Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stop coddling despots

Recently, during a training program for party cadres in Chitwan district, in a threat-laden statement, Prachanda assured his brainwashed cadres that the “State” after the Constituent Assembly (CA) election will come to the Maoist fold at any cost. He made it pretty clear to his cadre that if the Maoists failed to capture power through the CA poll, it would be done through a coup.

While the Maoists are tirelessly trumpeting the possibility of a "democratic coup" backed by the army like the one in Bangladesh, they have their own model --"nationalist coup" ready. Two years after the landmark victory against the despotic monarch, the Nepalis are once again nervous about the possibility of another despotic regime.

The revival of the Maoists' parallel administration across the country clearly shows how committed they are towards the forty plus agreement that they have signed with the government. While the mainstream political parties are having a hard time reaching their constituents -- Dilendra Badu's episode says it all -- the Maoists have kept both the option of bullets and ballots open.

Was it expected? Absolutely yes. The Maoists never gave up the idea of capturing the state altogether. It was political parties who thought that the moderation of the Maoists would take place after they come to power. However, what the leaders of the major political parties failed to realize is that providing political power only begets the desires of the radicals to perpetuate and aggrandize power and does not contribute towards “moderation.” Bringing the radicals to the helms of affairs has never resulted in moderation. It simply does not work. After coming to power, radicals like Hitler, Mussolini, Khomeini, Castro, Kim Jong Il, Mullah Mohammad Omar, got even more “strong headed” and rhetorical. And, yes, our own Prachanda is not getting any softer.

The only way to soften the radicals is to militarily weaken them first. Negotiation with them should happen only after their dream of capturing the state is completely aborted. Unless you abort their dreams of possible military victory over the state, they will never abide by the rules of the game.

Furthermore, when you join hands with radicals whose views are completely opposite to your's, you are bound to get betrayed. From the never-ending episode of the Maoists' betrayal, if nothing, the politicians of the mainstream political parties must have learnt one lesson -- ideological dilution never pays off. The mainstream political parties could have defeated King Gyanendra without the help of the Maoists. Despots like King Gyanendra cannot remain in power for long. Sooner or later people succeed in unseating them. It might have taken a little longer but it was certainly a doable job.

Musharaff's military regime in Pakistan would have been toppled long ago had Benazir and Nawaz Sharif joined hands with the armed radicals in Pakistan. But Benazir never tried to reach out to the radical Islamofascists. She must have known the cost associated with coddling the radicals.

For an alliance to work, it must have the involvement of like-minded parties. When you forge an alliance with a party that believes power comes from the barrel of guns rather than ballots, you run the risk of getting robbed at a gun point. This is what is precisely happening in Nepal. The Maoists are robbing off the political parties at gun point. The sheer threat of violence brings the major political parties to their knees and forces them to fulfill the Maoists' demands.

When we look back, it becomes quite evident that our politicians have once again failed to live up to the nation's expectation. The last two years were the years of wasted opportunities. We had never been so close to realizing the dreams of being a peaceful and democratic nation. Had the Maoists been committed to the peace process and the government sincere towards fulfilling the genuine demands raised by ethnic minorities, the country would have been pretty peaceful and stable by now. The nation would have taken a giant leap towards peace and democracy.

Nearly two years have passed by, but the people are yet to witness the dividends of democracy. The state has been unable to fulfill its basic duties towards citizens. Safety and security of civilians is still a major concern. Inflation has skyrocketed and smooth delivery of goods and services are far from being normal.

The April revolution of 2006 had provided a perfect platform for securing peace and democracy. Two years down the road and here we are again muddling through. What is it that brought us to this level of chaos, conflict, disunity, intrigue, and erosion of a sense of nationhood?

After the victory against King Gyanendra, what our politicians failed to understand is that, in order to establish a durable peace and stability, the violence and lawlessness that has existed thus far must give way to the security of citizens and the rule of law; social and political exclusion must give way to participatory institutions; animosity between the Maoists and the internally displaced persons (IDPs) must give way to national reconciliation and the economy that has been ravaged by the decade-long violent insurgency must be transformed into a well-functioning market economy. Reconciliation and reconstruction never took off.

While the Maoists always remained glued to their glib idea of capturing the state, the major political parties had no strategies whatsoever. They did not even bother to punish the culprits of King Gyanendra's regime. When the state fails to punish the culprits and reward honest citizens, thugs have no reason to stop thuggery.

The chances of holding CA election on April 10 are very slim. Every politician knows that in the current situation free and fair election cannot be conducted. It is just that they don't dare to cruise against the tide of populist politics and be the bearer of the unpleasant news. Instead of window-dressing, the political parties should be truthful about it.

What next? The prime minister should be tasked with forming a national unity government after consultation with the civil society organizations, religious leaders, and all political parties, even those that are outside the Seven Party Alliance (SPA). The new government should then hold CA election after fulfilling the legitimate demands of the regional parties. It is better to have legitimate election later than have forced election now. Only such practical steps can save Nepal from falling into the hands of power hungry despots like Prachanda and King Gyanendra who want to crush democratic rights of the people.

No comments: