be able to complete the herculean task.

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