Trust Bidya Bhandari to transform the most mundane issues of the defence ministry into the most pressing concerns of the nation. From the day she took charge, she has constantly ridiculed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
First she wanted the army to resume recruitment. Better sense prevailed in the Council of Ministers, which refused to approve her proposals. She wanted some discredited army generals promoted, overriding the objections of human rights defenders. She got her way. She then wanted to restart procuring arms and ammunition. She now wants ex-army chief Rookmangad Katawal to shoulder important responsibilities in his retirement.
Bhandari seems to think that even though she lost the CA elections, Nepal's middle-class is behind her. That may be so, but she should remember that this is a transition period, where unilateral decisions on sensitive issues will only strengthen the Maoist argument about this government's illegitimacy.
Bhandari's claim that the peace agreement, which put arms procurement and new recruitment on hold, is affecting the preparedness of the Nepal Army is not without merit. However, the priority now is to protect the peace and write a new constitution. Strengthening the defence forces is necessary, but it is not the priority.
To be sure, certain provisions of the CPA are absurd: you can't equate an insurgent group with the national army. But in 2006 it was needed to initiate the peace process. UN monitoring has been a joke, but it was a fig leaf the Maoists needed to show that they didn't lose the war. However absurd they may look now, the peace structure stands on these fragile feet. Remove them now and the whole thing could come crashing down.
The CPA is a faulty document, but for now, that's all the defence minister has. She'd do well to implement its provisions and move on. The sooner we can leave our past behind us and get on with it, the sooner Nepal can be a peaceful, prosperous and just society.