High-level mechanism augurs well for peace process

KATHMANDU: Hardly 10 months are left to complete the process of drafting the new constitution, but many vexed issues related to the new constitution are yet to be resolved. The constitution-making body, Constituent Assembly, has made a tardy progress towards accomplishing its task. Moreover, nothing concrete has been done towards rehabilitation and integration of the Maoist combatants, without which the peace process cannot reach a logical end. If both the tasks are not accomplished within the next 10 months, the country may plunge into another round of chaos.

In this backdrop, the latest agreement among the three major political parties — Unified CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML — to set up a high-level political mechanism to address the issues has raised hope. It is the latest in a series of agreements in the peace process that began in 2005.

The latest agreement that came after months of political deadlock between the key political players will hopefully smoothen the process of writing constitution and taking the peace process to a logical conclusion.

Besides the 12-point agreement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Maoists and other pacts with several Madhesi and other outfits demanding autonomy for different regions have played a key role in demonstrating the capacity of political players to resolve their differences at the last minute.

The success of the peace process is related to the

management, rehabilitation and integration of 19,000 Maoist combatants, who have been languishing in cantonments for two years. The situation is such that not a single word can be written without the support of two-third majority of the CA members and the three major parties must unite for that. Moreover, there are many complex issues — determining the bases and modalities of carving out federal states and what form of governance they should adopt — on which there are a number of differences within and among the parties.

For instance, the Nepali Congress lawmakers representing different regions have demanded that their identity be reflected while carving the federal states. UCPN-M wants the states to be carved on the basis of caste

and community. Parties and lawmakers from different regions and communities have been putting forth divergent views on the contents of the new constitution. UCPN-M and the non-Maoist parties have different views on the process of integrating Maoist combatants. Approaching the conclusion by accommodating all kinds of views is going to be a challenging task before the parties. Deteriorating law and order situation, uncontrolled price hike and depriving relief to the people hit by conflict and natural calamities are the issues that may create hindrance in the process of constitution writing and the peace process.

Only the government’s effort cannot be sufficient to resolve the problems in the state of transition, as different interest groups might be working to derail the peace process and take advantage of the transition phase. So, the political parties, from central to local level, need to demonstrate unity to clear all kind of hurdles, which come on the way to complete the peace process.

In such a backdrop, the proposed high-level mechanism may prove handy to surmount

the obstacles in the peace process and the process of writing constitution.

Girija Prasad Koirala of NC, Madhav Kumar Nepal of UML and Pushpa Kamal Dahal of UCPN-M, who played an important role to bring the peace process up to this point, sat together at Koirala’s residence in Maharajgunj on August 1 and agreed to set up a high level political mechanism to chalk out crucial agenda. They also formed a task force to work out the modalities and terms of reference of the mechanism. The task force comprises Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash’ and Dev Gurung from Unified CPN-Maoist, Gopal Man Shrestha and Krishna Sitaula from NC and Ashok Rai and Bishnu Poudel from CPN-UML The task force held its first meeting yesterday and has scheduled the next meeting for tomorrow.

However, the UCPN-M still wants the Prime Minister to address the issue of ‘civil supremacy’ before forming the mechanism. At yesterday’s meeting of the task force the UCPN-M reiterated its stance to address its demand of ‘settling the issue of civil supremacy’ before forming the mechanism. “Setting up of the mechanism will have no meaning until the government makes conducive atmosphere by addressing our demand of civil supremacy” said Dev Prasad Gurung.

On the other hand, Madhes-based parties and other fringe parties are disappointed the

three major parties for sidelining them. Jitendra Dev of Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum Nepal (Democratic) said if the bigger

parties tried to isolate Madhes-based political forces in the mechanism, they would failed to get the desired result.

Chitra Bahadur KC of the National People’s Front says, “New constitution cannot be drafted until the major parties unite. So their attempt to set up the mechanism is very positive.” He said the UCPN-M should not pose any conditions for setting up the mechanism, which is mainly for writing the constitution and driving home the peace process. Pashupati Shumsher Rana, chairman, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, said the mechanism would certainly be helpful to clear the political deadlock and move the peace process smoothly and write the constitution on time.

Notwithstanding the reservations from the Maoists and other parties, the effort to set up the mechanism has enthused people and almost all political forces. Major parties should not delay formation of the mechanism and begin work on the vital issues.