Prachanda orders muzzling of paramilitary cadres

August 6th, 2008 - 8:59 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 6 (IANS) Faced with the herculean task of winning the support of all key parties within 72 hours in order to lay claim to a new government, Maoist supremo Prachanda Wednesday ordered his party and its sister organisations to immediately rein in the Young Communist League (YCL), the dreaded strong arm of the once underground party. Though there have been repeated calls for the disbanding of the YCL, which has been conducting extortion, abductions and kangaroo courts in violation of the peace accord signed by the former guerrillas two years ago, the Maoists have refused to do so, calling the controversial outfit a political organisation.

It is believed that though the Maoists agreed to corral about 19,000 people in UN-supervised camps as combatants of its powerful People’s Liberation Army, a large number of fighters were kept outside the camps as YCL members.

Prachanda’s change of heart came after the peace and reconstruction ministry, entrusted with the upkeep of the PLA, announced Tuesday that it would utilise a World Bank grant to pay the combatants their pending allowances.

The guerrilla army, despite an agreement that they would be paid NRS.3,000 per month as salary, had not been paid the allowances for nearly 13 months, creating an acute funds crunch in the cantonments.

PLA lawmaker and deputy commander Barsha Man Pun “Anant” raised their plight in the caretaker parliament and said the troops could revolt if the government did not release funds immediately.

Prachanda said that since the government had finally moved to keep its part of the bargain, his party too would reciprocate. Besides dismantling the paramilitary structure of the YCL, Prachanda said that his cadres would also return all property seized by them during the 10-year People’s War.

However, in the past too, Prachanda had made similar pledges which were never kept.

The move came after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress, the largest party after the Maoists, expressed reservations about joining a Maoist-led government on the ground that the former rebels had not kept the commitments they had made when they formed an alliance with the mainstream parties.

The Maoists, who emerged as the largest party after the April election, have still not been able to form a government with the international community, especially Nepal’s dominant neighbour India, insisting on a consensus government that would need the Nepali Congress’ participation.

The seven-day time given to Prachanda by President Ram Baran Yadav to form a new government expired Tuesday without the former guerrillas being able to win the other parties over.

Now they have been given a three-day extension to form a new government, which ends Friday.

Meanwhile, caretaker prime minister Koirala has also stepped up consultations with the smaller parties, giving rise to speculation that if the Maoists fail again, he may lay stake on the new government.

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