By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
April 10, 2012 was truly a historic day for Nepal when the Nepalese Army finally took control of the remaining 15 cantonments of the PLA along with the weapons and the combatants.
This taking over had to be preponed by two days as the combatants in some of the camps had become restive and there were incidents of violence and arson. So, instead of waiting for a formal take over ceremony, the army had to be rushed late in the evening on 10th itself to the camps to take charge of the situation.
Over 9500 PLA combatants are still in the camps of which only 6500 will be taken for the new directorate being formed within the Nepalese Army. The option of rehabilitation and retirement is still kept open to the combatants.
It was six years after the signing of the comprehensive peace accord that the political parties managed to agree to the integration of the PLA with the regular Nepalese army.
It should be remembered that the Maoists were not defeated in the field. To make them surrender their arms and go for peaceful integration was not an easy task. No militant would voluntarily give up his/her gun. The Maoist leadership should be congratulated for this effort and praise is due both to the Chairman of UCPN-(M) and the Prime Minister that despite internal differences, they managed to let the cantonments be closed for ever.
Problems still remain for completing the integration process. The differences over issues of rank, selection committee, standards and norms for entry, educational qualifications, “bridge course” and training for combatants are still to be solved. But these can be managed.
It is hoped that the opposition parties would be generous enough to let the Maoist combatants integrate themselves with “dignity” into the Nepalese Army.
Prachanda ( Dahal) has shown courage and statesmanship in going through the integration. This, he had managed despite considerable opposition from the hardline faction led by Mohan Baidya and his deputy C.P. Gajurel. He had a difficult task. He had to keep the party united and at the same time take “bold” decisions. He did both so far and as he said that he took a ” bold and a risky step.” It was indeed a risky step.
Dahal has announced that his party is ready to compromise on all outstanding issues of constitution except on a federation based on ethnicity and capability.
The two other main stream parties should take this opportunity to give a final push on the outstanding but still the basic issues relating to the new constitution. There is yet no consensus on the key issues like the system of governance, judiciary and a federal system with its sub divisions. So far the Nepali Congress and the Maoists have agreed on a directly elected presidential system though the UML is still sticking on to a directly elected Prime Minister. The configuration of provinces will be another major issue.
There is no time left as the Supreme Court has once again reaffirmed its 25th November verdict that there could be no further extension of the Constituent Assembly on separate petitions filed both by the Speaker and the Prime Minister.
It is shameful that the mainstream political parties instead of speeding up the constitution making process have started thinking of alternatives after May 27 when the term of the current Constitutional Assembly lapses. One good move that has since occurred is that the parties have finally have decided to amend Article 70 of the interim Constitution. The time table given in this article can no longer be followed if the process is to be completed by May 27 as directed by the Supreme Court.
I am shocked and surprised that the Nepali Congress instead of pushing to expedite the new constitution and the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Victims Disappearance Commission is pushing seriously to take over the government before the May 27 deadline to conduct the elections under the new constitution!
More important- at least now that Dahal has fulfilled his portion of his commitment towards ending the peace process, other parties should first make serious efforts for a “unity” government instead of seeking power to lead even now when the constitution is still not ready.