On the high wire

The conclusion of the central committee (CC) meeting of the CPN-Maoist at Kamidanda, Kavre, promises to give the tardy peace talks a new momentum. But clear is the message that the Maoists will launch a movement if there is no progress on the promised movement to the constituent assembly (CA) polls. They held a press conference on Saturday to make public the CC decisions, which have ruled out the management of Maoist arms without an ‘overall package deal’; Maoist spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara clarified that without a solution of all the key issues the rebels would not be ready even to confine their People’s Liberation Army to cantonment areas, as agreed under the five-point accord. This presupposes a speedy settlement of the questions of interim constitution, interim legislature, interim government and arms management.

On their part, the rebels have formed a 10-member talks team under their chairman Prachanda to bring the peace talks to a conclusion. Pradip Gyawali, a member of the government’s talks team, has also said that the summit talks between the Maoists and SPA will take place ‘within a week’ to finalise the interim constitution, including a decision on the King’s interim status. These are hopeful signs. But the accusations and counter-accusations of violations of the 12- and 8-point agreements and the ceasefire code of conduct that continue to dog the two sides without perceptible progress on the CA agenda have not only caused political unease and uncertainty but aggravated the risks of peace process being derailed again.

Both sides are facing charges of violations of the ceasefire code of conduct. The Maoists continue to resort to such tactics as extortions and abductions though on a reduced scale. However, by way of positive gestures, their CC meeting has decided to move forward the process of returning land seized by them and settling the problems of the displaced people, to raise voluntary contributions, to act against those guilty of beatings, abductions, and killings in violation of the party’s policy, as well as to prevent the use of unnecessary force during the ceasefire. The Maoists would be well advised to take particular measures to ensure that they not only make good their commitments but also are seen to be doing so. For its part, the SPA government must bring the peace talks to a logical conclusion in keeping with the letter and spirit of the three agreements (containing 12, 8 and 5 points). It also needs to take additional steps to ensure that it is not seen to be carried away by extraneous considerations regarding crisis resolution, including the issue of arms management. Indeed, the UN would be playing an important role in the peace process, but this role is expected to be limited to the mandate the Nepalis give the world body. While the time is too precious for the government to waste on mundane matters, the political forces would do well not to make the mistake of taking the people for granted.