Nepal talks fail, peace process in danger


Kathmandu : As negotiations between Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda failed Saturday, the former guerrillas vowed to keep up their siege on parliament — a move that could derail the promulgation of a new constitution next summer.

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“We are ready to call off our protest if the prime minister agrees to create a conducive atmosphere in parliament for a debate,” former premier Prachanda told the media before departing on a 10-day trip to Britain.

However, he said it would not be possible.

The Maoists, whose eight-month-old government fell in May after locking horns with army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal, have been since then seeking a debate in parliament on the issue.

Soon after the fall of the Prachanda government, the Maoists began a blockade of parliament. They lifted the siege after two months only after the prime minister’s assurance that their demand would be addressed.

However, on Friday, the former rebels said the one-month grace period given by them to the government had expired without any resolution and reimposed the blockade. In addition, they have also announced street and mass protests for a month that are likely to throw the administration off gear.

The original bone of contention, Gen Katawal, has emerged unscathed in the battle and is due to retire next month. His successor, Lt-Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung, will be handed over charge Sunday as Katawal goes on a month’s leave, as per tradition.

“Katawal has been allowed to retire as per course,” Prachanda said. “If the government had sacked him before due retirement to indicate it put civil supremacy above the military, that would have been a reconciliatory gesture.”

Prachanda said the resumed protests would continue whether Katawal retired or not. “The issue is not Katawal the individual but whether civil supremacy prevails over the military,” he said.

The fresh disruptions come ahead of Madhav Kumar Nepal’s first official trip to India since assuming office as premier. He is scheduled to leave for New Delhi on Aug 18 and the visit becomes even more significant due to the new turmoil.

The Maoists contend that the army chief was sacked for insubordination as well as trying to derail democracy. But they failed to fire the general because President Ram Baran Yadav came to his rescue and reinstated him.

The enraged Maoists say the president exceeded his constitutional powers by opposing the decision of the elected government and want to deliver a snub to the president through the parliamentary debate.

However, the other major parties in the house have been opposing a debate on the president’s conduct.