Running against time

The second summit between the SPA (government) and the CPN-Maoist that got underway at Baluwatar yesterday has been postponed till tomorrow morning after hours of discussion on a package that includes the issues of interim constitution and interim legislature, arms management, socio-economic transformation, and the restructuring of the state. According to the press release issued by the two negotiating teams after yesterday’s parley, the talks were “extremely positive”. The general public may feel that their expectations have been belied by the failure of the ‘summit’ to make any substantive announcement. However, major political leaders have expressed ‘optimism’. The talks, to quote Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, will continue for several days until a conclusion is reached. On summit-eve, CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, stressing that the summit should be brought to a fruitful end, had said that, in the case of a deadlock, all the parties should make public their stances, letting the people decide who has laid an obstacle in the road to peace and political settlement.

On summit-eve, Maoist leaders Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Dev Gurung had expressed dissatisfaction with “inadequate” homework. Nepal, too, spoke of “inadequate” homework because of “somebody’s excuses”. However, according to deputy prime minister Amik Sherchan, agreement will be reached on interim statute, formation of an interim government and arms management at the summit. Prachanda, reiterating his threat of leading an “urban uprising if need be”, however, said that though Saturday’s discussions between the two sides were inconclusive, “we will make some decisions” at the summit. It appears that the summit will come out with some decisions, leaving the remaining issues to be sorted out later. Both sides, all the more so the government, are under intense public pressure to deliver. Six months have already elapsed, and the government will find it increasingly difficult to postpone things for too long. Otherwise its raison d’etre may be challenged.

Concluding the summit in one or more days is less important than to demonstrate a determination to produce concrete results. Indeed, after the 12-point, 8-point, and 5-point agreements, things should have moved along at a much faster pace. When both the Maoists and the SPA constituents have agreed to settle all the political disputes through the CA polls, it is strange that issues such as the future of the monarchy or the row over whether the current parliament should be treated as an interim one with some modifications should be hindering the progress on the CA elections. The people expect the summit to give more than just a date for the CA polls, as dates have been blissfully ignored even after the 8-point pact. The interim constitution should be finalised, paving the way for the formation of the interim government, latest by Tihar, which can be expected to take care of the problem of Maoist extortions and abductions, besides creating an upbeat mood in the country.