Paving the way

The government has withdrawn the prohibitory orders it had imposed about a month ago, banning an assembly of more than five people, rallies and meetings in the capital. However, it retains the ban around Singha Durbar and the Royal Palace. The other day it had also released a number of detainees and those, including Janmorcha Nepal leader Lilamani Pokharel, against whom the government was proceeding to frame charges based on, among other things, their alleged links with the Maoists. According to Home Minister Kamal Thapa, the withdrawal was effected in view of the requests of the political parties, civil society and the media. He also claimed that the prohibitory orders had helped prevent bloodshed and massive infiltration of the Maoists into the capital. A few days ago, the scope of the orders, applicable to the areas within Ring Road, had been narrowed as a conciliatory partial gesture to the five political parties whose leaders had rejected the invitations to meet the King. Thapa also said that there are only five protesters in detention and they would be “released after the investigations are over.”

The withdrawal orders are certainly a welcome move that should contribute to paving the way for a meeting between the King and leaders of the five parties. Differences have surfaced among the five parties over the conditions for any talks with the King, even though their leaders have said they would decide on the basis of a consensus. For Nepali Congress leader Girija Prasad Koirala, release of the detainees and lifting of the prohibitory orders seem to meet the conditions. The CPN-UML has added the exit of the Surya Bahadur Thapa goverment. And for Janmorcha Nepal and the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, there is still another condition — the expression of intent by the palace to discuss the five parties’ 18-point agenda.

It is not entirely unnatural for the parties to raise doubts about whether the proposed talks could prove meaningful, as they feel they have been let down in the past. At the same time, it is important that they understand the situation and do not insist on making conditions a matter of prestige. Consultation and understanding between the palace and the parties would go a long way in ending the political deadlock. On its part, the palace should no longer give any room for suspicion of its intent and reassure the political parties that it is committed to the 1990 Constitution. Both sides should look at the present crisis from a long-range perspective, keeping uppermost in their minds the welfare of Nepal and the Nepalis. For this to happen, they should play down their narrow interests. Given good intentions, it is not difficult for them to find an amicable settlement of their political and constitutional differences.