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Ministry of Labour Needs To Be Involved in Reintegration of Former Combatants

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The reintegration issue of ex-Maoist combatants has become one of the most confrontational issues of the ongoing Nepal peace process.

The ongoing Nepalese Peace Process (PP) has been virtually shelved. The basic deadline for constitution building has been ended with no result. The Peace Process is simply being destroyed due to the consensual derivatives between the Maoists and Nepal Government on reintegration issues.

Both parties have agreed to integrate the former Maoist guerrillas into the Nepalese security system but have always been undecided about the number of guerrillas. The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is supposed to provide technical support in the peace process; however the role of UNMIN has not been very useful in this regard.

Surprisingly, the Internal and external stakeholders of the Nepalese Peace Process have remained silent on the turmoil. For this reason, the bilateral-multilateral confrontation on reintegration affairs has become one of the major hurdles in achieving sustainable peace through an agreed-upon comprehensive peace accord.

Both parties are sticking to the stance to forcefully push the ex-combatants into security forces ignoring the choice, voice and rights of the ex-Maoist guerrillas. Despite the huge scope, and the role and sources of the ministry, it is being completely undermined by so called peace leaders and their teams handling the issues.

According to the Government of Nepal's Work Division Regulation 2064, the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management has important and relevant responsibilities that include internal and external labour and employment affairs, social safety nets and security, vocational trainings, HRD/man power development and etc. Thus the assigned responsibilities and authority of the Ministry could be incredibly helpful to manage or reintegrate thousands of intended people or ex-Maoist combatants through direct/indirect, internal and external mechanisms of the ministry.

Frankly, the ministry is quite able to provide opportunities for internal and external employment, skill oriented vocational trainings, and many other courses and opportunities for reintegration and rehabilitation of former guerrillas.
Although, the role and potential resources of the Ministry has been forgotten while discussing the reintegration and rehabilitation issue of ex-combatants; it has been never been discussed or put forward by the Ministry itself/ the government nor by the Maoist party.

According to a survey report, the majority of cantonment-based Maoist guerrillas are considering their choices to go for other alternatives rather to enter into army. Also, both parties have realized that accommodating all (approximately 19,000) former guerrillas in the army is not possible, they all are still insisting and only sticking with employing them in the army sector.

It is not just a matter of realization of facts but also beyond the national need and capacity. It has been also observed that there are hundreds of ex-Maoist combatants who are not eligible (old, children, disabled, ill-sick etc.) to meet the minimum eligibility and condition to enter in national security system, so again, there are good alternatives to assigning the job to the labour ministry.

The top brass of government, ruling political parties, Maoists, and the technical committee, have all stopped moving forward on reintegration issues--including the previously constituted highlevel political mechanism (HLPM).

Still dismissing the truth, both conflicting parties are digging ways either to integrate them into the army or in other national security systems leaving the other better options of rehabilitation and reintegration through the Ministry of Labour.
In accordance with eligibility and the rights, voices and choices of the former Maoist Guerrillas, the Ministry may create many options and modules of reintegration and rehabilitation, such as:

A. Choices to go in foreign employment in more than one hundred thirty destinations, under more than two hundred varieties of technical and non technical jobs.

B. Choices to settle into domestic employment. The ministry can easily help to develop preferential employment packages for the ex-combatants by developing strategic policy, programs and functional coordination of industrialists, private sector and trade union institutions.

C. The Ministry has capabilities to provide skill based short-term and long-term vocational trainings on a need basis that may help ex-combatants, whether they choose domestic and international jobs or prefer self-employment.

D. The ministry has enriched funding capabilities for pre to post employment phases and can introduce chain welfare investments for the potential candidates among the ex-combatant Maoist guerrillas.

E. In addition, the ministry have many contingency possibilities to rehabilitate ex-Maoist combatants through social safety net programs and also could include them into jobs such as in the transport management sector. However the government as well other related stakeholders must be careful to consider the integrated community-based reintegration approach rather than the ex-combatant based targeted approach of reintrgetion. The worlds experience has proved that most DDR programs have failed because the community and relevant stakeholders were ignored in pre to post phases of the entire process.

Therefore, the Ministry could be a principle means to deal and resolve the ongoing dilemmas of the peace process on the reintegration and rehabilitation issue of ex-Maoist combatants since it has a strong, and broader nationwide network and many collaborations with the respective community as well as to the stakeholders. Sometimes, it is judicious to resolve the problem from outside the horizon, especially if the given framework is unable to resolve the problem or adding more and more difficulties in the name of searching for solutions within a limited framework.

Furthermore, it has been observed through a survey report that they will be happier to jump inside the explored options of the Ministry. The illustrated options are financially, technically and legally viable and can also be quickly implemented to address the reintegration and rehabilitation crisis of cantonment-based guerillas, as well as for those deviated combatants who are running in search of socioeconomic reintegration and rehabilitation.

Except for the Maoist party, most of the stakeholders in the peace process want to minimize the number as much as possible of ex-combatants to integrate into the Nepal Army or any other national security system. Because the existing Maoist guerrillas neither meet any professional standard and norms of "State Security" nor is this possible after the merger as international factors and recognition are important for the state security system.

Secondly, Maoist Guerrillas are obvious political extremists, biased and infected with extreme Maoism and prachnadpath, and naturally deviate towards a specific political ideology of its party. Thirdly, similar questions might emerge when another existing insurgent group asks for a similar type of reintegration.

There are more than two dozen other rebellion groups who have also been fighting against the State in various parts of Nepal. It is my observation that the political reintegration model of the Nepalese peace process (accepting Maoists as lawmakers, giving enough places in parliament and directly appointing them into various senior policy level posts in the name of political integration) has become one of the major motivational factors for existing ethno-regional insurgent groups who have started fighting with a hope that they will also get chances to be member of parliaments or some other appointment while they enter in the peace process like the Maoist rebellion.

Of course, the nature and composition of existing insurgent groups are also similar to Maoist guerrillas, and some would say a majority are the splinter groups of Maoists--so what do we do in the future if such things are repeated? Other rebels could also ask for a similar model of political reintegration and also mass entry into the state security system as Maoists are claiming now, so can we really afford it?

Lastly, the existing performances and activities of Maoist guerrillas are still in a rebellious line; they are not even trying to stay in normality nor do they believe in peaceful political democratic philosophy, even after entering in the peace process under the supervision of UNMIN. Therefore it is difficult to stick on a path that pushes entire reintegration with the whole country in chaos.

Therefore, it is clever for all peace process stakeholders to explore the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management as efficient options/alternatives for the reintegration and rehabilitation issue of Ex-Maoist Combatants. This option will bring plenty of benefits including resolving the political deadlock, and will be helpful to drive the entire peace process to its logical end, assisting to harmonize and socialize the ex-combatants in strategic manner.

One of the principle products of the approach is to help and restore the constitution building process in a timely and efficient manner. Additionally, this approach will also minimize the general and technical complexities of reintegration and rehabilitation of cantonment-based guerillas.

Of course, the described way, via the ministry, will increase and add additional value on the success of the ongoing process, and its productivity towards the similar concept and manner of DDR, SSR and RRR (which are crucial and indispensible in a post conflict scenario). Hence, the Ministry must be given the chance for active involvement while dealing with the reintegration and rehabilitation issue of ex-Maoist combatants.

It is a better way to achieve sustainable peace, security and harmony in the country and will mobilize and utilize the existing official sector, resources and approaches of the nation.

Mr. Krishnahari Pushkar writes about social issues, security and conflict management, often in relation to Nepal. An Under Secretary of Government in Nepal, he is well-honored as a Peace, Security and Conflict Management Professional, who contributes regularly to national and international nongovernmental organizations as a peace and conflict management expert.

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