Kathmandu: Nepal Army chief General Chhatraman Singh Gurung has refused to hire fighters from the opposition Maoist party`s guerrilla army en masse.
Gurung, who became Army chief last year after his predecessor, General Rookmangud Katawal, caused the collapse of the Maoist government, told visiting UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs B Lynn Pascoe that the fighters of the Maoist People`s Liberation Army (PLA) should not be taken en masse in the Nepal Army.
The general`s stand goes against a peace pact signed between the Maoists and the ruling parties in 2006 that saw an end to a communist insurrection that had killed over 13,000 people.
It was also the stand adopted by Katawal that led to the Maoist government trying to sack him last year.
Gurung said the PLA could be accommodated in the police, border security forces and other non-military agencies. They could also be sent overseas for jobs or be rehabilitated with an economic incentive.
The general said some PLA combatants could be inducted in the army individually if they met the international yardsticks followed for recruitment.
At his meeting with Pascoe on Friday, Gurung also expressed concern at Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda giving training to the PLA in their cantonments and urging them to be ready for another revolution if the government failed to implement the new constitution by May 28.
The general has also negated a UN count that put the strength of the PLA at over 19,000, saying Prachanda had been caught admitting in a secretly taped video that there were only about 6,000-7,000 bona fide fighters.
The Army chief`s statement comes at a time the government is trying to slash the allowances to the PLA.
There is growing uncertainty over the fate of the fighters with their own leaders saying the new statute should be promulgated before they are disbanded while the ruling parties are demanding the discharge of the PLA first.
Gurung`s statement is bound to trigger Maoist anger. It has already been condemned by party spokesman Dinanath Sharma who said it was a political statement.
Sharma also said the integration of the PLA was a matter to be decided by the parties and not the Army, which is bound to obey the government.