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Nepal Maoist army loses 1st constitution battle

Reetu Raj, Beyondheadlines.

KATHMANDU: The mighty People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Nepal’s ruling
Maoist party, that had waged a relentless war on the state for 10
years and been instrumental in the fall of King Gyanendra’s
army-backed regime in 2006, tasted a major defeat on Thursday with the
parliamentary parties agreeing on giving it its marching orders – from
the new constitution that is being drafted.

A committee of MPs formed to resolve disputes among the parties while
writing the new constitution, that is headed by Maoist chief Pushpa
Kamal Dahal Prachanda himself, the man who was the supreme commander
of the PLA when it fought the “People’s War” from 1996, agreed on
Thursday that the guerrilla army would have no mention in the preamble
of the constitution.

For three years, the Maoists, once an underground party, had stuck to
their demand that the PLA, whose battle paved the way for the new
constitution, should get honourable mention in the new statute. But
faced with intractable opposition, Prachanda gave in finally,
especially with the other committee members pointing out that as per
the peace accord signed by the Maoists, the PLA would be dissolved
before the new statute comes into effect. The nearly 20,000 guerrilla
fighters will have to be inducted in security forces or rehabilitated,
a project that has been remained blocked for two years.

However, the former insurgents are still asking for their “People’s
War” to be mentioned in the preamble and Mukunda Sharma, parliament
spokesman, said that dispute was yet to be resolved. The other parties
have been resisting this demand on the ground that there have been
several armed uprisings and even now, over two dozen armed groups are
active in the Terai plains; so singling out the PLA for the honour
would fuel further distrust.

The Maoists, now the dominant partner in the ruling coalition, had to
also give up their demand over the christening of the upcoming
statute. It would now be simply the Constitution of Nepal without any
adjectives, Sharma told TNN. The Maoists had been asking that the new
constitution title include “federal, secular republic”.

Ironically, while it took the parties almost three years to decide on
the new title, the constitution is yet to be ready. There are still 22
contentious issues left, including serious ones like the election
method in future and the form of government. The Maoists are seeking a
presidential form of government.

Only nine days are left for the constitutional deadline to end and
Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal has already indicated his government
would not be able to complete the task. Khanal, who became premier
three months ago by signing a clandestine agreement with the Maoists,
is now seeking to have the May 28 deadline extended by a year. The
proposal has been opposed by the main opposition parties and triggered
anger among citizens. Khanal’s proposal is likely to be put to vote in
parliament on May 26 and fresh uncertainties are on the card for the
nascent republic – including a possible change in government

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