Kathmandu: Five years after they signed a peace accord and ended their decade-old armed insurrection, Nepal`s Maoist party Saturday began the process of formally handing over their guerrilla Army to the control of the government, marking a new phase in peace negotiations in the troubled Himalayan nation.
In the presence of ministers, the chiefs of the Nepal Army and state security agencies as well as diplomats and UN representatives, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda signed a joint agreement with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal at the camp of the People`s Liberation Army in Shaktikhor in southern Chitwan district, agreeing that from Saturday, the PLA came under the control of a special committee formed for the integration and rehabilitation of the guerrilla Army.
There are nearly 20,000 PLA combatants living in 28 camps nationwide. Till last week, they were under the supervision of the UN`s political agency.
However, with the UN Mission in Nepal exiting Jan 15 midnight, the supervision was taken over by the special committee that is headed by the prime minister.
Nepal reminded the PLA that those who opt to join the state security agencies would no longer have any political affiliation.
The Maoist leadership said it was entering the new phase with bias towards none and only with the thought of serving the people in their hearts.
The PLA flag - two AK-47s crossed over Mt. Everest with a red star shining high - was replaced by the national flag of Nepal in the cantonment to symbolise the transfer of control of the PLA from the Maoist party to the state.