Home International Maoists extend ultimatum to Nepal government

Maoists extend ultimatum to Nepal government

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas Friday extended the 24-hour ultimatum they had slapped on the coalition government, saying they would start fresh protests if their demands were not addressed by Nov 1.

The central committee of the formerly outlawed party began a council of war at the party office in Kathmandu Friday to finalise a new protest movement that would include encircling government offices and a civil disobedience movement, according to Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the deputy chief of the party.

“Our party chairman Prachanda proposed that the government be given till Nov 1 to create a conducive atmosphere for arriving at a consensus,” Maoist lawmaker and spokesman Dinanath Sharma told the media after the meeting ended.

“If we find the government is not serious about addressing the unconstitutional step taken by the president (Ram Baran Yadav) or ready to pledge civilian supremacy (above the military), we will start a vigorous movement,” Sharma said.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal Friday called a meeting of his council of ministers to formulate the government’s strategy, especially how to tackle the looming financial crisis.

The Maoist protests started since May, when the Prachanda government tried to sack its arch enemy, then chief of the army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal.

The fired general was reinstated by the president, leading to the collapse of the eight-month Maoist government.

Since then, the former insurgents have been seeking to censure the president, calling his role unconstitutional and seeking a debate on his move in parliament.

With the ruling parties refusing to admit the debate, the former guerrillas in retaliation have laid a siege to parliament, not allowing it to sit.

The blockade has prevented the government from passing the budget for the current financial year, leading to a dire financial crisis.

From the current Nepali month, all government salaries have been stopped due to the paucity of funds. Finance Minister Surendra Nath Pandey Thursday appealed to the former rebels to allow the budget to be passed.

The growing crisis has been further fuelled by manoeuvres by Defence Minister Bidya Bhandari to push for fresh recruitment in the army.

The bid goes against the peace pact signed between the parties and the Maoists in 2006 that saw an end to the 10-year-old civil war claiming over 16,000 lives.

In the pact, both sides pledged to stop recruitment or buy new arms.

However, both sides have flouted the pledge with impunity.

Bhandari recently asked parliament to revise the peace pact, saying the recruitment freeze was hindering the army from carrying out its responsibilities.

It lead to the chief of the UN agency that is monitoring the truce in Nepal, Karin Landgren, to meet the prime minister Thursday, conveying concern at Bhandari’s statements. Landgren said Bhandari’s statements were provocative and could affect the peace negotiations.

Though the government distanced itself from the defence minister, saying her statement was not supported by the parties, the minister’s action has raised concerns about the rise of a third force, which is inimical to peace and democracy, and trying to bolster the army to trigger a new confrontation with the Maoists.