Maoists slap 24-hour ultimatum on Nepal government

Nepal faced fresh turmoil on Friday as the former Maoist guerrillas slapped a 24-hour ultimatum on the government to heed their demand or face fresh tumult.

Kathmandu: Nepal faced fresh turmoil on Friday as the former Maoist guerrillas slapped a 24-hour ultimatum on the government to heed their demand or face fresh tumult, even as the UN condemned the Defence Minister for making "provocative statements" that seemed a deliberate attempt to end the truce that had ended a decade`s savage civil war.
"If by Friday morning the ruling parties fail to meet our demand for a debate on the unconstitutional role played by the President (Ram Baran Yadav), we will declare a fresh protest movement within the same day," said Maoist lawmaker and party spokesman Dinanath Sharma.

The central committee of the formerly outlawed party began a council of war to finalise a new protest movement in case Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal`s government rejects their demand, as it has been doing since May.

Though Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has been reiterating that the new Jana Andolan - People`s Movement - would be peaceful, earlier protests by the former rebels turned violent, triggering clashes with security forces.

Prachanda has also been urging his cadres to be ready for the sacrifice of 10,000 lives, a rhetoric that has been alarming the other parties and human rights organisations.

The protests started in May, when the Prachanda government tried to sack its arch enemy, then chief of the army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal.

The fired general was reinstated by the President, leading to the collapse of the eight-month Maoist government.

Since then, the former insurgents have been seeking to censure the president, calling his role unconstitutional and seeking a debate on his move in parliament.

With the ruling parties refusing to admit the debate, the former guerrillas in retaliation have laid a siege to parliament, not allowing it to sit.

The blockade has prevented the government from passing the budget for the current financial year, leading to a crisis.

From the current Nepali month, all government salaries have been stopped due to the paucity of funds. Finance Minister Surendra Nath Pandey on Thursday appealed to the ex-rebels to allow the budget to be passed.

The growing crisis has been further fuelled by manoeuvres by Defence Minister Bidya Bhandari to push for fresh recruitment in the army.

The bid goes against the peace pact signed between the parties and the Maoists in 2006 that saw an end to the 10-year-old civil war claiming over 16,000 lives.

In the pact, both sides pledged to stop recruitment or buy new arms.

However, both sides have flouted the pledge with impunity.

Bhandari recently asked Parliament to revise the peace pact, saying the recruitment freeze was hindering the army from carrying out its responsibilities.

It led to the chief of the UN agency that is monitoring the truce in Nepal, Karin Landgren, to meet the Prime Minister on Thursday, conveying concern over Bhandari`s statements. Landgren said Bhandari`s statements were provocative and could affect the peace negotiations.

Though the government distanced itself from the defence minister, saying her statement was not supported by the ruling parties, the minister`s action has raised concerns about the rise of a third force, which is inimical to peace and democracy, and trying to bolster the Army to trigger a new confrontation with the Maoists.


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