Nanda Kishore Pun (Pasang) is the Maoist central committee member, PLA deputy commander, and vice-chair of the joint arms management committee. The former geography teacher from Rolpa spoke to Nepali Times this week about delays in forming an interim government and the effect of delayed constituent assembly elections on Maoist cantonments.
Nepali Times: Has the Maoist party decided to join the government?
Pasang: Discussions are going on. Our understanding was interim government by March and constituent assembly elections by June. But there is a conspiracy to prevent that from happening. Certain forces are trying to prevent the Maoists from entering the government at all cost. That is why we are in deep discussion about whether or not to join the government.
Where are the discussions headed?
If the three forces: the NC, UML, and the CPN-M can agree on a fair composition of the new government, we may be a part of it or we may not. But the government is backtracking from previous commitments. For example, they had agreed that we would get the deputy prime ministership and one of the three main ministries: finance, home, or defence. The UML would get the Speaker and the NC would get the prime ministership. Now they don't want to let go of deputy prime ministership.
If the elections are postponed beyond June what will be the situation in the cantonments?
Even at the moment, the situation in the camps is challenging. Our comrades are waiting for the interim government so the elections can be held as scheduled to bring a transformation in the structure of the state and the security forces. That is our commitment in the 12-point agreement. So if the elections are postponed that would constitute a violation of the ceasefire Code of Conduct, the 12-point agreement and will be against the spirit of the peace process. In other words, it destabilises the whole process, and we will have to think about that.
Think about what?
Think about the way forward. Take it up with the government through negotiations and start a peaceful agitation.
So has there been a complete breakdown in trust?
Not yet. But we feel that through its actions the government is eroding the confidence and trust between us and is forcing us to think about restarting our struggle.
Did the killing of your cadres in Gaur have anything to do with the breakdown in trust?
The Gaur incident was part of a grand design. The Forum [Madhesi Janadhikar] is just a mask behind which domestic forces and international powers, reactionaries and even sections of the political parties who don't want elections are hiding. It is an amalgamation of status quoists.
When do you expect the elections to take place?
The chances are looking slim that they will be held in June. And if they are not held in June, I doubt they will ever be held. In fact, there is a conspiracy to make sure they election does not happen. We are seeing a re-run of 1951.
How do you see security sector reform happening, and what part will the Maoist army have in it?
Once the constituent assembly is elected it will set up a government which will make a new security policy and decide about whether a country like Nepal needs an army of its present size. Our economic condition and geopolitical realities mean that we can't afford to have such a big army. We have to decide the size of the army-say 40-50,000-and how many from each of the armies it should comprise.
Where did the Young Communist League come from and what is its present role?
The YCL has always been a fraternal organisation of our precursor parties. Its role was to organise youth, be involved in events, conduct political awareness, and take part in development work as volunteers. After the start of the \'people's war\', however, the parent party was banned, so the YCL also had to go underground. It is now active again.
There are reports that the YCL is made up of your ex-guerrillas.
If the party so decides, it can also include young fighters in the YCL to mobilise the youth. And it is true that at present some commanders have been sent to the YCL. They are individuals who were previously active in the YCL and have experience.
People are still complaining about extortion and abductions by the Maoist party.
These allegations are part of a grand design conspiracy to destroy our party's reputation-that we are violating the Code of Conduct and can't be trusted. The aim is to taint our party, prevent us from coming into the government, and scuttle the elections. These attacks are now coming from all sides. But how come the parties, which are really violating the Code of Conduct, delaying the formation of the interim government, and allowing massacres like Gaur to happen, not being criticised? I admit that we've made small mistakes, but it is dishonest to focus on these to divert attention from their big blunders. It's as if the Maoists are solely responsible for creating an environment of peace. We have to ask whether the government is also helping create a conducive environment. For example, some of our comrades are still political prisoners. They haven't been released yet. Hundreds are still disappeared, but no list has been brought out yet.
The UN says there are many minors in the camps, when are you going to re-unite them with their families?
We are waiting for the second phase of the process to verify them and then send back the ones who are below 18 through mutual negotiations. We object to this issue being raised by the UN even before the verification has taken place, and this may not be good for the peace process. The inmates of the cantonments have only been registered, they haven't been verified yet. Our commitment is not to register anyone below 18, in fact 4-5,000 of those who were underage have been sent back. We are confident that there are only a handful of underage people in the camps.
Are you finding it difficult to make the transition from a guerrilla force to a political party?
It is natural that this transition takes time. But we are trying to rapidly change our operational methods. The signs are mostly positive. There are some incidents which shouldn't be happening. But the party is big, not everything that happens is sanctioned, but ultimately we have to take responsibility when these things happen. Usually, the chain of command and the veteran party cadre are very disciplined. There are a few isolated incidents. But those who say that the Maoists haven't changed their spots and are up to their old ways have a political agenda. That is why it is important for the media and others to realise what is correct and what
How seriously do you take the madhes crisis?
The Forum is a front, neither a political party nor an organisation. Behind that fa?ade they have reactionaries and forces from within and outside the country who want to create instability. They are anti-national separatists who want to break up Nepal. The people know who they are. They are using our slogans but they are not committed to the goals of autonomy and federalism.
Who are these domestic and outside forces?
Some people want to turn Nepal into Sikkim. The tarai has the largest proportion of the population-49 point something-so if there are political forces who want to Sikkimise Nepal based on population proportion and not geographical composition, then Nepal is going into someone else's hands. To solve this problem we have to quickly form an interim government and all eight parties must work on a national campaign for federalism, self-determination, and a republic through the CA election.