An idea is born

Nepal has entered into a new era of peace, democracy and governance with Tuesday’s signing of a Comprehensive Peace Treaty (CPT) between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), formally ending the 11-year-old armed conflict. This day will go down in Nepali history as a high point of the past struggle of the people, intensified with the commencement of the Maoist insurgency, for their rights and for a better deal for all of them irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion, or ethnicity. The treaty unequivocally opens the door for a new political, social and economic order to be determined through a constitution drawn up by the representatives elected by the people. The 10-section CPT draws the contours of a truly vibrant Nepal as the two sides have affirmed their faith in the fundamentals of governance in days to come — forward-looking democratic restructuring of the state, competitive multiparty democratic polity, civil liberties and human rights, full press freedom, the rule of law, and democratic values, international human and humanitarian laws and conventions.

This is an unprecedented achievement for the Nepalis, and at least worthy of notice and research by the world. Until a year ago, many had not imagined that a political solution would arrive so soon. Koirala, in his post-signing speech, said that many diplomats attending that ceremony must have been surprised, as he spoke of the example Nepal set of how peace could be won. He also thanked the foreign diplomats based in Nepal for the inputs they had supplied in one form or another. Maoist chairman Prachanda, also speaking of Nepal presenting a model of peace for others, hailed the CPT as a monument to the success of the Nepali people’s sustained struggle which became possible despite the “prejudices of some developed nations which always opposed the idea of the political parties joining forces with us”. He also expressed his party’s readiness for a dialogue, without harbouring any prejudice, with those who had denounced the CPN-M in the past. This is indeed a welcome gesture which needs to be followed up to facilitate national reconciliation. The UN, India, China, the US and others have welcomed the treaty.

The CPT lays the basis for a new era. But the challenges are not over yet. There will crop up many a hiccup between now and the CA polls. Since the most difficult part has been overcome, it is fair to expect that everything will come out right in the end. The promulgation of the interim constitution should now be much easier, which should, in turn, lead to the formation of an interim parliament and an interim government. Koirala, Prachanda and SPA leaders are talking of building a new Nepal. Indeed, now, the general Nepalis, who had been frustrated at the performance of successive governments are pinning high hopes on the soon-to-be-formed interim government and on the governance after the constituent assembly, because the politics of today and tomorrow is going to start on a new slate — an atmosphere defined by the formidable presence of the Maoists, the SPA constituents chastened by their nearly four years of being knocked about under the active royal rule, and an entirely new constitution.

To set in motion the process of governance with a difference, the political parties cannot wait for the outcome of the CA polls and the election of a new parliament and formation of a new government, the way the interim government formed after the 1990 movement had set aside important decisions stressing that it had only twin functions — to see to the promulgation of a new constitution and the holding of the general elections. The upcoming interim government should not, and probably will not, make that mistake. As for the people’s mandate, except where a referendum is deemed necessary, the interim government, with the induction of the Maoists, will not be any less representative of the people than a government returned with a landslide majority. So it must set about the serious business of setting things right from day one, whether it means cracking down on corruption, acting on the Rayamajhi commission report, announcing policies and programmes which are of benefit to the general people or the nation, evolving consensus on vital interests of the nation, including the direction of its foreign policy, or making a start on promoting democratic values and merit-based practices. The SPA and the Maoists, who have displayed a high degree of mutual accommodation in coming this far on the road to a permanent political settlement, should also rise to the occasion to demonstrate an even greater measure of commitment to putting words into deeds. The revolution will have permanence only if the people can enjoy the dividends of peace and democracy.