National reconciliation The need to uphold national interests
The conflict has got worse ecause of the vested interests of each of the principal political forces.
The country now sees a three-way contest for power among the King, the Maoists and the major political parties represented in the dissolved House of Representatives (HoR). With his Feb.1 step, the King has commenced his direct rule with the smothering of press freedom, heavy curtailment of civic liberties and the imprisonment of a number of political leaders and workers. Four months down the road, there has been a general improvement in press freedom. Civic liberties are still curtailed but most political prisoners have been freed on a selective basis. While there is a visible improvement in the security situation in the towns, cities, and district HQ, the Maoists still hold sway over a large part of the countryside, leading to the creation of a political vacuum in these areas. In this scenario, Nepal is ruled by two distinct regimes—the formal State in control of cities, towns and District HQ and the Maoists in the rural areas. Thus, it is clear that there cannot be a decisive military victory by either side and it is of utmost importance that all the three major actors in the conflict must find a negotiated settlement.
While giving due credit to the King’s professed intentions to restore peace, hold general elections and hand over power to an elected civilian government within a three-year period, his utter disregard for the political parties and their marginalisation in the affairs of the State leaves doubt about his ultimate ability to fulfil his promises. The major political parties have formed a seven-party alliance to launch a nationwide protest programme to pressurise the King to restore the dissolved HoR. In this scheme, it is proposed to form an all party government which would organise a round table political conference (including the Maoists) which could end up with the formation of an interim government and the holding of the election to a constituent assembly. While the demand for the reinstatement of the House appears to have some raison de’tre, is this practicable given the fact that it was the political parties that dissolved the House and not the King and that the tenure of the members has expired two years ago.
Furthermore, with the lacklustre performance of the House and the infighting within the then ruling party that led to its death, such a move can hardly find support of either the masses and the King. What will be better is the handing over of power by the King to a broad-based national government composed of representatives from political parties, civic society, the palace, and the Maoists, if possible. It is evident that the conflict has got worse because of the vested interest of each of the principal power players. Leaders of the political parties and the Maoists are making pilgrimage trips to India to seek support for their partisan stands. But it is gratifying to understand that India, as a good and well-intentional neighbour, has politely told them that this is entirely Nepal’s internal affairs. It is of utmost urgency that the power players sit down to a deep soul-searching to determine what constitutes real national interest.
Clearly, our foremost priority is to achieve lasting internal peace immediately and give each and every citizen a sense of security and well-being in a nation traumatised by the atrocities of the Maoists and compounded by the acts of reprisal of the security forces. Equally important is to restore democracy. The best way of restoring democracy is by holding early elections, preferably after bringing the Maoists to the national mainstream. Thus it is important to build a national consensus towards achieving peace. Towards this end, the King should hold a national political conference (including the Maoists if possible) The main agenda, inter alia, would
be: national reconciliation and peace, holding free and fair elections for HoR/ constituent assembly, inclusion in the new/amended Constitution provisions to address the issues of participation of the deprived of the society such as Dalits, women, Jana-jatis and Madhesis in national affairs, proportional representation in parliament, a federal structure of government that would allow the functioning of five autonomous regions, the role of the donor community and especially India in the peace and reconciliation process and the formation of a national government to negotiate peace and hold elections. As much as there is an urgency to attain immediate peace, there is an equally compelling need for the nation to make a historic leap forward. For those entrusted with our destiny, it would behove them to understand that 21st century Nepal cannot tolerate a communist dictatorship, it can neither withstand an archaic system of active monarchy, nor will it tolerate lacklustre performance, poor governance, corruption and near anarchy in the name of democracy. The future clearly lies in a constitutional monarchy that gives the nation a sense of unity and pride and a multiparty democracy that works in the national interest.
Thapa is a Mahasamiti member, NC-D