Crisis in Nepal as Maoists refuse to surrender arms
Nepal began inching towards a dire constitutional meltdown with former Maoist guerrillas.
Kathmandu: Nepal began inching towards a dire constitutional meltdown two days later with its former Maoist guerrillas, who are now in the government, refusing to surrender the weapons of their underground army.
Though they signed a peace accord five years ago and ended a 10-year uprising, the Maoists however have still kept their People`s Liberation Army (PLA) and its declared arsenal of nearly 3,500 firearms.
Almost 20,000 PLA fighters are still living in 28 cantonments with the government paying for their upkeep. Inside the cantonments there are steel containers where the PLA`s weapons have been locked up.
While the peace accord said the PLA would be discharged within six months, the Maoists have still been dragging their feet on the agreement.
Though the former guerrillas took part in an election in 2008, won the largest number of seats in parliament and are now the dominant party in the ruling coalition, there are still doubts whether they would adhere to multi-party democracy and rule of law.
From the very start of the peace process, their top leaders have been caught lying about major issues.
Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda was caught boasting on a secretly recorded video tape that he had deliberately inflated the PLA`s number.
Another Maoist leader, CP Gajural, was recorded as saying that the party planned another ultimate revolution and needed to bring the police force under its control before that.
Prachanda`s claim that only about 3,500 firearms remained with the PLA with the rest destroyed during the "People`s War" has also been met with disbelief.
For three years, the former rebels blocked the discharge of the PLA, demanding in public that all the fighters living in the camps be inducted into the state Army. Privately, however, they had agreed on a substantially smaller number.
Former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said this week that the Maoist leadership had privately agreed that about 5,000 PLA fighters should be inducted in the Army.
The PLA has become the major bone of contention between the Maoist-propped government and the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC).
This month, with just days left for a constitutional deadline to expire, the NC demanded that the Maoists hand over the weapons stored inside the cantonments by May 24, a demand that the former rebels resisted.
The opposition has cranked up pressure for disarmament, saying else it would not bail out Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal whose government stands on the verge of collapse.
On Saturday midnight, the term of the interim Constitution will come to an end. With the Constitution becoming invalid, Parliament would have no legality, nor the government, plunging the country into a void.
The Prime Minister has been trying to extend the life of the interim Constitution by one more year.
But to do that he needs two-third majority in Parliament by Saturday, a feat beyond him if the NC does not vote for him.
Even if the opposition thaws, the government now faces deep censure by the Supreme Court.
The apex court on Wednesday ruled that the government should have completed drafting the new Constitution by May 28, 2010. But it failed and chose to extend the time till May 28, 2011 without any authority.
Only a state of emergency brought on by the invasion of Nepal or a natural catastrophe would have allowed the government to extend the time and that too by six months.
The court said the life of the interim Constitution and Parliament can`t be extended endlessly.
If the government now seeks more time, the court has said the move would be subject to judicial review.
Another opposition party, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal, on Thursday demanded the dissolution of Parliament if it failed to enforce a new Constitution by Saturday and the announcement of a fresh election date.