KATHMANDU: The government’s move to seek clarification from Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Rookmangud Katawal on Monday has raised a debate: Whether the Maoist leadership’s differences with the Nepali Army (NA) are politically motivated.
The ruling Maoists are angry with the CoAS over the NA’s boycott of six events in which the Maoist-affiliated People’s Liberation Army (PLA) combatants were taking part, its refusal to stop recruitment for personnel and also its decision to reinstate eight “pensioned-off” Brigadier Generals without a nod from the Defence Ministry. Nepali Congress leader Dr Ram Sharan Mahat alleged that the move was a conspiracy to take over the NA and impose authoritarian rule. “The NA is part of the peace process. We take exception to the government’s decision without any consensus,” Mahat told The Himalayan Times.
Though the UML has not officially endorsed the Maoist proposal, party president Jhala Nath Khanal has reportedly given his assent ahead of his trip to China.
The UML is likely to be at the horns of dilemma if the government decides to oust Katawal, whose tenure will come to an end in another four months.
“There are two factions within the party. The issue is likely to create a rift,” said a party worker. But the UML leadership might have an escape hatch: It could evade accountability, by insisting that it’s the government decision and the party had nothing to do with it. According to Professor Dhruba Kumar, a political observer, power and authority is centralised in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet.
“For instance, the National Security Council comprises politicians. Hence, civilian supremacy may become a ploy to legitimise the abuse of the institutional power of the armed forces for the sake of political expediency,” explained Professor Kumar.
The Military Act, 2063 BS, states that the government can remove the CoAS if it deems necessary. “However, it should allow him an opportunity to provide clarification,” says Section 11 of the Act, which spells out three methods for the Army Chief’s ouster.
However, the lawyers maintained that it was no longer a legal issue.