Change the cloak

CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal has said the interim constitution should be finalised by mid-October to pave the way for holding the constituent assembly (CA) elections by April next year. Several other high-ranking leaders of major parties and senior members of the SPA government have also expressed a similar view. Even this may seem a delayed timeframe in comparison with the original understanding between the SPA and the Maoists, but at the same time, judging by what has happened in the intervening period, it would look quite an achievement for the country if the CA polls could be held according to this schedule. But such mention of timeframe by political leaders is sounding increasingly over-optimistic. Statements emanating from political leaders of both sides and the perceived positions of some of the important external players in Nepali politics leave the impression that the climate of distrust, rather than otherwise, may well be building up.

Even within the SPA government, there are sharp differences of opinion. If one looks at what the two deputy prime ministers — K P Sharma Oli and Amik Sherchan — say, the picture will become clear. Even the stated position of a party and that of its ministers seem to be in conflict — witness what the CPN-UML has decided and what deputy PM Oli has been saying. The finalisation and promulgation of the interim constitution without further delay will be the first major step towards reassuring the Nepali people that their mandate expressed through the recent Jana Andolan and the commitments made in the three agreements signed by the SPA and the Maoists will be fulfilled. The 16-member interim constitution drafting committee submitted the draft of the interim constitution nearly three weeks ago, and a joint task force was formed to give a final shape to the said document, but things do not seem to have moved forward at a satisfactory speed.

The government and the Maoists recently signed a five-point accord that made it possible for both sides to separately send identical letters to the UN secretary-general, requesting the world body’s role in arms management. Unhappily, even now, responsible politicians are making provocative statements contr-ary to the provisions of the pacts, including the question of arms management, which needs to be resol-ved as a package deal along with the political issues covered by the agreements. This is the only way to give peace a real chance. The postponed summit ta-lks between the Maoists and the SPA which were said to be held ‘very soon’ are yet uncertain. To make matters worse, the reported movement of military vehicles and closing of banks to avoid Maoists’ demand for ‘donation’ have only deepened mutual distrust. Neither side should take things, and particularly the people, for granted. It would be a big mistake for the government, and for that matter the CPN-Maoist, to assume that it can get the country out of the conflict or get away by going back on its commitments.