Historic treaty - Caution is still needed

The historic 108-point Comprehensive Peace Treaty (CPT) has given rise to great hopes. It has put behind the era of terror and uncertainty. People are looking for the sincere implementation of the treaty.

We should continue to excercise caution that there is no breach of accord. The leaders of eight parties should move with caution and build confidence among the people. Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s appeal to all the parties to remain united for a long time is not only prudent but also necessary to implement the agreement and to build a Nepal commensurate with the leaders’ visions.

Mahara’s appeal reminds us of the similar appeal made by CPN-UML leader Manmohan Adhikari in 1991 when he had suggested that the Nepali Congress leadership find a way to elect all the prominent party leaders who had formed an alliance during the movement against the Panchayat system but his appeal went unheeded. He then issued a slogan of sabai bam ek tham (all Left parties unite to contest elections). This also went unheeded. As a result, the beginning of the first session of Parliament witnessed wide differences and bandhs became regular. In fact, the suppression in Rolpa sowed the seed for armed resistance. Having suffered a great deal during the last 16 years the leaders might have matured by now. If the maturity and mutual trust continues, we can hope that the past mistakes will not be repeated. The test of this will be during the nomination of new members in the interim parliament and in the nomination of civil society members.

Initially the Maoists had suggested nominating one-third members of the parliament from civil society. For unclear reasons, they gave up this demand. Other parties had shown indifference to civil society but had acknowledged their important role during this year’s peaceful resistance. Although the number has been reduced the quality of nomination will prove the leaders’ wisdom. The peace agreement, the formation of interim government till December 1 and constitution of interim parliament are necessary to signal progress. These steps are important; however, the main task before interim parliament is much more challenging.

The people’s aspirations need to be upheld for reshaping national policy and restructuring the state. For this, public hearings on all issues should be held throughout the country. The question of languages, formation of administrative units and their bases, powers of administrative units and their relationship with central government are fundamental issues that cannot be left to the wisdom of a few hundred party-affiliated politicians. Dalits, women, ethnic communities and other marginalised segments should have an independent say. It’s necessary that a platform be provided to the residents of remote areas to give them an opportunity to express themselves.

Similarly, referendum must be accepted as the best way to fathom popular will. The leaders have announced the need for inclusive and total democracy. This makes it obligatory to let the people express themselves to avail themselves of an appropriate forum, which will help parliamentarians to arrive at a consensus on important issues.

In the last eight months, our leaders have made a remarkable achievement. However, only the base of future state structure has been created. Among their unique decisions, mixed electoral system is one. It has not been made public why proportional representation was not adopted. The people have the right to know why the mixed electoral system was adopted when ethnic, Dalit, women organisations and civil society members have expressed their views in favour of proportional representation. As long as this issue is not addressed, suspicion will persist.

Turning to polls on the basis of geographical districts, question arises if we will insist on a new demarcation of constituencies on the basis of language, culture and ethnic composition. If we stick to the old territorial division, it will create dissent among people and if we opt for new demarcation, it will be time-consuming and might not be accomplished before next May. During the revision of the voters’ list many problems will surface.

It will be easy to take the country as a single constituency and adopt proportional representation. This system will provide opportunity to all parties and sections of population to achieve proportional representation in the Constituent Assembly (CA). An inclusive CA can only make a Constitution acceptable to all. This will not leave room for any grudge. The accord has heralded a new era where guns will remain silent. But for a real and lasting peace it is necessary to root out all possibilities of dissension which might give rise to another conflict. We are in the process of creating a sound base for Nepal’s future structure. Various accords have led to the November 21 treaty and have thus carved out a base to build upon. We have to be careful to use only good construction materials to make the base strong.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister