Nepal’s Inverted Summit And Comedy Of Terror

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Things are getting weirder – worse than you would have thought. The Seven Party Alliance (SPA), in the absence of its august leader undergoing medical treatment abroad, has concluded that last week’s eight-point pact with the Maoists was a mistake.

The Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) comrades, who originated the concept of an interim constitution to consolidate democracy, found themselves excluded from the drafting panel. Considering that the UML saw the “historic” House of Representative proclamation eviscerating the monarchy as a regurgitation of the communists’ contribution to the draft of the 1990 constitution the Nepali Congress and the palace jointly discarded, our mainstream comrades must feel terrible.

Not that they are missing much. Halfway through its two-week tenure, the panel is still awaiting an official letter confirming its existence so that it could start arranging office space and furniture. The attorney-general, the top legal adviser to the government, insists the commission doesn’t deserve such a letter because it wasn’t created by the government.

Women organizations, for their part, still feel the country is in the grip of “gender autocracy.” Riot police under the democratic government are still merciless against women protesters demanding a voice in the restructuring of the state.

Even the worst female critics of King Gyanendra probably concede that women had better representation in power under the palace-led regime.

And the excluded and marginalized communities the Maoists claim to be fighting for? The silence of Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal,” the military strategist of the “people’s war,” says it all.

It turns out that the “summit” between Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist chairman Prachanda was actually conducted in reverse. The summiteers met in the official bedroom of the head of government, scribbled eight points, and came out to command the SPA sherpas to append their signatures certifying the legwork.

Stunned by the secrecy, they signed first and resolved to read the text later. (After all the country has been through, could the SPA leaders have defied Prachanda?)

Prachanda’s ebullience at the post-summit news conference changed the mood. When the SPA signatories read between, under and over the lines, they realized that King Gyanendra’s ministers, the American ambassador and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in India might have been right all along. Prachanda used the SPA to achieve what he could not through a decade of armed rebellion: full recognition as the top representative of the “new state” on his way to becoming the sole leader of the country.

Eager to sell the accord to his foot soldiers in the Maoists’ base areas, Prachanda employed all the craziness he could come up with. Bourgeoisie parties like the Nepali Congress should be banned, the rebel commander in chief thundered, at one point.

That prompted Nepali Congress leaders to virtually accuse Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula – the public face of the Koirala-Prachanda camaraderie – of being a Maoist infiltrator in the ruling party.

The SPA leaders finally mustered enough courage to speak out against the accord. With Koirala convalescing from laser surgery of the prostrate in Bangkok and unable to mount a vigorous defense, it fell to Prachanda to roar against the two “conspirators” seeking to derail the deal. (Hadn’t Koirala gone to Bangkok to treat some “unspecified ailment” of the lungs related to his chain smoking? But I digress.)

The Maoist supremo named the palace as one of the plotters. The other wasn’t too hard to figure out. Since Prachanda had just praised India for forging – no pun intended – the 12-point SPA-Maoist accord last November, Uncle Sam had to be the culprit. For some in the rebel camp, Washington’s tentative we-are-with-the-Nepalese-people response to the eight-point accord was already self-incriminating enough.

To gauge how precariously perched Nepal is after the landmark accord, consider this. What if, God forbid, Koirala failed to make it back to Kathmandu alive? Or even sufficiently mentally alert to resume his “historic duties”?

And we’re all wondering why King Gyanendra seems to be a little depressed these days.

Maila Baje is a native of Nepal, who writes about the convoluted and often inscrutable politics of his country. His insight points out the things we couldn’t see for ourselves.