Nepal deadlock eases as Maoists yield

June 19th, 2008 - 5:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 19 (IANS) The power tussle between Nepal Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the former Maoist guerrillas that had blocked the formation of a new government and caused the newly elected constituent assembly to be adjourned indefinitely showed signs of a ceasefire Thursday with the ex-rebels finally yielding to the major parties’ conditions to clip their wings. The Maoists, who waged a 10-year guerrilla war with their underground People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and had been demanding the rebel soldiers’ integration with their former arch enemy, the state army, have agreed to follow international norms.

They have also agreed to rein in their militant youth wing, the Young Communist League - notorious for taking the law into its own hands - by restructuring it within 15 days to ensure that it is a political organisation and not an armed unit.

The Maoists have also buried their strong objection to a change in the constitution proposed by the other two major parties, Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML).

They are now ready to amend the constitution so that a new government can be formed and removed by simple majority in the constituent assembly instead of the prescribed two-thirds majority.

The three biggest parties, who had been thrashing out these issues through prolonged negotiation, finally reached the understanding Thursday.

Dev Gurung, Maoist lawmaker, said a security council would be formed under the cabinet to decide the future of the PLA soldiers, who have been confined to seven main cantonments under the supervision of a UN agency since the Maoists signed a peace pact with the government two years ago.

The rehabilitation of the guerrilla soldiers would be completed in three to six months, Gurung said.

Now, instead of putting the PLA en masse in the army, the recruitment would be done on the basis of competitive criteria and in accordance with the international norm that one soldier wields one weapon.

The Maoist capitulation would be a major victory for the army, which has warned repeatedly that it recruits soldiers only on the basis of physical, mental and psychological yardsticks and not political considerations.

It is also likely to stoke discontent among the PLA, who played a key role in their party coming to power.

Mindful of that danger, a three-member panel comprising a representative each from the three parties has been asked to table a report on providing training, especially for employment abroad, to the PLA.

The agreements would be put forward in the evening at a meeting of the seven-party alliance for endorsement.

Once all the parties agree, Koirala is expected to resign, clearing the way for the Maoists to form the new government.

The negotiations, however, have not been able to come up with a name for the first president of republic Nepal, who would take dethroned king Gyanendra’s place as head of state.

It has been a contentious issue, with the Maoists earlier demanding that they be given the president’s post since they emerged as the biggest party after the April election.

But after sustained opposition by the UML and NC, they finally agreed to withdraw their claim. In retaliation, however, the Maoists say they would oppose Koirala’s bid to be president.

They want the post to go to a person who is apolitical and yet played a role in the pro-democracy movements in Nepal.

The disagreements forced the constituent assembly to be adjourned indefinitely Wednesday with the lawmakers accusing the parties of having reduced it to a rubber stamp.

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