Nepal Maoists want UN to stay on till peace process ends

Only 26 days are left for UN`s direct role in Nepal`s peace process to end.

Kathmandu: With only 26 days left for the UN`s direct role in Nepal`s ailing peace process to end, the opposition Maoist party on Monday said they would call for the world body`s tenure to be continued till the new Constitution was written and the fate of the Maoist guerrilla Army decided.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), a special political mission of the UN, entered Nepal three years ago on the invitation of the ruling parties and the former Maoist guerrillas to help push forward the peace process that ended a decade of armed insurgency and promised the country a new constitution written by the people themselves.

The UNMIN, which had supervised the historic election in 2008 to ensure it was free and fair, was also entrusted with monitoring the arms and combatants of the Maoists` People`s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Nepal Army.

Though the peace pact had pledged to merge the nearly 20,000-strong PLA with the national army, the proposal ran into trouble after opposition by the then army chief and the subsequent revelation that the Maoists had deliberately lied about the strength of the PLA.

As a result, the PLA, that was to have been demobilised within six months of signing of the peace pact, is still kicking its heels in 28 UNMIN-monitored camps even four years later.

Concerned at the delay in the peace process and the criticism levelled at UNMIN by the ruling parties, who accused it of favouring the Maoists, the UN Security Council announced in September that UNMIN would exit Nepal on January 15, 2011.

It has already been given seven extensions by the Security Council but the Maoists have refused to disband the PLA during its existing tenure, thereby creating a steep obstacle to the peace negotiations.

On Sunday, a high-level committee, that is readying to assume UNMIN`s role after it pulls out, unveiled a plan for the PLA that requires three more years to induct part of the guerrillas in the army and rehabilitate the rest.

The plan creates a catch-22 situation since the ruling parties have been saying the new constitution can`t be promulgated as long as the Maoists retain their parallel army and the former rebels refusing to let go of their fighters till a "political agreement" is reached.

By a political agreement, they mean the formation of a new government under them and getting the new Constitution to uphold their proposals.

Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said on Monday, after the Maoist standing committee had held a meeting, that his party would begin talks with the ruling alliance, telling them that UNMIN was needed in Nepal till the peace process wrapped up.

While seeking a further extension for UNMIN, the Maoists, however, have decided not to extend the tenure of a task force comprising representatives from the major parties that had been formed to thrash out contentious issues in the new Constitution.

The panel`s tenure ended on December 11. It had succeeded in resolving only about half of the over 200 disputed subjects, like whether Nepal should have a presidential form of government or a prime minister as the executive head.

Sharma said his party now favoured resolving the remaining contentious issues in Parliament itself since its 601 lawmakers had become marginalised and unemployed due to the formation of the panel.

The ruling parties have been insisting that UNMIN`s role can be taken over by a new committee that would be aided by nearly 150 monitors to keep the Maoist camps under supervision.

With India, regarded by the Maoists as their arch enemy, sitting on the UN Security Council from January 01, it remains to be seen if UNMIN would get an eighth extension.

When the Maoists were fighting their "People`s War" and demanding UN mediation to agree to a ceasefire, India, Nepal`s influential neighbour, had earlier said that "Nepalis did not need foreigners to hold dialogue with fellow Nepalis".


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