Nepal Maoists step back from new revolt, to focus on peace

April 29th, 2011 - 1:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, April 29 (IANS) After nine days’ intense discussions to decide their future strategy, Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas Friday finally decided to step back from launching a new revolt and instead focus on the peace process, new constitution and rehabilitation of their nearly 20,000 trained fighters.

Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who still uses his war name Prachanda, finally backed down from the call he had raised at a crucial meeting of the party last year to wage a “People’s Revolt”, identifying neighbour India as the arch enemy of the movement.

The discussions, that began April 20, when Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna arrived in Nepal on a three-day official visit, ended in victory for the moderates who had been urging Prachanda to concentrate on drafting the new constitution and going forward with the peace process that began in 2006 but languished after the elections in 2008.

At the Maoist politburo meeting April 20-21, Prachanda did a surprise volte face, going against the proposal of revolt pushed forward by his fiery deputy Mohan Baidya, and instead agreeing with his moderate deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, that peace should be given priority.

In the past, Prachanda and Bhattarai had been at daggers drawn, with Bhattarai being branded “Indian stooge” for advocating peace and asking not to go to war against India.

When the politburo meeting failed to resolve the differences between Prachanda and Baidya, the issue was placed before the central committee.

As the crucial meet ended Friday, Maoist former minister Dev Gurung told the media the party had endorsed Prachanda’s line that priority should be given to the peace process, the new constitution and deciding the fate of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Gurung said it had been decided that a “unified draft” of the new constitution should be ready by May 28, the deadline for enforcing the new statute.

There are fears that the new constitution would not be ready by May 28, failing a second deadline, thanks to the major parties’ wrangling for power for almost three years.

The new communist Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, who was elected in February with the support of the Maoists, faces growing criticism for failing to settle the fate of the PLA soldiers by either inducting them in the army or rehabilitating them. Khanal heads the special committee formed to decide the combatants’ fate.

The opposition parties, whose support is necessary for the endorsement of the new constitution, have vowed not to allow it till the PLA is disbanded.

The only positive development about the PLA has been the army’s suggestion to form a separate directorate including the PLA and security personnel, which has been welcomed by the Maoists.

Now despite the Maoists’ endorsement of the peace process, it is virtually impossible that the 28 PLA camps can be emptied out and the new constitution be readied by May 28.

The Maoists fought a 10-year war to overthrow Nepal’s monarchy and change the world’s only Hindu kingdom into a secular, federal republic.

But though they signed a peace pact in 2006, won the subsequent election and came to power twice, their commitment to peace is still under doubt.

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

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