Nepal opposition steps up campaign against UN

May 11th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, May 11 (IANS) The turmoil in Nepal triggered by the fall of the Maoist government last week deepened Monday with the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress, stepping up its campaign against the UN, accusing the world body of having blundered during its screening of the Maoist army two years ago.
Cadres of Nepal Tarun Dal, the youth wing of the opposition, Monday demonstrated in front of the office of the UN’s political unit in Kathmandu, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), accusing the later of failing in its mandate to verify the Maoist army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The opposition began gunning for a fresh verification of the PLA after a video tape was leaked to the media last week, in which Maoist chief and caretaker Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda boasted that he had inflated the PLA strength to over 30,000 during the verification done by UNMIN in 2007.

It was done, Prachanda said, to ensure that the PLA strength remained sizeable even after some were weeded out by UNMIN so that they could be merged with the national army and bring the latter under the control of his party.

While UNMIN said there were over 19,600 bona fide PLA fighters, Prachanda revealed that their actual number was about 7-8,000.

He also said that the money extracted from the government to pay allowances to the PLA combatants would be partly used to continue buying arms and take their revolution further.

Though Prachanda has tried to downplay the tape, saying it was made nearly one and a half years ago, when the election had not been held, it was however made more than a year after the signing of the peace pact, which casts doubts on the former guerrillas’ commitment to the peace process.

“UNMIN did not take the tape seriously,” Nepal Tarun Dal chief Mahendra Yadav said. “The PLA forces barracked in the cantonments have to be re-verified. It is objectionable that UNMIN has verified non-bona fide combatants the money for whose upkeep is being spent on buying weapons.”

The Maoists, who fought a 10-year war on the state from 1996, signed a peace pact in 2006 on the condition that the UN referee the peace process.

The UNMIN was formed in 2007 despite objections by India and China and had its tenure extended thrice after Nepal failed to hold elections in time and dismantle its guerrilla cantonments.

Since the verification, the UN agency ran into controversy last year after it was alleged that the PLA had beaten a businessman to death inside a cantonment monitored by UNMIN officials.

UNMIN however says that the verification was done with the approval of all the political parties. It also says that the joint monitoring committee that undertook the inspection also included a representative from the Nepal Army.

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