A series of events in the political realm of Nepal over this past fortnight indicates a changing political scenario and, most probably, the formation of a new equation. This is a welcome sign that the political stagnation is, after all, giving way to change.
Among the events triggering the change in the political status quo are the verdict of the Supreme Court on February 13 dissolving the Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) and the subsequent release of former Prime Minister and President of the Nepali Congress (Democratic), Sher Bahadur Deuba, and former minister and party General secretary Prakash Man Singh from jail.
Both Deuba and Singh had been jailed by the powerful RCCC implicating them in corruption in the construction of an access road to the multi-billion dollar Melamchi Drinking Water Project. Whether or not the dissolution of the RCCC was practically a correct move in the face of burgeoning corruption in higher places and the urgent need of an effective and powerful body to stem this menace is a debatable topic. But the ruling of the Supreme Court should be accepted by all who believe in the rule of law.
That the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) was not effective enough to take bold steps to initiate investigations into high-profile corruption cases involving the bigwigs is clear. The RCCC was constituted against this background to take effective measures to check corruption at the top level of government and try the bigwigs involved in corruption scams.
His Majesty the King’s message to the nation on the occasion of National Democracy Day on February 19 is also a major factor in bringing about a change in the political climate. In the message, His Majesty has extended a hand of cooperation to the political parties, asking them to come forward for dialogue to discuss the best way to resolve the country’s problems and strengthen democracy.
Although the King did not directly address the political parties in his message to the nation, the content of the message was clear. The message was one of conciliation and collaboration, calling the political parties believing in democracy for doing away with discord and working together. This was an effort by the King to reach out to the political parties, which have been hitherto taking each and every move by His Majesty the King in bad faith and with skepticism.
His Majesty the King’s Democracy Day message is also an apt reply to the so-called international community that always called on His Majesty the King to reach out to the political parties, without recognising at all that it takes two to tango. The so-called international community was conspicuously lenient in pressing the political parties to contribute towards building an environment of trust and reach out to the King as much as it pressed His Majesty on this matter.
Another factor that has contributed in a change in the political scenario of the country is the continuation of violence and terrorist activities by the Maoist rebels ever since the termination of the unilateral cease-fire. There has been no let up to the Maoists’ violence despite the 12-point ‘understanding’ reached between the agitating political parties and the rebel group. The Maoists continue with their violent acts of killing people, extortion and abducting civilians, bombing offices and mounting small-scale attacks on police posts. This is clearly a breach of the so-called 12-point understanding.
The violation of the 12-point understanding by the Maoists has put in question the very rationale of this dubious document that was thrashed out in a huff-huff manner in the Indian capital at the behest of India and ambassadors of some western countries. In fact, the signatories to this understanding had claimed that the Maoists have come one step down and opted for peaceful politics and accepted multiparty competition.
Maoists Prove Hollow Claims
None other than the Maoists themselves has proved the hollowness of these claims. The murder last week of Bindeshwar Yadav, a Nepali Congress worker of Dhanusha district, by the Maoists and other sporadic incidents of violence by them prove that the rebels are not true to the commitments made in the 12-point understanding. This attitude of the Maoist rebels has compelled the parties that signed the 12-point document to rethink the credibility of this document. Voices of protest have come from influential leaders of the major political parties that were signatories.
If the Maoists continue to act in contravention of this understanding, the political parties must have second thoughts about the pact. After all, those calling themselves the democratic forces cannot be companions of a force using violence and terror to achieve its political goals.
Immediately after his release from jail, former Prime Minister Deuba had talked of making some changes in the 12-point pact. He had said the pact needed some additions and deletions. Some of the constituent political parties in the alliance of the seven political parties that signed this document had expressed their reservations to certain points of this pact.
As the Maoists have breached the understanding reached between them and the political parties, the agitating political parties, which signed this agreement with the Maoists, should now reconsider their decision in light of the new developments in the country’s political arena and the dire situation the country is in.
The CPN-UML’s Central Working Committee meeting recently also decided to withdraw the party’s working directives regarding the policy of democratic republicanism. The bogey of democratic republicanism that is being forced upon the country and being pushed ahead by some political parties to exert pressure on the King for their political ends is counterproductive for the parties concerned. Moreover, the votaries of this set-up have not taken the trouble to explain in plain terms why Nepal needs democratic republicanism.
And, the latest call by the US Ambassador to Nepal, James F. Moriarty, stressing the need for conciliation between the parties and the Palace, clearly pronouncing the pitfalls for the political parties if they go by the terms of the Maoists, is a stark reminder to the political parties to work towards reconciliation and consensus.