Unfair threat

The government seems to be unnerved by reports of an apparently improving relationship between the seven political parties, which have announced a pro-democracy movement, and the Maoists, who want a constituent assembly as their minimum agenda for ending the insurgency. On Saturday, the alliance of the seven parties had urged the rebels to adopt a ‘positive attitude’ to their movement, shun violence, and ‘join the political mainstream.’ Maoist chairman Prachanda, in a statement the next day, responded on a ‘positive’ note. However, it is too early to say whether the two forces will cooperate at all, as several thorny issues are yet to be sorted out.

On Monday, Tanka Dhakal, the minister for information and communications, called upon the political parties not to join hands with the ‘terrorists’ against the government, warning that it would be “more unfortunate if the government is compelled to treat the constitutional forces and the terrorists in the same manner.” Dhakal’s threat is unfair, as he seeks to intimidate the political parties, which are supposed to govern the country under the Constitution, by implying that they may be treated as Maoists and, by extension, hunted down. This hardline approach can only widen further the gulf between the parties and the palace. What are the parties doing? They are just trying to bring the Maoists into the democratic mainstream, if need be, by holding elections for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.

But the non-party government wants the political parties to accept its agenda and be junior partners in power-sharing. The Constitution does not envisage this. The parties have declared this government unconstitutional and demanded the restoration of the Lower House to re-activate the Constitution and as a first step towards resolving the Maoist crisis through a series of steps. But, on its part, the government is opening up too many battle fronts. It has alienated the parties, who have a large support base at home and enjoy international goodwill. It has shown a lack of interest in pursuing a political solution of the conflict, which is generally seen to be the only way of restoring permanent peace, and it has been unable to win international support for the Feb. 1 step. All this, combined with its not so impressive performance on other domestic fronts, such as the economy, may make things hotter for it in days to come.