`Prachandagate’ video tape smears Nepal’s peace process

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : A video tape where Nepal’s outgoing premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda tells his cadres that the country’s peace process is no more than a tactic has been leaked to embarras his Maoist government that now rules as a caretaker. But it may end up embarrassing other major parties as well and cast doubts about the credibility of the peace process.

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Nepal’s private television channels Tuesday night broadcast footage of Prachanda telling combatants of his guerrilla army that though he signed a peace pact with the major parties and agreed to take part in an election, it was part of a “revolutionary counter-attack” meant to carry on the revolt under a different strategy and capture complete power.

Just months away from the historic constituent assembly election in April 2008 that transformed Nepal from the world’s only Hindu kingdom into a secular republic, the rebel supremo told his People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fighters that the party had inflated the PLA strength almost fivefold during a verification by the UN.

“You all know that we were a small force,” Prachanda said in the tape made during a PLA training session in the infamous Shaktikhor camp in southern Chitwan district where a businessman was beaten to death.

“Our number was about 7-8,000. But if we had told the UN that, our size would have been cut down to 4,000 (after verification). So we told the UN the PLA had 35,000. And now (after verification), we have 20,000.”

He told the PLA not to be disheartened by the UN verification that reduced it to about 19,600. Once the party was in power, Prachanda indicated it could overturn the verification.

The tape also showed Prachanda saying the party would continue to buy arms for an ultimate fight to capture absolute power.

“We need money (for arms),” he said. “No one gives them free.”

The money would be raised, he said, from the funds his party pressured the then coalition government into paying the PLA as their monthly salary. Of the nearly Nepali Rs.600 million the then government agreed to pay the PLA troops as salary, he said part would go to them while the rest would be used to buy arms.

The embarrassed Maoists Wednesday tried to downplay the tape, saying it was an old one and irrelevant. They also said it was part of the propaganda against them that had started with President Ram Baran Yadav committing a “coup against the constitution” and reinstating the sacked army chief.

Other major parties, predictably, took the moral high ground. The main opposition, the Nepali Congress, and the Maoists’ former allies, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, said the tape exposed the dual nature of the Maoists and their thirst for power.

However, the parties could also have been aware of the deception and yet turned a blind eye to it.

The UN, which appointed its political wing, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), to monitor the arms and combatants of the Maoists, shrugged off accusations that it had mismanaged the verification. UNMIN Wednesday said the verification and eventual integration of the PLA with the Nepal Army were with the consent of the major political parties.

The verification of the PLA, it added, was done by a Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee that included the UN, PLA as well as the Nepal Army.

“The questions asked during the verification and the process – everything was decided according to consensus among the major political parties,” the UNMIN spokesman in Kathmandu told IANS.