Nepal to probe ex-crown prince’s gun brawl (Lead)

December 14th, 2010 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Dec 14 (IANS) Nepal’s government has announced a high-level inquiry into a gun brawl involving former crown prince Paras and the son-in-law of Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala after it emerged that the deposed royal was carrying an illegal firearm.The 39-year-old controversial former heir to Nepal’s throne, notorious for his quick temper and fondness for alcohol, has hit the headlines with a vengeance two years after the abolition of monarchy in Nepal and his self-exile to Singapore for picking a drink-driven fight with a fellow guest at an upmarket resort Saturday and firing several shots in the air.

As media outcry and political condemnation started pouring in, it was discovered Tuesday that the pony-tailed former prince did not have a licence for his pistol.

According to Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, chief district officer of Kathmandu, Paras’ name is not among the over 13,000 licenced firearm owners registered in Kathmandu.

Carrying a gun illegally can fetch its owner a fine ranging from NRS 60,000-140,000 or a prison sentence of up to seven years or both.

After the victim of Paras’ wrath - Bangladeshi national Rubel Chowdhury, who is married to the daughter of Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala - said Paras had pointed the gun at his head during the dispute at the Tiger Tops wildlife resort in southern Chitwan district Saturday, lawyers said it could also be regarded as an attempt on life and could fetch upto 16 years in prison.

Though Nepal’s weak caretaker government had initially turned a blind eye to the shooting, it was however forced to take token action after protests by Koirala’s Nepali Congress, the largest party in the ruling alliance, and the media outcry.

After a four-member police team had been sent to the resort to investigate, the home ministry said it had also formed a second probe panel headed by a deputy inspector-general of police.

However, till Tuesday, there was little indication that the government would dare take action against a member of the erstwhile royal family that, though stripped of all legal immunity after the abolition of monarchy in 2008, continues to wield formidable power still.

Paras, unshaken by the furore he had created, had moved to Pokhara city from Chitwan where he was billeted with his friends in another swanky resort.

Chowdhury, who returned to Kathmandu Monday with his wife Melanie and three and a half year old son, said Paras had got into a conversation with him at the Chitwan resort Saturday night.

Initially, he seemed a “nice guy”, Chowdhury said, till he began drinking.

Then a change came over the former crown prince who revealed his raw wound at having lost his chance to become the king of Nepal and being turned into a commoner.

Chowdhury said he accused the Koirala family of being instrumental in the abolition of monarchy and threatened to kill Chowdhury, his wife and son.

A media report also said the intoxicated Paras had also thrown a bottle at Chowdhury but failed to hit him.

Issuing a statement soon after the brawl, Paras said Chowdhury and his companion, an Indian, had insulted him, his family and his country, an allegation that Chowdhury denied.

“How could I insult Nepal?” Chowdhury said. “I am married to a Nepali myself.”

Paras’ new escapade resurrects the ghost of the royal massacre of 2001 when King Birendra and nine more members of the royal family were killed in a hail of bullets in the tightly guarded royal palace, paving the way for Paras’ father Gyanendra to ascend the throne.

Paras, who was present during the carnage but survived, is regarded with suspicion by Nepalis despite his statements that the bloodbath was perpetrated by Birendra’s son Dipendra.

Now, there is also fresh public concern about the number of illegal firearms still lying in the possesson of Nepal’s former royals.

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