Feb 15, 2011

Nepal: National Consensus is a must

By: Deepak Gajurel

Writing a new constitution has been adopted as a means to conflict transformation and building a sustainable and lasting peace in Nepal. Though formal procedures and methodology for writing up of a new constitution are laid out by the Constituent Assembly (CA), basic frames and principles to be incorporated in the new constitution have not yet been agreed upon by the major political players. Conflicting stands among the parties, during the past two and a half years, on various issues indicate that the actual writing process could be even more contentious as the different constituencies fight over each word and clause in the constitution. The CA composition presents a paradoxical situation, having no single party majority; the Maoists are the largest party with near simple majority. A two-third majority in the CA is required for the adoption of the new constitution.

Apparently, unending troubles, created one followed by another, have pushed yet another year into the void, with a political deadlock blocking out all possibilities of progress in drafting of a new Constitution for 'Democratic Republic of Nepal.' A tiny glimmer of light, however, can be extracted from the fact that, despite the continuous and often abrasive political confrontations, the country has remained relatively free of major acts of violence during the past five years, since the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement, between the Government and the rebel Maoist in 2006.

The Maoist role in the country’s unrelenting political logjam remains central. An enduring crisis most starkly reflected in the failure to elect a Prime Minister (PM) for more than seven months. After a long hassle for seven months, the CA has 'successfully' elected a head of the government.

Another conflict, the most contentious one that has proven irreducible is the confrontation between the Maoists, on the one hand, and all the other parties massed on the other, over the integration and rehabilitation of the 19-thousand plus Maoist combatants. The question has been one of the principal causes of the political polarization in the country for over four years.

There is further and increasing strife on the functioning and mandate of the Special Committee which monitors the Maoist combatants and their arms, after the exit of United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) on January 15, 2011. As UNMIN packed up from Nepal, the Nepal government and the rebel Maoists had agreed to form a special taskforce for this purpose. The effectiveness of this mechanism is yet to be seen. Originally, UNMIN’s tenure was intended to end on January 23, 2008, but has since been extended seven times, the last of these on September 15, 2010, with a four month extension, ending January 15, 2011.

Repeated Maoist announcements regarding the intention to launch a new 'people's revolution,’ and acquisition of capacities for violence by various other political formations, have only added to apprehensions that the political impasse may spiral incrementally into open chaos. The political atmosphere is more polarized than ever. Moreover, the new political alliance, between UML and Maoist, formed for the purpose of government formation, has added a fresh uncertainty because of scrappy polarization among Seven Party Alliance, which laid the foundation for 12-point Delhi agreement (mediated by India) with rebel Maoists resulting into April 2006 political movement.

Yes, a new PM has been elected with the Maoists' backing; however, differences among parties remain unresolved, as they were in the past. So, it is likely to be headed for another spell of suspended animation. Serious differences exist, like on the Maoists' demand that the armed cadres be taken in as whole battalions and their cadres be given the same rank, even at senior levels, as they hold in the insurgency movement. The Nepali army and other political forces are opposed to the suggestion. There are also issues of return of properties seized by the Maoists.

Given the uncertain scenario, with the intensifying contentions, both overt and covert, Nepal's politics can hardly be expected to have a smooth sail in the coming days, towards a stable and democratic regime. One can hardly be hopeful that all political problems would be solved and peace will prevail in the nation even the new constitution would be promulgated in stipulated time, by May 28, 2011. Politics is criminalized and handled with the force of arms and muscle. Once politics of violence is introduced it can hardly be done away, without an overhaul. And there is not a light seen at the end of the tunnel that current trend of Nepal's politics would change.

In this disastrous setting, there is only one hope. There must be a national consensus on where this nation is to be taken. It's not talking about 'Sahamati' repeatedly expressed by the political leaders. It's about a national consensus among all national forces. The King must be brought in into a meaningful dialogue for seeking such consensus. Political players must respect the agreement reached between the King and the parties on 24 April, 2006. Further course of actions must be chalked out on the basis of that April 2006 agreement. It is up to the present political players whether they want peace and stability in the country or not. No matter whether one agrees or not, Nepal will not have sustainable peace and political stability until all national forces, including the King, are consolidated through a process of national consensus.

(Courtesy: Sri Lanka Guardian)

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