Nepal peace pact in tatters on third anniversary

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Nepal’s historic peace pact, which ended a decade of violent communist insurgency, turned three years Friday under the threat of unravelling.

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On this date in 2006, the shadowy leader of Nepal’s Maoist guerrillas, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, emerged in the capital from underground to ink a comprehensive agreement with the major parties.

The pact pledged peace, a new constitution and general elections within six months of that.

The pact ended an uprising that killed over 16,000 people and displaced thousands. It also brought in a sea change in the conservative Hindu kingdom, transforming it into a secular republic.

However, since the election last year, that ended Nepal’s centuries-old monarchy without bloodshed, the peace process has run into a storm.

Though the Maoist guerrillas swept the election and came to power, their brief government failed to introduce the reforms it had pledged, partly due to opposition by the disgruntled parties and the army, and partly due to their own inadequacies.

Now, the Maoists are once more on the warpath against a coalition government of the major parties.

Though they have promised not to return to violence, the former rebels’ street protests paralysed the government earlier this month. In parliament, their lawmakers have kept up a steady siege on the house, not allowing the government to pass the budget and plunging it into a crippling financial crisis.

Last week, Prachanda gave a seven-day ultimatum to the government that ends Friday, the day the comprehensive peace agreement was signed three years ago.

“If we don’t reach an understanding with the government, the central committee of our party will meet tomorrow to make our position clear,” Prachanda told journalists Friday after a meeting with beleaguered Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Though Nepal said he was optimistic the talks – that revolved round the budget and reaching a compromise on the Maoist demands – were “positive”, the leaders have expressed the same optimism so many times earlier that the nation has no more faith in them.

A poll conducted by Nepal’s biggest private television station Kantipur has indicated that more than 60 percent of the respondents think the meetings are a dilatory tactic.

Interface, a Nepali organisation running a series of public campaigns, lists the promises the parties and the Maoists made but failed to keep.

People who lost their husbands, wives, daughters or sons during the “People’s War” are still awaiting justice.

“When the war ended, I thought I will finally get justice for my daughter,” says an enraged Devi Sunuwar, whose teenaged daughter Maina was tortured to death by the army. “But now that we have peace, I have lost all hope.

“The court ordered the government to arrest the army men involved. But police say they are helpless in the face of army obduracy.”

Three governments since the pact was signed failed to form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will punish the war crimes.

They have also failed to make public what happened to over 1,000 people who are still missing after being taken under control by either security forces or the Maoists.

There is also growing discord between the government and the UN that was asked to be a partner in the peace process.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) that supervises the Maoists’ guerrilla army and arms, will end its extended tenure in January 2010.

However, the government has failed to start the process to rehabilitate over 19,000 guerrilla combatants who are still languishing in primitive barracks.

There is also growing doubt whether Nepal will be able to keep its date with the new constitution that is to be enforced in May 2010.

This month, parliament was forced to revise the constitution-making schedule for the seventh time as the parliamentarian teams failed to complete their work within the stipulated time.