After hectic parleys within and among the four mainstream parties running into many days, the Constituent Assembly finally extended its tenure by six months. It was on 29th November, a day before the assembly was due to expire.
But there is a difference in this extension unlike the earlier ones as the full Bench of the Supreme Court directed that no more extensions will be possible and that the “Doctrine of Necessity” cannot be invoked.
The Court also suggested that the government will have to go for a referendum or another election if the peace process cannot be completed by the final deadline. The parliamentarians also came in for severe criticism by the court of having undermined the earlier verdicts of the court and pointed out that Article 64 of the Constitution was “mandatory.”
It is a shame that the Court had to give specific directions to the Parliamentary parties who were always for power and leadership and not for completing the peace process. Even now, after some beginning has been made towards integration and statute making, the main discussions/disputes among the parties appear to be on the question of the “next” consensus government- who should lead it and more shameful, which individual within the party should lead it. The sense of urgency that was seen on the eve of the expiry date of November 30 appears to have vanished !
The Constituent Assembly made a show of its sincerity and urgency by publishing a “time Line” for completing the draft of the constitution that runs as follows.
1. Within the next three weeks, all remaining disputes except the “state restructuring” will be completed.
2. By Jan. 4th all the contentious issues will be settled.
3. Between Jan 10 and 29, 2112, the first integrated draft of the new constitution will be prepared.
4. By Jan 29, the government formed State Restructuring Commission will prepare its report and forward it with its recommendations.
5. The draft should be readied by February 12, 2112.
6. The final integrated draft to be presented by the Constitution Committee Chairman Nilambar Acharya by Feb 27.
7. By April 19, all amendments to the draft should be completed.
8. One more discussion on the draft by this period and the final copy to be submitted by May 27, 2112.
The time line looks nice on paper, but then the parliamentarians will have to give their “full time” to reconcile very many contentious issues that are yet to be solved.
Even the very formation , its membership and representation of the State Restructuring Commission took many meetings among the parties and many long drawn out debates! Selecting individual members became a very complicated task when parties began to object to individuals who basically were academics and apolitical!
It was on 23rd November that the parties finally approved an eight-member committee for State Restructuring Commission. Even here, the question of leadership became a “contentious” issue and a decision was taken finally to have a “rotating coordinator” by alphabetical order!
I am not sure how this committee is going to come to a consensus on many complicated issues relating to restructuring with too many stake holders claiming more importance than what they deserve!
Surprisingly there has been considerable progress in the integration of the PLA. Despite the “strong objections” of Vice Chairman Mohan Baidya and former Defence Minister and head of PLA, Ram Bahadur Thapa ( Badal), both Chairman Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai have been able to have their way. Dahal in an interview said that running the insurgency was relatively easy compared to the difficulties faced in selling the peace process to the party.
Verification in all the camps has been completed. Approximately 60 percent of the combatants have opted for integration and of the rest only few have opted for rehabilitation. This was another surprise and it is said in the media that the credit for such a large number going for integration should go to Dahal and PM Bhattarai who wanted to counter the efforts of the hardliners in the PLA!
Some tentative beginning has been made in the matter of returning “captured properties” particularly in Bardiya district though there are conflicting reports on the question of the handing over to the “rightful owners.”
Return of land to the rightful owners may prove to be the most complicated and difficult issue in the whole peace process.
Despite the admonition of the Supreme Court and the unacceptable recommendation of the Cabinet ( a bloated one) on recommending clemency to a murder convict Dhungel, it should be acknowledged that the government under the leadership of Baburam Bhattarai appears to be making steady progress and this should be good news for all those interested in the well being of Nepal.