Promises to keep

At long last, the draft interim constitution is to see the light of day, probably tomorrow — ten weeks after the formation of the committee on June 16. Krishna Prasad Sitaula, home minister and coordinator of the government talks team, assured drafting committee chairman Laxman Prasad Aryal that now the document could be submitted to the negotiating teams of the two sides. This assurance came after the state and rebel talks teams agreed on Monday to acknowledge the draft. The presentation will mark an important step in the peace process. Several contentious issues, however, have to be politically settled, as the Aryal panel is reported to have left the blank spaces for want of commonality between the SPA and the Maoists. These include alternative legislative arrangements, the process for the constituent assembly polls and the time-frame, the status of the monarchy, the citizenship issue, as well as the modalities for the promulgation of the new constitution.

The negotiators have agreed to settle the contentious issues through discussion and on the basis of consensus. Actually the 16-member committee itself is supposed to supply a complete draft, any part of which would of course be subject to alteration in accordance with SPA-Maoist agreement. The mandate of the Jana Andolan II, the bilateral accords, the suggestions from various quarters, and the relevant portions of the 1990 Constitution should have constituted enough ground for the committee to fill in the aforesaid blanks. Whatever the draft, the SPA and the Maoists will deliberate on the contents again, reaching a final settlement, and then, probably, the House of Representatives will adopt it. The statute is expected to ensure that the CA polls are held in a free and fair manner and as early as practicable, say within a year. And, needless to emphasise, it will also have to cover other interim measures vis-a-vis arms management, exercise of legislative powers, and day-to-day administration.

With so much delay already made, it does not matter now if an additional week or two are spent on finalising the draft. What is of greater import, however, is the quality of the product. All said and done, though, the political parties would be sending a very positive signal by promulgating it before the Dashain holidays start, thus injecting an upbeat mood into the festivities and terminating much of the uncertainty and grim speculation that now hang over the future course of the national politics. While some of the things seem to be moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction, it will hardly be conducive to the main goal of the CA elections if people in crucial slots, such as the Prime Minister and ministers, continued making statements contrary to written agreements concerning, for example, alternative legislative mechanism and arms management. Now certainly is the time to forge ahead. Engaging willy-nilly in delaying tactics in contravention of the pacts and understanding will not make the transition to a new democratic order a trouble-free journey.