Crossfire War: South Asia; Nepal – Beginning of a New Era? – Dr. B Raj Giri

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Night Watch: KATMANDU – The following is a summary of an article by Dr. B Raj Giri on the steps King Gyanendra can take to end the 15 years of misrule.

The new chapter began on February 1, 2005 when the King removed the unproductive Sher Bahadur Deuba coalition government. Deuba was the 13th Prime Minister in 15 years.

The King’s moves have been routinely criticized by human rights groups, the UN, U. S., UK and India. But 90% of the population live in rual areas, 60% are illiterate and have been suffering from food shortages and Maoist atrocities. They have been abandoned by a political leadership who won elections through gangs and thugs. In their struggle for daily survival the rural population have not had the time or the luxury to learn about democracy.

Of course, benefits have gained in the past 15 years of multiparty democraZy (or democracy?) by Nepal’s urbanites, media outlets, political leaders, state bureaucrats, and Maoist extremists. Today King Gyanendra’s state of emergency first and foremost has curtailed those who were dancing in Western lifestyle in urban centers.

Whether one likes this King or not, Nepal was in terrible mess and he took the boldest step to hopefully sort things out, attempting to quell the eight year old reckless violence, rampant corruption, and fight mass poverty in rural Nepal.

Days ahead are bumpy for King Gyanendra even though internal criticism will fade away in due time. He has to be able to fight all sides, including redundant political parties and their militant student organizations. There are specifically three areas that are likely to determine the success (or vice-versa) of King Gyanendra’s new chapter in Nepalese history.

Rampant corruption and dishonesty at all levels of state bureaucracy means that King Gyanendra faces a serious challenge in managing state functionaries. It has become apparent that Nepalese bureaucrats have no interest in serving their own country. As Maoist violence looms, most of them have engaged in either amassing state wealth to buy secure complexes in urban centers or to send their families to Western countries.

At least in one case known to most Nepalese living in Europe, a junior bureaucrat has managed to send a whole community to European countries. The story of Nepal police, accepted globally as the most corrupt state body of Nepal, runs almost parallel with Maoist extortionists.

For example, is it possible to believe that a simple police inspector is able to build an 18 bedroom complex next to Katmandu’s international airport? To fight corruption effectively, King Gyanendra should give sweeping power to the corruption watch-dog body, Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) so that it can immediately bring all those corrupt bureaucrats and leaders, including those like Girija Koirala who think they are above the law to justice. The effective functioning of CIAA is not only an imperative to tackle corruption, but also to raise revenues to deal with problems of poverty, and Maoist atrocities.

Secondly, King Gyanendra should start a genuine land and income redistribution system so that 90% of subsistent Nepalese area able to receive relatively fair share of national properties. A special agenda must be set for the lowest castes, women and indigenous people.

Obviously he has to learn from the failure of his father’s much talked about land reform program in the 1960’s. It is impossible to disagree that widespread poverty and general abandonment of rural population led to the current truculent situation in Nepal. So, only the combination of pro-poor policies and vigorous offensive against Maoist rebels is likely to bring long-term peace and stability in the country. For now, without peace and stability, it makes little sense to dream about -democracy’ albeit its necessity.

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Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.