Room for few more

The meetings between top Maoists and leaders of the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) against the backdrop of the current misapprehension over the 8-point agreement constitute a healthy practice, which needs to be sustained at least until the completion of the constituent assembly (CA) elections. Maoist chairman Prachanda and politburo member Dr Bab-uram Bhattarai on Sunday met CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Nepal and president of the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party Narayan Man Bijuckchhe separately in the capital and discussed matters relating to misunderstanding among the alliance partners over the latest peace pact with the rebels. Issues of ‘conspiracies being hatched by reactionaries’, arms management and CA polls were discussed, according to Dinanath Sharma, a member of the Maoist talks team. Bijuckchhe said he assured Prachanda that the alliance partners were not opposed to the agreement per se, but to the process: that the partners were not consulted before finalising the accord.

Indeed, since the June 16 pact, leaders of political parties have kicked up controversy by expressing their discontent over the agreement and bringing up the issue of arms management (what it means and whether it should be a pre-condition for the formation of the interim government). The agreements between the rebels and the SPA and the consensus in the country already provide for a package deal, with the constituent assembly being the focal point, which includes the eventual management of arms of both the armies. Any doubts will have to be removed through mutual consultations rather than through a war of words in the media. The unnecessary controversy and confusion over the committee for the drafting of an interim constitution was also certainly not in the spirit of Jana Andolan II and the pact between the two sides.

However, things seem to be settling down somewhat. For example, the government and the Maoist negotiating teams on Sunday also decided to induct more members into the drafting committee. One is reported to be a representative of the CPN-UML and two, of women. There has been no criticism as such of the competence of any of the six existing members of the panel. But fresh induction must be based on quality, not on the consideration of gender or ethnicity. Nobody can have any reservations about women being on the committee, even in a majority, provided they are well known in the field of constitutional law. Mere expertise in criminal or family law, for example, does not qualify a woman, and for that matter, a man, to draw up a nation’s constitution. On such occasions, mere representation tends to become a vice rather than a virtue. What is of vital importance is that a sound constitution should be written, incorporating the universally accepted principles of equality, individual freedom, rule of law, and institutionalisation of the sovereignty vested in the people.