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22 April, 2009

Nepal’s ruling Maoist party and army on collision course

Trouble is brewing in Nepal with the Maoist party, which emerged as the largest party in the constituent assembly in the elections held a year ago and heads the coalition government, and the country’s army on a collision course.

“The Maoists’ leadership is gratuitously poking its nose in each and every activity of the Nepal Army”, the Army Brigadier Generals said after a two-day meeting at the army headquarters on April 12. They asked the army high command to remain ever vigilant and watch carefully the Maoists inner intent.

Kosh Raj Koirala, Asian Tribune Correspondent in Nepal, reported that the generals also stated that in the fluid political situation prevailing in the country, the Army should be ever ready to take on “serious responsibility”. They charged the Maoist-led government with inciting the militias in the cantonment clandestinely in order to demoralize the army and cause the institution to fail summarily.

On Monday, the government sought clarifications from Army chief General Rookmangud Katawal (picture on left) on three issues and indicated that it was ready to dismiss him if his response was not satisfactory. The three issues include: the army going ahead with fresh recruitment despite government orders not to do so, keeping eight Generals at work even after they were retired by the government, and not sending army men to participate in national games in which the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army had participated. .

A meeting of political parties, convened on the initiative of main opposition party, the Nepali Congress, on Tuesday concluded that the government´s bid to seek clarifications from army chief was against the peace process. They submitted a memorandum on the subject to President Ram Baran Yadav, who is supreme commander of the army.

President’s Office sources said Dr Yadav had written to Prime Minister Pushp Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) not to take any decision on the fate of army chief.

Out of the 24 parties represented in the constituent assembly, 17 including the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), a key partner of the ruling coalition, decided to oppose the Maoists´ reported plan to ask the army chief to offer a clarification in the parliament. They accused the Maoists of "attacking all state agencies to destabilize democracy".

The largest party in the constituent assembly, the Unified CPN (Maoist), which heads the government, was not invited to the meeting. Two other ruling parties, the Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum and the Sadbhwana Party, did not attend the meeting.

The central secretariat of the Unified CPN (Maoist), which met at the Prime Minister’s residence, advised the government to suspend Gen. Katawal if his clarification is not deemed convincing.

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