By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
On 29th of March, the Nepal Army made out a fresh proposal for integration/rehabilitation of PLA combatants that appears to have had a positive response not only from the Maoist leadership but also from the Nepali Congress.
Given the immediate need to see through the ‘peace process’ before other initiatives are taken, it is now up to the political parties to ensure that serious discussions are undertaken to come to a definite conclusion not only on the substance of the proposals but also on the modalities of integration.
The proposal in brief is as follows:
A separate general directorate under the command of Nepal Army will be formed comprising of certain number of personnel from NA, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force (APF) and Maoist combatants.
The General Directorate will consist of about 12,000 personnel, for deployment for special tasks like border, industrial or forest security and for rescue work in case of natural disasters.
In this model, the general directorate will be led by a Major General and will have about 200 officers. The force will be divided into smaller units of about 250 personnel and will be led by Majors.
While the Army has ruled out bulk integration, the proposal envisages certain flexibility in the criteria on educational qualification, physical exercises, marital status and age of individual combatants.
However, the proposal rules out the induction of Maoist combatants accused of serious human rights violations, those who fled security agencies and those in central or regional committees of UCPN (Maoist).
Post Bahadur Bogati, a senior leader of the Maoists said that the party is encouraged by the contents of the proposal and would examine them more closely. Barsha Man Pun, head of PLA and a member of the Special Committee on Integration had indicated a positive interest in the proposal.
Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, a representative of the Nepali Congress in the Special Committee has also given a positive response to the proposal.
Although on paper there are over 19000 combatants waiting to be integrated, in actual fact there are no more than 7000 real combatants who are to be integrated. Prachanda’s own admission in the Chitwan camp and the videos released publicly confirm this position.
Before the peace process started and even before the PLA combatants were moved to the camps, a large number of regular PLA combatants were said to have been moved over to the YCL. Thus the figure may actually be less than the 7000 and could further come down when options are taken from the combatants whether they would like to be rehabilitated, integrated or given a “golden hand shake.”
The number in PLA who actually would like to be absorbed in the special directorate could easily be accommodated within the 12,000 strength proposed by the Nepal Army.
The proposal should satisfy all the stake holders and is worth pursuing. There could be differences about the timing and completion with the Maoists insisting on simultaneous move on integration and constitution making while the Nepali Congress would insist on prior integration before the new statute is in place, the model proposed by the Nepal Army could be studied and accepted in principle by the political parties and particularly the three main parties- the CPN-M, CPN-UML and the Nepali Congress.
Though the PLA camps were formally handed over to the Special Committee after the exit of the UNMIN, no real transfer on the ground has taken place. The monitoring system in the PLA camps exists only for the movement of the weapons but not the personnel. No steps have been taken and even the preliminary ones to ascertain the wishes of the combatants has not been done.
A few days ago, Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal has publicly committed himself to complete the integration within “fifty” days- that would come well within the dead line of May 28th for completing the new constitution.
While it is still doubtful whether the dead line for constitution making could be adhered to, at least the bulk of the work relating PLA integration could be speeded up.