Saturday, September 30, 2006

Counteracting Maoist Strategies in Nepal

After the April uprising, the mood of general public seems to be upbeat. People have begun to see a silver lining in the otherwise murky cloud. With the eight point pact between the government and the Maoist rebels, bloody insurgency that took lives of approximately 14,000 people seems to be coming to an end, hopefully a logical one.

However, even after the eight point pact, kidnappings and extortion of innocent citizens have not subsided. Kidnappings and extortions by the Maoists continue unabated.

Thousands of homes of internally displaced citizens padlocked by the Maoist insurgents are yet to be unlocked. Their lands have been distributed to create an utopian society and movable assets used up. Despite such atrocities, the current government seems to be reluctant to vigorously raise the issue and force the Maoist leadership to do something about it. The Maoists as usual have not been sticking to the agreements whole heartedly. This is not the first time they have breached an agreement. If one can get away with crimes, why bother about its judicial ramifications? It makes perfect sense.

While the Maoists seem upbeat about their political future, the government appears helpless, feeble, and in disarray. For now, its main agenda seems to be keeping insurgents happy, contended, and engaged. However, with Maoists' chairman blowing hot and cold on politicians, Nepalese Army, and the king concurrently, the political landscape is dangerously tilting in Maoists' favor and may not remain the same for long. Keeping the Maoists engaged is necessary but not enough to ensure the dominance of democratic forces. With an increase in dominance of CPN-Maoist in national politics and supposedly end of the monarchy after constituent assembly, what will the Nepali political landscape look like? With an increase in Maoist dominance in Nepali politics, members of UML and other splinter communist groups that share the same common minimum values may desert their parties and readily join the Maoist bandwagon. That will push social and liberal democrats towards oblivion. Their very existence may become questionable.

After constituent assembly when monarchy is undone, what happens if the Maoists do not gain majority in parliament? Will they resort to persuasive politics and try winning mind and hearts of ordinary citizens whom they frightened and intimidated for one and a half decades? Big brains churning out political strategies for SPA should be pondering upon these questions, sooner the better.

If the Maoists lose elections and become a minority group in the parliament, it is very likely that some of their leaders will again head out to jungles and resort to guns to maintain their fiefdom or they may resort to guns and rig their way to the power. It is all together a different question whether or not they will be able to hold on to power in the current geopolitical settings for long. Either of these two routes is alarmingly dangerous.

Prime Minister Koirala's instance on ceremonial monarchy is very insightful. It may not be a very popular or politically correct thing to do now, but it is the right thing to do. Politicians like Koirala should demonstrate the courage and do the right thing rather than cruising in with popular opinion. Having a ceremonial king may not be a popular idea but it serves the people's interests. It will provide international community a base and a space to operate in case communist groups go out of whack and follow Cuban, North Korean, or for that matter Venezuelan path.

Mere signing agreement does not mean anything. It is not only about bringing the Maoists on-board and keeping them engaged. The SPA should work towards retaining their lost grounds by proving themselves strong and visionary.

They should try defending their existence and redefine their strategy in order to gain public confidence in them.

Even after the 12-point pact, 25-point code of conduct and the eight-point agreement, Maoists' brutality continues unabated. It is propagating the perception of lawlessness. But establishing the rule of law and maintaining security is very important for the success of any peace process and beyond. Failure to establish the rule of --- and maintain --- law and order effectively has left East Timor in a lurch.

The government should not ignore Maoist atrocities or any other criminal groups. We may choose to ignore lawlessness, but the only thing we can hope after that is social unrest, untold bloodshed, and the end of our dreams.

A well functioning legal system is in everyone's best interest. It provides an arena in which citizens can hold politicians and civil servants to account. In addition, it helps citizens protect themselves from exploitation by rich and powerful, and help resolve conflicts in an amicable manner.

A rule of law is central to the realization of constitutionally guaranteed rights and is important to achieve the broader goals of development and poverty reduction.We had a well functioning parliament a decade ago. It did not take very long for things to go out of hand and we risked ourselves of becoming a failed

state. Be it an irrational thinking of bunch of leftist radicals that thought power comes from the barrel of gun or incompetent politicians who think they could get away without serving their constituents and enriching themselves. The decade old insurgency brought us nothing but made us to realize that the armed struggle is an incorrect approach. Sanity has finally made a come back, better late than never, and let us hope it prevails.

Nepal is confronted with significant challenges and seemingly intr-actableproblems. Corruption and weak adherence to the rule of law are the biggest blems. Political will to address governance and ensure economic development is central to the Nepal's future.

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