Nepal govt seeks more time to complete new Constitution

With the May 28 deadline doomed for failure, Nepal`s PM is seeking more time.

Kathmandu: With only 16 days left to ready a new Constitution and facing his ouster from power, Nepal`s beleaguered Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal on Thursday rushed back home, cutting short a foreign junket and beginning frantic parleys with the major parties to buy more time.

The communist leader, under public fire for leading a 30-member delegation to Turkey to attend a conference of least developed countries even as his own was rapidly running out of time, returned home on Thursday morning after reports that his own party men, his major allies the Maoists, and the opposition, were seeking to topple his government in his absence.

Immediately after returning to Kathmandu, Khanal held consultations with Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, seeking his approval to extend the deadline for enforcing the new Constitution.

The new Constitution, which is expected to consolidate Nepal, once the only Hindu kingdom in the world, as a secular, federal republic, has a May 28 deadline. Originally, it was to have been promulgated by May 28, 2010 but could not be completed as the major parties squandered away two years fighting for power.

Last year, the deadline was extended to May 28, 2011. With this date too doomed for failure, Khanal is seeking more time.

A private television station, quoting Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai, said Khanal is seeking yet another year.

Khanals`s media advisor Surya Thapa said the duration of the extension would be decided consensually by the 27 parliamentary parties.

After meeting the Maoist leaders, Khanal began talks with the 27 parties. Later in the day, he will call a cabinet meeting to discuss how to amend the interim Constitution yet again and seek a second extension, Thapa said.

Fresh political uncertainty began to grow with speculation that Khanal`s days as Premier were numbered.

He became Prime Minister in February, after signing a secret pact with the Maoists that was criticised by his own party.

Now some of his own party members are calling for his ouster, a demand that Khanal rejected on Thursday, saying he was not going to resign.

Besides the new Constitution, the peace process also remains deadlocked. In 2006, Nepal heaved a sigh of relief after its Maoist rebels signed a peace pact and ended a decade of armed insurrection that had killed over 15,000.

However, five years later, the Maoists` guerrilla army still remains and the government is in no state to hold general elections though the last polls were held 11 years ago.

While the parties may agree to bail out Khanal and extend the constitutional deadline, ethnic and social groups are redoubling pressure for the statute to be ready by May 28.

On May 07, civil society members kicked off a protest movement, demanding that the MPs, who had taken their salaries for three years, deliver or quit.

Ethnic organisations have begun to call general strikes to protest against the Khanal government`s inability to deliver.

While an ethnic protest paralysed almost 20 districts in the Terai plains on Thursday, Nepal faces a nationwide general strike on Friday.


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